August 19, 2015

An Interpretation of the Beatitudes of Christ (6 of 9)

...continued from part five.

By His Eminence Metropolitan Hierotheos
of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou

"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God" (Matt. 5:8).

The beatitude of purity of heart is very important and is at the center not only of the Beatitudes, but of the entire spiritual life. With purity of heart people know God, they see God.

Purity of heart, so that a person can know God, is at the center of Orthodox theology as well as so-called neptic-hesychastic theology, expressed especially by Saint Symeon the New Theologian, Saint Gregory Palamas and the Fathers of the Philokalia, the so-called Philokalic Fathers.

First, this beatitude has particular importance, because there are people who do not steal nor take the property of others, and may even be merciful, applying to their person the beatitude "Blessed are the merciful," yet they have unclean hearts and commit various carnal sins. Thus, the most important of all is for a person to have a pure heart.

Very often in Holy Scripture there are words spoken of the heart. It does not mean the physical heart, but the "deep heart", as the Psalmist says [Ps. 64:6 (63:7)]. Indeed, many times in the Psalms of David there is reference to the heart, saying it is "fervent", it "overflows", it "leaps", etc.

Studying the texts of Holy Scripture and the Fathers of the Church, as well as discussing this issue with empirical monks, I have found that what is called the "heart" is the passive part of the soul, and this spiritual heart is deep within the physical heart. The Fathers, following on this point the philosophical division of the soul, speak of an intelligent, desiring and incensive part of the soul. The intelligent, which produces thoughts, acts in the brain, while the desiring and incensive parts of the soul manifest in the physical organ of the heart. When someone loves or is enraged, this is manifested in the physical organ of the heart. Thus, when the Neptic Fathers speak of the purification of the heart, basically they mean the return of love and anger from the creations of God.

People usually love creation and other people passionately, which is an impurity of the heart, because then the whole heart is distinguished by passion. A person, however, that struggles to live according to God, to apply the commandments of God, such a person loves God, acquiring divine eros and, of course, loves as God loves. This is what the purification of the heart from the passions is. According to the spiritual medicine of the Fathers we know that the passions are not some evil forces of the soul that must be weeded out, but are natural powers of the soul that have become distorted, and through the Grace of God and our effort we can transform them and turn them towards God.

Thus, reason is one thing and the heart is another. Reason processes thoughts which are called logismoi, because they have to stay there and help people to move, to think, to work and to behave accordingly, while the heart loves God, as well as creation within the love of God. Reason develops science and philosophy, while the heart experiences God. This is why we say that the fruits of science are the discoveries of reason, and the empirical knowledge of God is the revelation of God to the pure heart of a person, namely the heart that has got rid of logismoi and passionate acts and is completely dedicated to God.

It makes an impression also that Christ in this beatitude doesn't say that the pure in heart will know God, but will see God. In the heart, according the Neptic Fathers, is the spiritual eye that sees God, it is a spiritual mirror to which the true God is revealed as Light, it is the nous, the eye of the soul. When God appears to people, He is always seen as Light. This is what took place on Mount Tabor, this is what happened with the archdeacon and protomartyr Stephen. This Light came forth from Christ when He appeared to the Apostle Paul, this is the Light seen by Saint Symeon the New Theologian, and many other saints.

The revelation of God as Light offers spiritual knowledge, and this knowledge is Orthodox theology. This is why academic theology of the reason is different from the charismatic and empirical theology associated with the spiritual heart.

We have to continuously beg God, as David wrote in the 50th Psalm: "Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit in my inward parts" [Ps. 50 (51):12].

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.