Blessed Are the Pure in Heart

Blessed are the pure in heart: they shall see God. —Matthew 5:8

When the heart is right, Jesus says, seeing will be right. He ties together heart and sight. Consider the saying, “Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.” So is God. All we need to do is keep the lens clean, the heart pure.

Cynthia Bourgeault describes the connection between the “heart” and the ability to see God as taught in the Wisdom tradition:

The heart in the ancient sacred traditions has a very specific and perhaps surprising meaning. It is not the seat of our personal affective life—or even, ultimately, of our personal identity—but an organ for the perception of divine purpose and beauty. It is our antenna, so to speak, given to us to orient us toward the divine radiance and to synchronize our being with its more subtle movements. The heart is not for personal expression but for divine perception. . . .

The ancient Wisdom traditions all saw (I do not mean they theorized; theydirectly perceived) that the physical world we take for our empirical, time-and-space-bound reality is encompassed in another: a coherent and powerful world of divine purpose always surrounding and interpenetrating it. This other, more subtle world is invisible to the senses, and to the mind it appears to be pure speculation. But if the heart is awake and clear, it can directly receive, radiate, and reflect this unmanifest divine Reality.

In the language of sacred tradition, the emotional center [where the heart lies] carries the “reconciling” force. It serves as a bridge between the mind and the body and also between our usual physical world and this invisible other realm. When properly attuned, the emotional center’s most striking capacity, lacking in the mind alone, is the ability to comprehend the language of paradox. Logical inconsistencies that the mind must reduce into a simple “either-or” can be held by the heart in “both-and”—and even more important, felt that way—without needing to resolve, close down, or protect oneself from the pain that ambiguity always brings. [1]

Eknath Easwaran (1910-1999) writes:

When the distorting instrument of the mind is made clear, we see life not as a collection of fragments, but as a seamless whole. We see the divine spark at the center of our very being; and we see simultaneously that in the heart of every other human being—in every country, in every race—though hidden perhaps by clouds of ignorance and conditioning, that same spark is present, one and the same in all. [2]

Richard Rohr

[1] Cynthia Bourgeault, The Wisdom Way of Knowing: Reclaiming an Ancient Tradition to Awaken the Heart (Jossey-Bass: 2003), 33-35.

[2] Eknath Easwaran, Original Goodness: On the Beatitudes of the Sermon on the Mount (Nilgiri Press: 1996), 41.

Adapted from Richard Rohr with John Bookser Feister, Jesus’ Plan for a New World: The Sermon on the Mount (Franciscan Media: 1996), 138.

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