The heart has been the symbol of love for centuries. Literary historians and art historians have traced the use of the heart as a sign of love back to Christian Europe in the 13th century. However, the term goes back much further than that.
However, St. David wrote in the beautiful Psalm 50, Create a clean heart in me, O God: and renew a right spirit within my bowels. DR
Now, we no longer see the spirit in the bowels, nor do we necessarily use the heart as a symbol of anything but the passions, or perhaps, love. For Catholics, love at its highest expression, is in the will.
But, the idea of the heart as being the center of wisdom, will and desire is from our Jewish roots. This is clear in David's psalms, but also in other parts of the Old Testament. This article reminds me of some of the writing of St. Alphonsus Ligouri on the heart.
From the Jewish Encyclopedia on line.-http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/7436-heart
The heart as the seat of thought is referred to in "maḥshebot libbo" (thoughts of his heart; Ps. xxxiii. 11) and in "morashe lebabi" (possessions or thoughts of my heart; Job xvii. 11). So "amar beleb" (Obad. i. 3), "amar el leb" (Gen. viii. 21), "dibber 'im leb" (Eccl. i. 16) (= "to speak to the heart" or "to oneself"), mean "to think." The heart knows and perceives (Deut. xxix. 3 [A. V. 4]); it remembers and forgets (I Sam. xxi. 13 [A. V. 12]; Deut. iv. 9). "A dead man out of heart" (A. V. "mind"; Ps. xxxi. 13 [A. V. 12]) means a dead man forgotten. The man of understanding is called "ish [plur. "anshe"] lebab" = "the man of heart" (Job xxxiv. 10, 34), and the man without understanding "ḥasar leb" (Prov. x. 13) or "en leb" (Jer. v. 21), "the man void of heart" or "without heart."
That the heart is the seat of emotion is the generally accepted opinion of all investigators into the psychology of the Bible, though Carl Grüneisen ("Der Ahnenkultus und die Urreligion Israels," p. 39) denies it. All modes of feeling, from the lowest physical forms, as hunger and thirst, to the highest spiritual forms, as reverence and remorse, are attributed by the Hebrews to the heart (comp. Gen. xviii. 5; Judges xix. 5; Ps. cii. 5 [A. V. 4]); so joy and gladness, sorrow and grief, fear and reverence (Zeph. iii. 14; Isa. lxvi. 14; Ps. xiii. 3 [A. V. 2]; Deut. xx. 3, 7, 8; Jer. xxxii. 40). Still the term "nefesh" (soul) is more frequently used with reference to the appetites.Is the Seat of Volition.
The heart is also the seat of volition. It is self-directing and self-determining. All conscious resolvesemanate from that source (comp. "mela'olibbo" [Esth. vii. 5]; "nadab libbo oto" [Ex. xxxv. 29]; "nesa'o libbo" [Ex. xxxv. 21]; and "natan libbo" [Eccl. i. 13]). When the words "heart" and "soul" are used in connection with each other (Deut. vi. 5), they are not used merely as synonymous terms in order to add force to the expression, for the phrase "with all your heart" denotes the love of conscious resolve, in which the whole being consents, and which must at once become a natural inclination (see Cremer, "Biblico-Theological Lexicon," s.v. καρδία, transl. by William Urwick, p. 347).
It is in the heart that the heart becomes conscious of itself and of its own operations. It recognizes its own suffering. It is the seat of self-consciousness: "the heart knoweth its [A. V. "his"] own bitterness" (Prov. xiv. 10). As the whole physical and psychical life is centralized in the heart, so the whole moral life springs from and issues out of it. This is clear from such expressions as "shalem" and "tam" (perfect), "ṭahor" (pure), "ṭob" (good), and "yashar" (upright), used in connection with the heart. The Biblical writers speak of the false heart, the stubborn and obstreperous heart, and the heart distant from God (Ps. ci. 4; Jer. v. 23; Isa. xxix. 13). The hypocrite is the man with a double or divided heart: where one would say "two-faced," the Psalmist says "two-hearted" ("beleb waleb"; Ps. xii. 3 [A. V. 2]). Lazarus ("The Ethics of Judaism," Engl. transl., ii. 60, note) observes that "the Talmudic 'libbo' rarely reaches the inclusive meaning of the Hebrew 'leb,' which comprises the whole psychic phenomena. As a rule, the Talmudic expression approaches the modern 'heart,' primarily indicating inner conviction as contrasted with external deed" (see Sanh. 106b; Ber. 20a, Munich MS.). There is an interesting discussion between Rabbi Eliezer and Rabbi Joshua as to whether the heart or the head should be regarded as the seat of wisdom (Yalḳ., Prov. 929).
Maimonides, in discussing the term "leb," says that it is a word used homonymously, primarily signifying the organ of life and then coming to mean "center," "thought," "resolution," "will," "intellect" ("Moreh Nebukim," i. 39). See
Psychology of the Bible.
"Leb" is used figuratively for the center or innermost part of objects other than the human body, in expressions such as "the heart of the sea" (Ex. xv. 8; Jonah ii. 3); "the heart of heaven" (Deut. iv. 11; A. V. "midst"); "the heart [A. V. "midst"] of an oak-tree" (II Sam. xviii. 14). In this use "heart" has gone over into the English language as a Hebraism when mention is made of the "heart" or "core" (Latin "cor") of a subject or object, meaning its central or innermost part, its central idea or essence. "She'er" (flesh) and "leb" (heart) are used conjointly to designate the whole inner and outer life of man (Ps. lxxiii. 26).
We have many saints who use the term heart in their writings-Blessed John Cardinal Henry Newman is one of the most famous, as is the Great St. Augustine. I shall return to them in another post.
But, the heart in their writings is one either already turned over to God, or one seeking God. The heart is the symbolic place of love, and it is love which is being sought by those who want to love God and be open to His Love.
But, love for those who are moving into the higher levels of holiness has nothing to do with feelings and everything to do with decisions.
As good spouses know, love is in the will once romance and desire have left a marriage, for what ever reason, and the will can re-kindle desire and feelings. But, the locus of love is not the emotions.
The problem of modern usage of the term is when
Over-simplistic use of language leads to theological and philosophical misunderstandings.
The Greeks gave us, in God's plan, the ability to see the virtues as part of the intellect and will.
Therefore, when we speak of wisdom or knowledge, the locus of such are not necessarily in the heart, but in the mind. One sees this movement of learning about one's self, self-knowledge, as a key element of wisdom.
Wisdom directs the will to love and controls the passions of the heart.
Again, to use the term "heart knowledge" is to simplify wisdom as the virtue and the gift of the Holy Spirit with regard to the use of the intellect.
To be continued....