The Enlargement of the Heart
All serious Orthodox Christians will benefit from reading The Enlargement of the Heart. It contains a series of excellent lectures on the nature and purpose of human existence. These were given by Archimandrite Zacharias from the Monastery of St John the Baptist (Essex, UK). His lectures are based on the theology of his spiritual father, the very recently canonised St Sophrony of Essex, and his spiritual ‘grand-father’ St Silouan the Athonite.
The lectures cover a range of topics, including “Man’s Birth into Eternal Life”, “Prayer: the Way of Creation”, and “Spiritual Fatherhood as a Ministry of Reconciliation between Man and God”, as well as a 30-page analysis of the famous commandment given to St Silouan on how to avoid pride: to “keep your mind in hell, and despair not”.
It is fitting that such spiritually challenging topics are illuminated through the theology of two modern spiritual giants of the Church, and not mere academic leaders. True theology, after all, is not the study of God, but the experience of God, and both St Silouan and St Sophrony have experienced God in a way few others have. This lends an authenticity to the experiences and lessons contained within the book.
One major advantage of The Enlargement of the Heart is its lecture-style format, complete with the questions that were posed to Archimandrite Zacharias as well as the answers he gave. This makes the presentation of otherwise challenging theological material much more engaging, and the Q&A section often contains questions that the reader themselves might have.
Ultimately, the unifying theme of the book is found in the title, which is a reference to 2 Corinthians 6:13. In that passage St Paul urges the Corinthians to open wide and enlarge their hearts. Similarly, The Enlargement of the Heart challenges all of us to embrace the true nature of human existence: to become like God, which means to become all-love.
Source: Lychnos December 2019 – January 2020