Thursday, 27 November 2014
The Canon of the Heart
The Rev’d Sam Thomas, an Anglican priest of my acquaintance, recently coined the term ‘canon of the heart’ in a bible study I attended. I understood him to be addressing the desire by some people – best represented by the Pharisees in Jesus’s time – who make the laws as a god rather than being a way to God. He paused a bit and then came up with the term ‘canon of the heart’ to symbolize the approach that we are called to as Christians.
The heart is the universal symbol of love and in that sense we need to make love the principle that we follow in all that we do and all that we understand in our relationship with God. Richard Rohr has written extensively on love as the very structure of all of God’s creation:
The core belief of all the great world religions is that the underlying reality is love. Teilhard de Chardin says that “love is the very physical structure of the universe.” Everything is desiring union with everything in one sense or another. I actually believe that what it means to know and trust God is to trust that Love is the source, heart, engine, and goal of life. (Daily Meditation Nov. 23, 2014)
I believe that we each are called to develop a canon of the heart. It will to a certain extent be unique to each of us as we are each unique creations of God. However, we do need to be guided by the principles that are found in God’s interaction with God’s people in the bible as well as the inspiration found in spiritual writing of the mystics and others who had a deep relationship with the source of all being. The anonymous author of The Cloud of Unknowing addresses the power of divine love to know God:
Look. Every rational creature, every person, and every angel has two main strengths: the power to know and the power to love. God made both of these, but he’s not knowable through the first one. To the power of love, however, he is entirely known, because a loving soul is open to receive God’s abundance.
We are called to soul work in seeking the canon of the heart in becoming our ‘true selves’ that as Rohr and others have named. Our egos, which are one of God’s greatest gifts to humankind and which resists change, is also one of the greatest barriers to experiencing the love of God and expressing that love in our lives. I do believe that through continually seeking a closer relationship with God we can discover and develop the true canon of our hearts.