Return to Our Hearts
John S. Mogabgab
“Your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory” (Col. 3:3-4, RSV). Paul’s words to the Colossians hint at one of the most mysterious and yet hope-filled marks of the Christian spiritual life. Through baptismal union with Christ’s death and resurrection, we have already been drawn into a communion of love with the triune God. Like refugees from a ravaged land, we have received shelter, concealment, and refreshment in the place where the risen Christ dwells with God. There our wounds are tended and we are restored to the full vigor and dignity intended for us by our Creator (see Eph. 2:10). This full and true humanity, which is ours because we are Christ’s, is the glory that will be unveiled fully when the time is right.
In this respect, then, the spiritual life is a hidden life. Our deepest reality eludes the reach of our will (see Rom. 7:15), transcends the limits of our mind (1 Cor. 13:12), surpasses the range of our feelings (1 John 3:20). Perhaps the very hiddenness of the spiritual life underscores the fact that first and foremost it is a gift to be received in faith. God offers us a wholeness hidden in Christ that is the truth of our human identity. The allure of this gift draws us onto the path of spiritual growth, a path that leads us to the heart of who we are. In a sermon on conversion, Bernard, the great twelfth-century abbot of Clairvaux, remarks that “it is best for us to return to our hearts, for this is where he who calls transgressors back with such anxious solicitude shows us his salvation.” [Bernard of Clairvaux, Sermons on Conversion, trans. by Marie-Bernard Said, O.S.B. (Kalamazoo, MI: Cistercian Pubns., 1981), p. 39.] Spiritual maturation is a process in which the hidden reality of our salvation in Christ becomes increasingly visible to ourselves and also to others.
Someone once remarked that the longest human journey is the one which leads to the heart. The journey is long because the path is hard. The allure of life in Christ must compete with a vast array of lesser but powerfully attractive charms. Each day we face the same choice God gave the Israelites in the wilderness: “I have set before you this day life and death, blessing and curse; therefore, choose life” (Deut. 30:15, 19, RSV). This daily choice is the essential dynamic of ongoing conversion. The promise of life in Christ, which is the gift of our initial conversion, gradually becomes realized as we choose again and again to return to our hearts.
From Weavings: A Journal of the Christian Spiritual Life, November/December 1989. Copyright © 1989 by The Upper Room. Used with permission.