“With closest custody, guard your heart,
for in it are the sources of life.”
What is this heart that we must guard so carefully? In scripture, the heart seems to have four components:
- emotion – not only romance, but tenderness of many sorts
- will or volition – courage, strength, dedication
- intellect – the heart perceives truth and beauty
- conscience – turning towards goodness and away from evil
This is not the Christian heart or the Catholic heart: this is the heart designed by God, prepared before all time to recognize and be drawn towards all that comes from God whenever we meet it. Wisdom is the method, the practice, and the result of recognizing the heart and following where it leads. Yet it is easy to go astray, to listen to something that seems urgent, enticing, momentarily better than this discipline of the heart. So the Proverbs warn us to guard this heart, not to let it become dull, sleepy, attached to things that less than the good.
““Here, mere feeling becomes experience….It becomes experience when it is at the same time judged by the criteria of the heart: if it’s really true, if it’s really beautiful, if it’s really good, if it’s really happy. On the basis of these ultimate questions of the heart, of these ultimate criteria of the heart, man governs his life.” (Is It Really Possible to Live This Way, p. 81)
The heart is the most precious thing that we have. Through it, and only through it, can we discern what it truly good and beautiful. Only through the heart can we encounter God and know it. Wisdom, and all her precepts, will teach us what we need to do in order to guard this heart.
“My child, to my words be attentive,
to my sayings include your ear;
Let them not slip out of your sight,
keep them within your heart;
For they are life to those who find them,
to one’s whole being they are health.”