‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God’
“Look! Look! Look!” cried Lucy.
“Where? What?” said everyone.
“The Lion,” said Lucy. “Aslan himself. Didn’t you see?” Her face had changed completely and her eyes shone.’
For any Chronicles of Narnia fans – another collection of books which resounds with the true, the good and the beautiful – this passage from the fourth instalment of the series will be very familiar. Its author, C. S. Lewis, though not a Catholic, was a devout Christian whose love of God thoroughly permeates this work. For instance, a central and pivotal figure in it is Aslan, a magnificent lion who represents Jesus. There is also another central character called Lucy, who (aside from Aslan!) is quite possibly one of my all-time favourite characters ever! Why? Because of her particularly beautiful relationship with Aslan – and relatedly, because of a quality she possesses in great abundance: purity of heart. In the passage above, she is not long after returning to the land of Narnia with her three older siblings – Peter, Edmund and Susan – when she suddenly spots Aslan in the near distance. Yet, to her great frustration and dismay, none of the others see him. She says Aslan want them to follow him, but they doubt her – they were too busy acting like important adults! “How do you know that was what he wanted?” Edmund says. “He – I – I just know,” said Lucy, “by his face.” But the others fail to perceive or understand.
I can’t help but think of the sixth Beatitude here: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Mt 5:8). Who are the pure in heart? Those who treasure God above all else, who resist being distracted by lesser things, and who seek to do His will regardless of the cost. They SEE with the eyes of Christ Himself – and unlike Lucy’s siblings, their vision isn’t cloudy; Instead, they are able to perceive God at work in their own life and in the world around them and they recognise Truth with great readiness. And like Lucy understanding Aslan’s intent merely by looking upon his face, the pure in heart can perceive God’s wishes in even a wordless exchange for it is as though they share one heart. Simply put, they exemplify God’s central commandment beautifully: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength (Mt 22: 37).
A further characteristic of the pure in heart is this: their entire being LONGS for God, as Lucy’s does for Aslan. Later in the above book, for instance, when he reveals himself to her at last, her heart utterly thrills at their reunion: ‘But for a movement of his tail he might have been a stone lion, but Lucy never thought of that. She never stopped to think whether he was a friendly lion or not. She rushed to him. She felt her heart would burst if she lost a moment…’ The pure in heart respond similarly: they thrill at the thought of God; they long to be united to Him. They live continually in His presence and always trust in His promises, even when all seems bleak. Though Lucy has moments of faltering in other ways, she never loses her confidence in Aslan – and the moment she realises she has done wrong, her heart immediately rushes back to him. Such is the response of the pure in heart.
Lucy’s deep longing to see Aslan also points to a future reality for all of us – should we choose it: the beatific vision in heaven – when finally we will see God face to face and the words of St Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians will at last come to fruition: ‘for now we see in a mirror dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part, then I shall know fully’ (1 Cor 2:9). This beatific vision – the moment of ultimate encounter with God – is what our hearts are made for: ‘Man’s life is the vision of God’ as St. Irenaeus, the great Bishop and Martyr once proclaimed. Being able to truly SEE God is of tremendous significance for us. Once it occurs, according to St. John of the Cross, we become fully assimilated to God and radiate His likeness in extraordinary fashion. Our intellect and will be beautifully and magnificently transformed beyond our natural human capabilities (otherwise, we couldn’t handle seeing Him as He is!). All the deepest longings of our hearts will be fulfilled forever. Worldly status, power or success has little to do with our ultimate happiness; rather, the beatific vision is at its heart.
Before our turn comes to taste this heavenly existence, we strive for purity of heart here in earth: ‘The pure of heart is not born thus, it has experienced an inner simplification, learning to renounce evil in itself’ (Pope Francis). It is not an easy process but is infinitely worthwhile. To be pure of heart, for instance, we must firmly reject sin in all its forms and intentionally seek to grow in holiness and virtue instead. We must continually unite ourselves to the great and never-ending power of Christ’s Paschal Mystery – His Passion, Death, Resurrection and Ascension – so that His grace forever empowers and strengthens us. Purity of heart is not something we can achieve on our own – so we entrust ourselves totally to God, knowing He can achieve the seemingly impossible!
I cannot possibly conclude without mentioning my second favourite character of all times – also a favourite because of his great purity of heart: Faramir from the Lord of the Rings. He wakes at one moment in the story, for instance, to see his rightful king before him – and while he could have resented the intrusion of this ‘outsider’ as his power-hungry father would have, his response is markedly different: ‘a light of knowledge and love was kindled in his eyes, and he spoke softly, ‘My Lord, you called me. I come. What does the King command?’ Such a response is the clarion call of the pure in heart, very like the words once spoken by a teenage girl in Nazareth long ago! “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be done to me according to your word” (Lk 1:38).
My question to you is: if Jesus were ever to show himself to you in the way Aslan appeared to Lucy, and Faramir’s king to him, would your instant and honest response be like theirs? If you think it wouldn’t, that there would be something holding you back from Him, be sure to bring that before the Lord. It is not possible to progress towards purity of heart without first being honest with ourselves. After that, be confident that God will do most of the heavy lifting for you Himself!
You promise great blessing to the pure in heart!
May our hearts be set ablaze with love for You,
May we seek after You with all our hearts
And always hold fast to Your promises,
Till at last we see You face to face!
Through Christ our Lord,