In yesterday’s Gospel, we read Luke 19:45-48. It states: “And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold, saying to them, “It is written, My house shall be a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a den of robbers.” And he was teaching daily in the temple. The chief priests and the scribes and the principal men of the people were seeking to destroy him, but they did not find anything they could do, for all the people were hanging on his words.”
As we can see above, this is a very short Gospel reading. So you may be asking: “What gives, how can I apply this to my life?” When reading 1 Cor 3:16-17 & 1 Cor 6:19-20, both scriptures make it very clear that our bodies are temples of God Himself: the Holy Spirit. Being that we are temples made in God’s image (Gen 1:26-27) and are of even more value than the animals (Matt 6:26), how much more do we offend God when we do not keep guard of our hearts? Especially when we allow sinful passions to fill it by not fighting them off with prayer?
Jesus shows in Matthew 15:18-20, in addition to many other scripture passages, that the heart can cause us to sin when we do not guard it. Not guarding it causes us to defile the Image of God that we are made in. “But the things which proceed out of the mouth, come forth from the heart, and those things defile a man. For from the heart come forth evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false testimonies, blasphemies. These are the things that defile a man.”
St. Makarios says that: “The heart is but a small vessel: and yet dragons and lions are there, and there, poisonous creatures and all treasures of wickedness …” (Homily XLIII). I.E.; the sins and passions of Pride, Greed, Lust, Anger, Gluttony, Envy, and Sloth.
With these words in mind, we must not be afraid to ask Christ to come within our hearts to drag out the passions of our soul. Being that the temple – in the words of Christ – “is a house of prayer”, so shall it be with our bodies and souls. This is why St. Paul commands us to “pray without ceasing.” (1 Thess 5:17). This can be done with the Jesus Prayer by allowing the Cleansing Breath of The Holy Spirit to fill our hearts and souls. But first, we must call upon the Holy Spirit to give us that desire. “The Name of Jesus cannot really enter a heart that is not being filled with the cleansing breath and flame of The Spirit. The Spirit Himself will breath and light in us the Name of The Son.” – Archimandrite Lev Gillet.
In the Book of Steps by St. Ephrem the Syrian, it states: “The body is a hidden temple, and the heart a hidden altar.” Just like the altar is the center of a church in where sacrifice takes place, so is the heart for our bodies and souls. Every action that we do as a result of it offers up to God either a spiritual perfume of incense or a gross odor.
Psalms 50:19 says “A sacrifice unto God is a contrite spirit, a contrite and humbled heart, Oh God, will not despise.” This is why as followers of Christ we must keep guard of our hearts, since the heart and the spirit cannot be separated in the spiritual sense. St. John Cassian states: “It is not so much the corruptible flesh as the clean heart, which is made a shrine for God, and a temple of the Holy Ghost.”
In light of all these words of wisdom from the Holy Scriptures and the Church Fathers, let us remember to keep guard of our hearts. Just as we would not defile our beautiful churches and blaspheme the Holy Icons, Liturgy etc; so must we also not blaspheme God by mocking Him by defiling ourselves, the living images (Ikons) of Christ.