June 9, 2012
Purity of Heart, one of the charisms of our Carmelite Spirituality. But what does it really mean, and how does it apply to the lay person.
When we speak of purity of heart to the average Catholic, the message of sexual purity is inferred. However, Puritas Cordis goes way beyond that. Think of Our Blessed Mother. Yes, she was pure in the context stated above…but her freedom from sin was total and complete. Her heart burned wholly for God and His will…and grace abounded.
We are all created with a God-shaped hole in our soul. It is so deep and profound and like St. Augustine said “we are restless until we rest in thee”. This realization of what we are craving comes to the soul of an individual at different stages of the journey. Often times some ‘desert time’ is required. This path can be extremely painful, because it is only through the detachment process that we see that only He is enough, and truly what our heart is desiring in the first place. You cannot feel hunger if you keep yourself stationed at the buffet table.
There is an old country song that whines about ‘looking for love in too many faces’. That is exactly what a heart that is searching for God goes through. We hunger for fulfillment, and completeness, for meaning and purpose, to be told that we are worthy and beautiful. We turn to our idols, our self made golden calves and ask them to supply these things. Their answer at first is intoxicating, it appears to supply all of our needs and we keep going back for more. What started out as a choice now becomes a compulsion! We thirst and these idols keep us thirsty. It doesn’t matter what your particular drug of choice is…we humans are so ingenious, we can create idols out of anything. It is that thing that we keep going back to, time and time again…expecting that this time finally our heart will be content. For some it is food, for others alcohol, drugs, sex, money, power…you get the picture.
It is the apple in the garden of Eden all over again. That’s what the ultimate temptation was about…yes, it was about disobedience…but it was also about seeking answers to life separate from God. His rules are set up for our own protection. They are not there to punish us, but to insure that we get the very best. When I make rules for my kids to not eat junk food, it’s not because I am mean and want to see them suffer. I merely want them to be nourished properly. I want the very best for them. I know that the junk food will take away their appetite for what is good and healthy.
Created things are not bad in and of them selves; it is the distortion in our heart that causes harm. We become greedy with a ‘give me’ attitude. We seek His Hand and stop seeking His Face. It causes harm in the sense that it becomes a distraction from loving God and in turn our brothers fully, and keeps us from receiving all that He wants to give to us. We set ourselves up as our own God, seeking pleasures outside of His boundaries and His Providence. We see everything and everyone as a vessel to fulfill these needs.
One of my favorite stories is about a little girl who so desperately wanted a plastic pearl necklace. She saw just the one in a store window for 25 cents and saved up her pennies to acquire it. She treasured that necklace and held on tight to it. Every night her daddy would tuck her in to bed and ask her for the necklace. Every night the response was the same…oh no daddy, why don’t you take my dolly, or any of my other toys…but not my necklace. The loving daddy would just give her a kiss on the forehead and wish her good night. This played out the same way for a while, until one night the child finally gave in. In tears she took off the old fake pearls which were turning her neck black my now and handed them to her loving daddy. He held her close and as he took her fake pearls with one hand, he was extending the other to deliver to her a beautiful necklace of real pearls that he had been saving for her.
My brothers and sisters in Carmel, the Lord loves us so much that He isn’t satisfied until we are fully partaking in all that He has in store for us…and we shouldn’t be either. This is only accomplished with a pure heart. He gladly takes all of our ‘fake pearls’, and wants so desperately to bejewel us with the real thing, true love!
This isn’t accomplished simply by trying harder or doing better…but by being still and letting it sink in how much our Heavenly Father loves us and how much He has already given and still wants to give to us. We need to be able to live simply in the present moment with a heart filled with appreciation for what is. This is why the track through the desert becomes indispensible; it helps us to focus and removes our blinders.
The path to holiness is not easy but the good news is that He has left us with His Holy Catholic Church which provides the Sacraments that we need for true nourishment…especially that of Reconciliation and the Eucharist. He also sends His angels to minister to us; the importance of community is undeniable…our families, holy friendships and our spiritual communities are all there to support us in this sacred journey towards Holiness.