Sister Doreen’s Reflections
“Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.“
“It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.” (Antoine de Saint-Exupery)
Just a reminder: Blessed, what does Jesus intend by using this paradoxical word? In trying to understand the focus of the beatitudes I think that it is important to consider the meaning and the intent of this first word which we translate ‘blessed’ or ‘happy’.
- In Greek the first word is MAKAROI – which helps us understand people enjoying a deep inner joy, a lasting spiritual experience, like the inner joy that continues to grow deeper as life experience grows. It is an experience of life at its best and a call to do something about it! For example, perhaps a more real translation would be: get up, go ahead, and do something. Move, you who are hungry and thirsty for justice. For you shall be satisfied. Get up, go ahead, and move. Take action, you peacemakers, for you shall be called children of God.
As I said, most of us don’t know what to do with the beatitudes, but they sound like a beautiful and familiar poem, or a list that makes us feel guilty because we are not good enough, meek enough. Upon pondering the beatitudes, I really think that Jesus is saying: “If you feel you are living in a world where you don’t fit in, start creating a new, more loving world. God and the kingdom of heaven are doing it with you. Act like you belong to God’s kingdom. Do something beautiful with God.”
So the heart. The Greek word for the heart refers to the whole interiority of human consciousness and activity – a symbol of what we are in ourselves, of the source of all our reactions and dreams. We could perhaps translate this to say blessed are those whose inner attitude is pure, unmuddied. This beatitude is challenging us to somehow get inside and un-muddy the source of life.
We forget that we are God’s home, that God works within us, within our hearts and minds, within our freedom. It is from within us, deep down within us, that the new life proceeds. The gift of this beatitude is the knowing that God is the heart of our heart and to have a pure heart is to have a heart that we believe is rooted in the mystery of God. If we can un-muddy the source of life in us, if we can allow God to recreate us from deep within, it will affect the kind of world we see.
One of the moving experiences of reflecting on this beatitude was the thought that was expressed by Antoine de Saint-Exupery: “it is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye”. It made me long to be able to see deeply with the heart, so that wherever I look, whatever I am looking at, what I see is God, God in a myriad different ways, but always God. To be able to see the face of God in everyone I meet. To see deeply, to be challenged to take up the task of really looking at things, to be led by things that can be seen to an awareness of what cannot be seen. We must be able as Meister Eckhart tells us, to burrow through any situation in which we find ourselves, any situation that confronts us, and discover God there. Dismayed? Discouraged? Give me a break? BUT you and I know that God is everywhere – and this beatitude challenges us to renounce choosiness and find the courage to look anything in the face, however unattractive it may appear to be, and know here too is God. “The Light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot begin to defeat it” (John 1:5)
There is a certain humbleness to entering into this beatitude, for we are called I think to see each other and all creation as essentially good – even in what is evil, irrational, wrong. To be able to look sin in the face, whether it is our own or someone else’s, and see there not only sin, but God. To paraphrase Simon Tugwell: “In God there is no darkness at all (1 John 1:5). God does not see good and evil, as it were, sitting side by side, and choose between them. God sees everything made, and it is very good.” We come face to face with a paradox – perfection, in so far as it is attainable in this life, is curiously dependent on a readiness to be imperfect! It is what is at the heart of the passing of the peace in the Eucharist when we greet each other with the peace – “I see the face of God in you”.
What is a pure heart then?
- A heart free of possessiveness
- A heart capable of mourning
- A heart that thirst for what is right
- A merciful heart
- A loving heart
- An undivided heart
It is with the spiritual practice of watchfulness, wakefulness, attention, hope, faith and love added to the memories we have from our life experiences, and of our long relationship with God and others that we guard and support our quest for that pure heart that is the challenge and the gift of this beatitude. Kindness, joy and the refusal to condemn others in our endless struggle of seeking a more God-centered life is our high calling. And prayer is essential to this task! Prayer refers to all we do in order to turn our attention to God.
The struggle, the spiritual practice to grow into the blessedness of this beatitude, the longing for a pure heart is our journey in hope of seeing God. The biblical understand of seeing God meant to experience God’s love, God’s favour or kindness, to know we are in the presence of God. We live in awe-filled hope in God’s world and our broken world. Saint Basil made it clear that there is an elusiveness and mystery at the heart of all things, that there is a mystery within ourselves, that the more we know about things, the more we shall be confronted by this mystery. “For now we see in a mirror darkly, but then we shall see face to face. Now I know I part. Then I shall understand fully, even as I have been fully understood.” (1 Cor. 13:12)
Common Praise #439:
Blest are the pure in heart, for they shall see our God; the secret of the Lord is theirs, their soul is Christ’s abode.
The Lord, who left the heavens our life and peace to bring, to dwell in lowliness with us, our pattern and our King,
Still to the lowly soul his presence doth impart, and for a dwelling and a throne chooseth the pure in heart.
Lord, we thy presence seek; may ours this blessing be: give us a pure and lowly heart, a temple fit for thee.