What is a merciful heart?
This by St Isaac of Syria gets quoted out of proportion to the rest of his writings, but it came to my mind today and is always worth pondering.
Q. And what is a merciful heart?
A. It is the heart’s burning for the sake of the entire creation, for men, for birds, for animals, for demons, and for every created thing; and at the recollection and sight of them, the eyes of a merciful man pour forth abundant tears. From the strong and vehement mercy that grips his heart and from his great compassion, his heart is humbled and he cannot bear to hear or see of any injury or slight sorrow in creation. For this reason he offers up prayers with tears continually even for irrational beasts, for the enemies of the truth, and for those who harm him, that they may be protected and receive mercy. And in like manner he even prays for the family of reptiles, because of the great compassion that burns without measure in his heart in the likeness of God.
– Ascetical Homilies 71