The clean of heart
“It is only my own opinion, but I feel that we pedagogues make a mistake when, in our preaching and teaching, we equate chastity with purity or cleanliness. The usage seems an unsound one from a psychological standpoint. The constant emphasis upon ‘impurity’ in connection with sex, especially in the instruction of children, can lead to a distorted and unwholesome attitude toward the beautiful and sacred act of procreation.
It is true that St. Paul in some of his epistles excoriates sins of uncleanness, but he is condemning the sexual perversions of the pagans, a source of danger to his converts [rather than the sacred act of procreating]. Our own adoption of purity as as a synonym for chastity may stem from heresy rather than from the Bible.
For ten centuries or so the Christian Church was troubled by heretical sects collectively known as Cathari, from the Greek word which means ‘puritan’. The Cathari maintained that all things material, including human bodies, are the creation of the devil. Only spiritual substances, such as the human soul, are the work of God. The devil enslaves souls by imprisoning them in physical bodies.
Logically the Cathari condemned marriage, since to conceive new bodies was to do the devil’s work for him. The Cathari initiate was ‘pure’ only if he abjured sexual intercourse. It may be that the linking of cleanliness with chastity is a practice which ‘leaked in’ from the Cathari vocabulary to our own.
Blessed are the clean of heart
These thoughts are by way of introduction to the sixth beatitude in which Jesus says, ‘Blessed are the clean of heart, for they shall see God.’ To Him, a clean heart is a heart in which there is no guile, a heart simple and sincere, a heart free from pretence and self-deception.
Jesus clarified the sixth beatitude for us on the occasion of blessing a group of small children. ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them,’ Jesus said, ‘for such is the kingdom of heaven. Amen I say to you, who ever does not accept the kingdom of God as a little child will not enter into it’ (Luke 18:16-17).
We all are familiar with the purity of heart which is mirrored in the eyes of a small child. It is the purity of an utterly candid nature, loving, trustful and undevious.
We adults who have experienced and perhaps have contributed to the evils in which the world abounds, may find it hard to preserve or to recapture the simplicity of childhood. Yet, we must somehow do so if we are to qualify for heaven.
An undivided love for God
An undivided love for God is the basis, the only basis, for the cleanness of heart to which Jesus refers. If God’s will is for us the ultimate measure of all things, then we necessarily shall possess the singleness of purpose which makes for sincerity.
What are some of the danger signals which indicate that we may be lacking cleanness of heart?
• .One such indicator is an excessive preoccupation with the opinions of others and an over anxiety to make a good impression. God’s opinion of us is the only one which really matters. If we love God and are doing our honest best for Him, we have no reason to be ashamed of our true self. It is this self, and not a deceptive mask, which we should display to one and all.
• Another symptom of a tainted heart is an attitude of selfish calculation, best expressed d in the question, ‘What’s in it for me?’ We expend effort only for personal reward and cultivate as friends principally those who can contribute to our social or financial advancement.
• Most of all, uncleanness of heart manifests itself in a tendency to ‘play down’ the evil of sin in a facility for excusing ourselves from culpability for sin.
These are a few of the basic insincerities which exclude us from our Lord’s commendation, ‘Blessed are the clean of heart.’ Probably there is none of us completely without blemish. With God’s grace and our own determined striving, we can and we must repair the ruptures in our hearts.”
– Fr Leo J. Trese, 1966 – “One Step Enough”