The Pure In Heart Shall See God

“Saint Thomas Aquinas” by Diego Velázquez
The Angelic Doctor is girded with the Mystical Belt of Purity

In Matthew 5:8, Jesus promises us that the pure in heart shall see God. Truly this is a worthwhile reward, but do we need to wait till heaven to receive it? We do wait for the Beatific Vision, but even now with a pure heart we can see the world as God sees it, which means we can perceive the truth about every creature as a reflection of His Goodness, Truth, and Beauty with a special visage of the human person as a Temple of the Holy Spirit.

The catechism tells us that “‘Pure in heart’ refers to those who have attuned their intellects and wills to the demands of God’s holiness, chiefly in three areas: charity; chastity or sexual rectitude; love of truth and orthodoxy of faith.” We might say that Jesus articulates this more simply when he commands, “you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart (charity), and with all your soul (orthodoxy of faith), and with all your mind (love of truth), and with all your strength (chastity)’’.  Like the beautifully orchestrated instruments of a symphony, the attuned intellect, will, body, and soul are placed in harmony with their Creator, and not under the yolk of human desires and instincts. This makes our whole life into a beautiful song with each day a new note that resounds in time with the closing note lasting for eternity. 

Purity in heart is centering our lives on God, putting Him first above all things. This allows our hearts to be full of Him and not tainted by attachments to lesser things, which in Biblical talk we would identify as false idols. Detached and free, we could call our hearts 24 karat. 

24 karat is a term usually used to refer to pure gold that is free from other metals. When gold is in this state, it tends to be easier to mold. Adding the metals hardens it so that it is more easy to wear and decorate. In a similar way do we harden our  hearts when we cloud them with these lesser attachments that could never replace God. However, when we center ourselves on God, repeatedly choosing God over the many temptations and attachments we meet throughout each day, we purify our hearts and are given the reward promised.

And the reward is great. Truly a treasure is found in seeking God and aligning our whole selves to His will. In this we grow closer to Him and everything we do is good. Furthermore, the reward is to see the World through a Spiritual hermeneutic, both seeing God in it and as God sees it. 

To see God in the world is to see it as it truly is, that is to be in touch with reality. To see the world in this way requires the precondition of purity of heart, of which St. John Bosco says, “Holy Purity, the queen of virtues, the angelic virtue, is a jewel so precious that those who possess it become like the angels of God in heaven, even though clothed in mortal flesh.” With purity we enhance our Spiritual nature triumphing over our fleshly concupiscence and strive to live for God. This brings about a vision of the world in which we recognize God’s presence at all times with every interaction.

Baptism begins our life of purity. However, to see the world in this way requires us to do battle. It is a battle we can win and CCC 2520 tells us we will prevail in purity by four tools:

  1. virtue of chastity: seeking to love with an undivided heart
  2. purity of intention: seeking to discover and do God’s will in every moment.
  3. purity of vision: seeking to control ourselves outwardly, our eyes, and inwardly, our feelings and imagination, refusing to give in to any impure thoughts that might lead us to turn away from God’s loving plan for our lives.
  4. prayer: I love what St. Terese says about prayer, “For me, prayer is a surge of the heart; it is a simple look turned toward heaven, it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy.”

St. Augustine reminds us that, while we must fight with all our strength, the true source of our purity comes from God:

“I thought that continence arose from one’s own powers, which I did not recognize in myself. I was foolish enough not to know . . . that no one can be continent unless you grant it. For you would surely have granted it if my inner groaning had reached your ears and I with firm faith had cast my cares on you.”

This is why St. Teresa of Calcutta says, “Purity is the fruit of prayer.” For to be pure, we must be filled with God, which can only happen with God’s help.

And to fight for purity is really to stay in the state of grace as St. Peter Eymard says, “The state of grace is nothing other than purity, and it gives heaven to those who clothe themselves in it.” This makes it easier to draw the battle lines in recognizing that sin is the opposite of purity. Any time we sin, we add the metals of evil to our heart loosening our grasp on purity and strengthening our concupiscence. 

We fight against this through the 4 tools listed above as well as frequenting the Sacraments, in particular Communion and Confession, both of which strengthen us against temptation and put us in tune with God and His glorious plan for our lives. To live according to how He has designed us to live.

To live in purity is to see God in ourselves and in the world. It is to constantly bask in His glow of beauty, truth, and goodness as these are reflected in the world. We do this with His help as He wants this reward of heavenly visage both as we live on earth now and in heaven forever.

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About the Author

Thomas Clements

Thomas Clements is a High School and Middle School Theology Teacher. He graduated with an B.A. in Theology from Southern Catholic College and received an M.A. in Theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville. On the side he has recorded a CD and performs music at various colleges, churches, and conferences.

He lives with his wife and 3 children in Atlanta, Georgia.

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