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"And I beheld, and heard the voice of one eagle flying through the midst of heaven,
saying with a loud voice: Woe, woe, woe to the inhabitants of the earth....
[Apocalypse (Revelation) 8:13]

Friday, June 2, 2017

Holy Purity

Holy Purity

"Blessed are the clean of heart, for they shall see God." Matt 5:8
The purity of heart Jesus spoke of refers primarily to the avoiding of all sins against the Sixth Commandment. Progress, however, in this direction must, of necessity, lead to a purity of heart in a much wider sphere. The self-conquest needful for the acquisition of the virtue of holy purity induces a habit of mind which regards the whole of life in the light of God's law. It was a holy virgin from whom the Word took flesh and thus came and dwelt among us. Virginity, then, is the symbol of highest chastity. The reality symbolized is cleanliness of mind. "O how beautiful is the chaste generation with glory." The virtue and its reward is the right of the whole generation, young men and maidens, old men and children, the married, the widows and the single. Virginity of mind from this moment henceforth, that is the purity of heart which is the condition of the vision of God. 

The proud, the covetous, the intemperate, are not clean of heart, for the things of time and sense, honors, riches, the pleasures of the table, hold a place in their heart. Only those who are conscious of no habitual sin can be said to be clean of heart. What enabled St. John the Evangelist to penetrate so deeply into the mysteries of religion, to gaze upon the sublimity of the Godhead? "The sensual man perceiveth not these things that are of the spirit of God" (1 Cor. ii. 14). "Wisdom will not enter into a malicious soul, nor dwell in a body subject to sins" (Wisd. i. 4). Truth does not reveal itself to the unclean, but from a pure heart it cannot be hid (St. Bernard). As a sheet of paper must be clean, upon which one is about to write, so that heart must be pure from carnal desires upon which God will set His seal by the action of the Holy Ghost.

Jesus is not satisfied with external actions or beautiful words; He wants the heart, the very life of the heart. To avoid adultery and fornication is not enough. That may be inspired by pride or fear. The very heart must not lust. To pray, to give alms, to fast is not enough. Those acts, in themselves religious, may be poisoned by self-love and pride, and make a man a hypocrite, a cup cleaned on the outside, but within full of rapine and uncleanness. "Blessed are the clean of heart." Jesus wants the heart to be the very temple of the Holy Ghost.

To reach the very heart of man, to make it clean and to make it peaceful, He abolished the Testament of the law, for the law failed to change the heart, and inaugurated the New Testament of grace. He sends the Holy Spirit, the Spiritum Sanctum vivificantem, the life-giving Spirit, that the soul may be reborn in that Holy life-giving Spirit; that the soul, not acting, but living the Gospel, may grow strong in grace through the Sacraments of Confirmation and the Holy Eucharist. Thus Jesus plants the kingdom of God right in the heart of man, and that "kingdom of God is not meat and drink, but justice and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost" (Rom. xiv. X7).

This all-penetrating, all-purifying, all-sanctifying religion of Christ makes the soul happy, makes the soul blessed. It produces not a superficial passing animal pleasure like that of eating and drinking and dancing, and of feasting the senses on scenes immoral. The clean heart sees and feels God Who is love itself. "I will love him and I will manifest myself to him," says Jesus (John xiv. 21). Oh, how those pure and virgin saints of heaven saw God even in this life! Christ manifested Himself so clearly to them that uneducated women like St. Catherine of Sienna and St. Gertrude became great theologians; that theologians like St. Thomas of Aquino and St. Francis de Sales became holy doctors; that all felt such a joy and peace in seeing and loving God that they longed to live to spread that peace, to be peacemakers; that they longed to die to see that loving God face to face.

Man's body was made from the slime of the earth and one day will return again to the dust from which it was formed. Yet St. Paul tells us that the body is the temple of God in which dwells the spirit of the Most High, and must be preserved from defilement: "If any man violate the temple of God, him shall God destroy" (1 Cor.iii. 17). The Creator conferred on man a soul, made to His own image and likeness, endowed with the three properties--will, memory and understanding. The body is the corruptible vessel in which the soul is imprisoned until the day of deliverance comes. Yet it shares with the soul the many graces and blessings of God. The waters of Baptism lave its brow; Holy Chrism sanctifies it; Penance strengthens it against concupiscence; the Body and Blood of the Lord nourish it; the Sacrament of Matrimony conquers its carnal desires; the Holy Oils consecrate its fleshly hands to the service of the Altar; the Last Anointing purifies its sinful members. On the day of days the soul will be united to it once more, not in its original corrupted state, but spiritualized and glorified. Together they will live for all eternity either in the infernal abyss of the wicked or in the glorious triumph of the children of God.

