Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God

St Gregory of Nyssa

Those who see God possess in this act of seeing everything at is good: everlasting life, eternal incorruption, unfailing ss. With these things we shall experience the joy of the eternal kingdom in which happiness is secure; we shall see the true light and hear the delightful voice of the Spirit; we shall exult unceasingly in all that is good in the inaccessible glory of God. This is the magnificent consummation of our hope held out to us by the promise of this Beatitude.

But … since the seeing is dependent upon our purity of heart, my mind grows dizzy lest it should prove impossible to achieve because what is required of us actually exceeds our capacity… What do we gain from knowing that we can see God if at the same time we also know that the mind finds it impossible to do so? It would be just as if someone said that it is blessed to be in heaven because only then can we contemplate what cannot be seen in this life. On the other hand, what if this statement were also pointing out to us the means by which we journey to heaven? Surely it would be valuable for people to know how blessed it is to be there? But then again, as long as the ascent is still declared to be impossible, what is the use of knowing about the bliss of heaven?

But why should the Lord command something that vastly exceeds our nature and the limits of our power? Surely this is wrong reasoning! God does not instruct those without wings to become birds, nor does he demand those creatures who dwell on the earth to live in the water. The law is adapted to suit the capacities of each in every aspect of life: God never enforces anything contrary to its nature. So we also should realize that nothing is being set forth in this Beatitude that outstrips hope…

In this saying we learn that if our hearts have been purified of every creature and material sentiment, then we shall see in our own beauty the image of the godhead. In this short sentence the Word, I think, is giving us this advice: there is a desire within you human beings to contemplate the supreme good. When you are told that the majesty of God is exalted far above the heavens, that the divine glory is inexpressible, that its beauty is indescribable, and its nature inaccessible, do not despair at never being able to behold what you desire. It is within your reach; you have in you the ability to see God. For the One who made you also endowed your nature with this marvellous quality. For God imprinted on you the image of his perfection, as the mark of a seal is impressed upon wax. But sin has distorted the imprint of God in you, and this good has become profitless, hidden beneath a covering of filth. You must wash off the dirt that clings to your heart like plaster by a good life, and then the divine beauty will once again shine forth in you…

Edited by Arthur Middleton ND