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Purity in Heart

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” (Matthew 5:8) Puri­ty of heart means to be free of all wicked moti­va­tions and sin­ful inten­tions, and to have no unwor­thy inter­ests and self-seek­ing desires. It means to be total­ly free from any­thing which blinds and dark­ens the mind so that it can­not see things clear­ly and hon­est­ly. It means to be total­ly lib­er­at­ed from any­thing which cap­ti­vates and dark­ens the soul so that it can­not reflect and shine with the pure light of God.

In anoth­er place in His Ser­mon on the Mount, the Lord has said.

The eye is the lamp of the body. So if your eye is sound, your body will be full of light; but if your eye is not sound, your whole body will be full of dark­ness. If then the light that is in you is dark­ness, how great is that dark­ness! (Matthew 7:22–23)

The pure in heart are those whose eyes are sound. The pure in heart are those who can say with the psalmist:

The Lord is my light and my sal­va­tion; whom shall I fear?

The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?

One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after;

that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.

Thou hast said, “Seek ye my face!” My heart says to Thee,

Thy face, O Lord, do I seek.”

Hide not Thy face from me. (Psalm 27)

To seek but one thing, the face of the Lord, is puri­ty of heart. To will but one thing, the light of the Lord in the depth of one’s soul, is to live in utter puri­ty. It is for this rea­son that Christ’s moth­er Mary is the image of per­fect puri­ty. The holy Vir­gin is “all-pure” not mere­ly because of her bod­i­ly con­ti­nence, but also because of her spir­i­tu­al sound­ness. Her heart was pure. Her mind was sane. Her soul mag­ni­fied the Lord. Her spir­it rejoiced in God her Sav­ior. Her body was His spir­i­tu­al tem­ple. For this rea­son God regard­ed her humil­i­ty and did great things for her. For this rea­son all gen­er­a­tions call her blessed. For this rea­son she is “full of grace” and the Lord is with her. For she, in her sim­ple puri­ty could say to God: “Let it be to me accord­ing to Your word.” (Cf. Luke 1)

In the spir­i­tu­al tra­di­tion of the Ortho­dox Church, puri­ty of heart is an essen­tial con­di­tion for union with God. When man’s heart is puri­fied from all evil, it nat­u­ral­ly shines with the light of God since God dwells in the soul. This is the doc­trine of the saints as expressed by Saint Gre­go­ry of Nyssa.

… the man who puri­fies the eye of his soul will enjoy an imme­di­ate vision of God… it is the same les­son taught by the Word (i.e. Christ) when He said, “The King­dom of God is with­in you.” (Luke 17:21) This teach­es us that the man who puri­fies his heart of every pas­sion­ate impulse will see the image of the divine nature in his own beauty.

You must then wash away, by a life of virtue, the dirt which has clung to your heart like plas­ter, and then your divine beau­ty will once again shine forth. (On the Beat­i­tudes, Ser­mon 6)

The Apos­tle Paul has said the same thing in his pas­toral letters.

To the pure all things are pure, but to the cor­rupt and faith­less noth­ing is pure; their minds and con- sci­ences are cor­rupt­ed. They pro­fess to know God, but they deny Him by their deeds; they are detest- able, dis­obe­di­ent, unfit for any good deed. (Titus 1:15–16)

If any­one puri­fies him­self from what is igno­ble, then he will be a ves­sel of noble use, con­se­crat­ed and use­ful to the mas­ter… ready for any good work. So shun youth­ful pas­sions and aim at right­eous­ness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call upon the Lord from a pure heart. (2 Tim­o­thy 2:21–22)