THE WISDOM OF THE HEART

In the gospels of St. Mathew and St. Luke we find with the same wording a saying of Jesus often called “The Hymn of Jubilation”. We read: “Jesus rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, ‘I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been delivered to me by my Father'” (Matthew 11:25f, Luke 10:21f).

Jesus seems here to refer to Jeremiah’s prophesy of a new covenant when God will reveal himself directly to his chosen people: “The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah… I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people” (Jer 31:31,33).

Inviting his disciples to the Kingdom of God, Jesus presents himself as the fulfilment of these prophesies. Through him, God the Father, the Lord of heaven and earth, reveals his will to the hearts of the faithful. The stumbling block is that this revelation springs out of God’s own initiative in contrast to human cunning and sagacity. Moreover, it must be received in humility. The knowledge of God is given to “babes”.

Elsewhere in the Gospels Jesus refers to his disciples as “the poor in spirit”, “the pure in heart” or “the lowly” (Matthew 5:3,8; Luke 1: 52). In a similar vein, St. Paul paradoxically demands that “the wise of this world, must become a fool, that he may become wise” (1 Cor. 3:18).

Does this mean that the knowledge of God is reduced to an esoteric, gnostic wisdom? Truly, St. Paul teaches that “the spirit of wisdom and knowledge of God comes through the eyes of our heart being enlightened” (Eph. 1:18). However, this is not an invitation to arbitrariness. We are simply invited to interpret life in the light of the faith.

This faith perspective is summarized by St.Augustine with the phrase Credo ut intelligam – I believe so that I can understand. Augustine illustrates this insight with a wordplay found in the Greek version of the book of Isaiah: “If you do not stand firm in faith, you shall not understand” (7:9).

In his autobiographic work, Confessions, St. Augustine gives an easy accessible introduction to his thinking about the relationship between faith and reason.

Man’s capacity to grasp true understanding of God requires the healing of pride and the fostering of love. Quoting the Hymn of Jubilation, St Augustine maintains that knowledge of God must be learned from Christ who himself was meek and lowly of heart. With Christ as the light of our heart – Lumen cordis – the mind can conceive the truth knowing things through God rather than God through things.

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This Augustinian approach to knowledge was taken up 1200 years later by Pascal. His instrumental epistemology concludes that governed by the will, reason can neither prove nor disapprove the existence of God. However, this resignation does not mean that man is spiritually blind. For there is another path in man’s search for God. Our life experience, the wisdom man gains as he lives, feels and thinks, opens the mind to receive the mystery of God, the Father and Lord of heaven and earth. This wisdom, seen with the “eyes of the heart enlightened by God”, is what Pascal speaks of in his famous maxim: “The heart has its reasons of which reason knows nothing”.

+Roald Nikolai

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