Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God

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In this commandment, Jesus Christ prompts us to achieve purity of heart. The heart is the guardian of our spiritual life. It contemplates whatever the eyes cannot see and the mind cannot grasp. Spiritual contemplation is possible only with a heart that is pure. In the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord said: The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness (Matthew 6:22-23).

The pure heart and its vision of God are lofty concepts. One can only describe. According to the words of the holy, righteous John of Kronstadt, a pure heart is meek, humble, guileless, simple, trusting, true, unsuspicious, gentle, good, not covetous, not envious, not adulterous. My Life in Christ, p. 56. According to Venerable John of the Ladder, Purity is the assimilation of a bodiless nature (Step 15). That is, the life hidden from the physical eyes - the life of the spiritual world - is revealed to the pure in heart. He who has made his heart pure, writes Venerable Simeon the New Theologian in the Philokalia, will not only come to know the meaning and significance of things secondary and which exist after God, but on having passed through them all, will also see God Himself - in which is the extremity of good. The pure in heart are people who can clearly see God's real presence, and who can proclaim together with the Psalmist:

The Lord is my light and my savior; whom then shall I fear? The Lord is the defender of my life; of whom then shall I be afraid? ... One thing have I asked of the Lord, this will I seek after: That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life... My heart said unto Thee: I will seek the Lord. My face hath sought after Thee; Thy face, O Lord, will I seek (Psalm 26:1, 4, 8).

A pure heart preserves the word of God as the seed sown in Christ's Parable of the Sower:

But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience (Luke 8:15).

To see God is the highest blessedness. So the pure heart constantly seeks the vision of God; it wants His light in its depth, so strives to live in perfect purity. The Mother of God lived this way. We call the Virgin Mary Most Pure; for her ever-virginity, and for her spiritual wholeness. Her heart was pure, her mind was healthy, her soul magnified the Lord, her spirit exulted in God her Savior, and her body was a spiritual temple.

The pure Mother of God inspires saints to preserve their purity of heart. The saints never allow thoughts contrary to God into their the hearts. Isaac the Syrian points out purity of heart in the Venerable Sisoes, who renounced worldly desire and thought, and reached an elemental simplicity. He became like a child, but without childishness. Venerable Sisoes even would ask his disciple: Have I eaten, or have I not eaten? But as a child to the world, to God he was mature and perfect in purity (Venerable Isaac the Syrian, Ascetical Homilies, p. 142. While reading, you should recall the words of Christ: Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 18:3). Purity of heart is necessary for mystical oneness with God. Saint Gregory of Nyssa writes of this in his Sixth Homily, On the Beatitudes--

The joyful vision of God is offered to the man who has purified the sight of his soul. Thus, the Word (i.e. the Lord Jesus Christ) teaches us, when He says to us that the kingdom of God is within you (Luke 17:21). This teaches us that the man who has purified his soul from all passionate impulses will reflect by his inner beauty the likeness of the Divine image... By a good life, wash off the filth that adheres to thy heart, and then shall shine forth thy divinely appearing beauty.

The Apostle Paul wrote of this too, in his pastoral epistles.

Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled (Titus 1:15).

If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honor, sanctified, and meet for the master's use, and prepared unto every good work. Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart (II Timothy 2:21-22).

Abba Pimen struggled for piety and purity of heart. He taught us:

"As long as the pot is on the fire, no fly nor any other animal can get near it, but as soon as it is cold, these creatures get inside. So it is for the monk; as long as he lives in spiritual activities, the enemy cannot find a means of overthrowing him." Sayings of the Desert Fathers, p. 154.

What should we do if we do not have a pure heart? How can we purify it of defilement? First of all, we must pray that the Lord give us spiritual insight, that He give us the Holy Spirit, Who penetrates everything, Who sees everything. Such a prayer is always heard, for the Lord has promised: If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him (Luke 11:13). A praying heart, filled with contrition, is acceptable to God, for, as it is said in the 50th Psalm: A heart that is broken and humbled God will not despise (verse 17). Sincere prayer warms the heart, arouses reverent compunction, and draws to itself the purifying and sanctifying grace of God. Thus the Church teaches us to purify the heart by warm prayer. In the Canon of Preparation for Holy Communion we read: Teardrops grant me, O Christ, to cleanse my defiled heart (Third Ode).

Prayer expels evil - that offspring of Satan, the enemy of our salvation - from the heart. We must frequently and reverently say the name of Jesus Christ. The Savior said: In my name shall they cast out devils (Mark 16:17). Frequent invocation of this most sweet name with faith and reverence in the so-called mental or Jesus Prayer can expel impurities from the heart and fill it with heavenly joy and peace.

In Way of the Ascetics, Tito Colliander wrote some inspired lines concerning the Jesus Prayer. His chapter 25 reads:

"The saintly Abbot Isaiah, the Egyptian hermit, says of the Jesus Prayer that it is a mirror for the mind and a lantern for the conscience. Someone has also likened it to a constantly sounding, quiet voice in a house: all thieves that sneak in take hasty flight when they hear that someone is awake there. The house is the heart, the thieves, the evil impulses. Prayer is the voice of the one who keeps watch. But the one who keeps watch is no longer I, but Christ."

Spiritual activity embodies Christ in our soul. This involves continual remembrance of the Lord: you hide Him within, in your soul, your heart, your consciousness. I sleep, but my heart waketh (Song of Solomon 5:2): I myself sleep, withdraw, but the heart stays steadfast in prayer, that is, in eternal life, in the kingdom of Heaven, in Christ. The tree-roots of my being stand fast in their source.

The means of attaining this is the prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner. Repeat it aloud, or only in thought, slowly, lingeringly, but with attention, and from a heart freed as much as possible from all that is inappropriate to it. Not only worldly interests are inappropriate, but also such things as every kind of expectation or thought of answer, or inner visions, testings, all kinds of romantic dreams, curious questions and imaginings.

©Archpriest Victor Potapov,

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