Blessed are the Clean of Heart
1. Understood in its entirety as embracing its higher grade, that is, perpetual virginity consecrated to God, purity of heart is a gift which only Christianity can give. (Encyclical, Sacra Virginitas, Pope Pius XII, 1954) If we have been called to receive this wonderful gift, let us humbly thank God. It is a sublime dignity to belong, body and soul, to God.
Sacred Scripture says of men: “What is man that you should be mindful of him, or the son of man that you should care for him? You have made him a little less than the angels, and crowned him with glory and honour. You have given him rule over the works of your hands, putting all things under his feet.” (Ps. 8:5; Heb. 2:7) But under a certain aspect those who are living in virginity can be said to be superior to the angels. Since an angel has no body, he offers God only the homage of his spirit. A virgin, on the other hand, must bear the burden of an earthly body. He must offer continually on the altar of his heart (and often after a heroic battle) not only his soul with its appetites and will, but also all the impulses and lower faculties “which wage war against the soul.” (I Peter 2:11)
This is a double sacrifice, which St. Ambrose calls a continual martyrdom of body and soul. But the reward lies in the joy and peace which flow from this perpetual offering of soul and body to the Immaculate Lamb. This happiness is a compensation for any conflict which must be endured, and is a foretaste of the joys of Heaven.
2. There is a purity of heart and chastity which is an obligation for everybody, even for those who are married or preparing for marriage. Everybody is obliged to avoid any act of impurity in so far as it is opposed to his own particular state, to the natural law and to the divine law. Do not think that this degree of chastity is any easier than the first. Sometimes the obligations it imposes are even more difficult than those of absolute virginity.
There is only one remedy for impurity. It is the practice of virtue to the point of sacrifice. Only a man who is ready with the help of God to make any sacrifice can preserve purity of heart. It is a hard struggle, but only those who win can see God. Our Lord has said: “Blessed are the clean of heart, for they shall see God.” (Mt. 5:8). Only the clean of heart will be able to see and enjoy Him forever in Heaven and by means of His grace will be able to see Him in a less perfect manner on earth. St. Thomas says that mental blindness is the main effect of impurity. (Summa, II-II, q. 53, a. 6) This is because anyone who gives himself up to impurity loses all spiritual enlightenment and easily loses his faith as well. He no longer sees God, and he does not believe any more, because his heart is steeped in the mire of impurity. “The sensual man does not perceive the things that are of the Spirit of God, for it is foolishness to him and he cannot understand...” (I Cor. 2:14) He is like the blind mole which creates its own dark little underground world and cannot see the sky any more.
3. St. Paul warns us in the following words: “Do you not know that your members are the temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought at a great price. Glorify God and bear him in your body.” (I Cor. 6: 19-20)
We who are temples of the Holy Ghost, redeemed by the Precious Blood of Jesus, must keep unsullied the purity of our hearts, the lily of our innocence. We must do this no matter what sacrifices it may cost us. Those stern words from the Gospel, “if thy right eye is an occasion of sin to thee, pluck it out and cast it from thee,” (Mt. 5:29) refer in a special way to the obstacles we must overcome and the sacrifices we must make to preserve this beautiful virtue. There can be no half-measures. We must be prepared to go to any length, even to accept death if necessary, like St. Maria Goretti. Even as we should be ready to face martyrdom for the faith, so we must be ready to face martyrdom in order to preserve purity of soul.