Restoration of the Heart

Russian icon, The Mystical Supper (early 14th century). Fresco in Vatopedi Monastery, Mt. Athos.

Thursday of the First Week in Ordinary Time (Year I)

Hebrews 3:7-14

Therefore, as the holy Spirit says: “Oh, that today you would hear his voice, ‘Harden not your hearts as at the rebellion in the day of testing in the desert, where your ancestors tested and tried me and saw my works for forty years. Because of this I was provoked with that generation and I said, “They have always been of erring heart, and they do not know my ways.” As I swore in my wrath, “They shall not enter into my rest.”’” 

Take care, brothers, that none of you may have an evil and unfaithful heart, so as to forsake the living God. Encourage yourselves daily while it is still “today,” so that none of you may grow hardened by the deceit of sin. We have become partners of Christ if only we hold the beginning of the reality firm until the end.

Hebrews 3:7-14

Israel’s forty years of wandering and grumbling in the desert is a figure of the meandering heart. The divine speaker and the human (non-) listeners are at odds with each other, fragmented, divided, and disjointed. In such a state, God is treated as an object to be “tested,” “provoked,” and angered. 

By the grace and power of the Holy Spirit, the human heart is restored to oneness with the divine heart through Jesus Christ, stamp of the Father’s very being and substance (hupostasis, Hebrews 1:3).

We have become “partners” (sharers, partakers, metochos, μέτοχος) of Christ if only we hold the beginning of the “reality” (hupostasis) firm until the end (Hebrews 3:14). The Greek word hupostasis appears in both Hebrews 1:3 and 3:14, with a constellation of meanings culminating in the sense of substantive reality, objective ground, and unshakeable firmness. Other biblical translations of hupostasis in Hebrews 3:14 include confidence, assurance, and conviction.

The patristic commentator Theodore of Mopsuestia (c. 350-428) took a more mystical approach to this verse and reflected on humanity’s deification through sharing in Christ’s very nature:

He says that those who have believed and shared in the Spirit have become partakers in Christ’s “hypostasis” in that they have received a certain natural communion with him. Now there remains the task of preserving this foundation with a pure resolve.1

The voice of the Spirit calls “today” (eternally) in the depths of the heart, not as an outsider or intruder to our inner being, but as our very own being in union and communion with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In the image of the Trinity, every human heart is a heavenly abode where all persons divine, angelic, and human dwell within one another in the eternal “dance” of perichoresis.

-GMC

1 Theodore of Mopsuestia, Commentary on Hebrews 3.12-13, from Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, Hebrews, Erik M. Heen and Philip D. W. Krey, editors, and Thomas C. Oden, general editor (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2005), 57.

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