In the Decalogue God warned His chosen people against the sins of the flesh: "Thou shalt not commit adultery. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife." Not only the actual commission of sin was forbidden, but also all indulgence in sinful thoughts and desires. Christ repeated these warnings and amplified and explained them: "You have heard that it was said to them of old: Thou shalt not commit adultery. But I say to you whosoever look on a woman to lust after her hath already committed adultery with her in his heart" (Matt. v. 27, 28). Society admires outward decency, yet it condones interior corruption. The Church, teaching the doctrines of Christ, demands internal and external sanctification in mind and heart. Exterior purity alone is similar to the justice of the Pharisees: "You are likened to whitened sepulchers, which outwardly appear to men beautiful, but within are full of dead men's bones and of all filthiness" (Matt. xxiii. 27, 28). Modern cynicism endeavors to palliate these excesses by natural and social arguments. Budding years, young manhood require certain illicit pleasures, happily designated as frivolities and irregularities of youth. He must taste these delights, otherwise life would be a failure. Grey hairs and impaired vigor will show him the error of his conduct, and the continence of old age will compensate for the offenses of earlier years. Yet the Lord makes no distinction of age or sex, in condemning these moral delinquencies. All are contrary to His commandments, all are in violation of the teachings of His Only-begotten Son, all dishonor man's body, the temple of the Holy Ghost, all disfigure his soul, created to the image and likeness of the Creator, all lead him to eternal damnation.

Consequences of Impurity
Sins of the flesh have always been severely punished by the Lord. The wickedness of their sins brought fire and brimstone from heaven on Sodom and Gomorrha and destroyed these cities of the plains, despite the prayers and petitions of Abraham. The desolation of the land and the noisome exhalations of the salt sea are living witnesses to their frightful punishment. Onan, the son of Juda, disobeyed his father and brought dishonor on himself, and the Lord in indignation slew him. His name and sin are forever perpetuated by those who imitate his crimes. David, the king, forgot the lessons of his youth, and committed adultery and murder. God spared him, because of his past virtues and his sincere penance. Yet his beloved son died a violent death, a rebel against his authority, and his kingdom was cleft in twain and condemned to ultimate ruin. The Christian who defiles his body and corrupts his soul, earns God's condemnation and punishment in time, and merits eternal damnation in eternity.

Means of Practicing Purity
God has not left His creatures helpless in this carnal warfare. He has equipped them with weapons to resist the attacks of the foe. "Watch ye and pray that ye enter not into temptation" (Matt. xxvi, 41), was the advice He gave His apostles when they slept in the garden, and he addresses the same warning to His suffering children. There are many proximate, voluntary occasions which lead them into sin. They must shun every object, pursuit, amusement and association of sin if they hope to remain unstained. "He that loveth danger, shall perish in it" (Ecclus. iii. 27). Natural virtue is not sufficient, they need supernatural grace. Prayer is the first and most opportune remedy. By it God's aid may be solicited at all times and in all places, when other and greater means of sanctity are unavailable. The frequent and earnest reception of the Sacrament of Penance and Holy Eucharist are the most efficacious antidotes against temptation. In the sacred tribunal, they behold sin in all its heinousness. The grace of Christ flows into their souls and they go forth contrite for past delinquencies, sincere in the purpose of future amendment. The Body and Blood of the Saviour cleanses and purifies them and heals their imperfections, as virtue went out of Him of old when the afflicted touched the hem of His garment. With Jesus guarding the citadel of the heart, they need fear no attack. Confidence in God's help, vigilance in daily life will be the handmaids to lead them from the city of confusion and the house of bondage to the land flowing with milk and honey, the home of Him who is styled, "The Crown of Virgins."

Prayers to Obtain Purity
from the 1878 Raccolta

O Jesus, Son of the living God, brightness of eternal light, who from all eternity wast begotten most pure in the bosom of the eternal Father, and who in time didst will to be born of a most pure and immaculate virgin: I, thy most frail creature, with all my heart beseech Thee to preserve me pure in soul and body, and to make holy purity flourish abundantly in Thy holy Church, for thy greater glory and the salvation of the souls redeemed by Thee.

O Mary ever virgin, most pure and immaculate daughter of the eternal Father, mother of the eternal Son, spouse of the Holy Ghost, august and living temple of the most blessed Trinity, lily of purity, and mirror without spot: obtain for me, O dear mother! from your good Jesus and mine, purity of soul and body; and beg of Him to make this virtue flourish more and more in all classes of the faithful.

O most chaste spouse of Mary immaculate, who didst merit at the hands of God the singular honor of being the foster-father of Innocence itself, Christ Jesus, and the spotless guardian of the Virgin of virgins: obtain for me the love of Jesus, my God and Savior, and the special protection of Mary, my most holy mother; and procure, O holy Joseph, protector of all chaste souls! that thy chosen virtue of holy purity be better loved by me and by all men.

And thou, all on fire with love for Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, model of Christian modesty and restorer in your time of piety and good morals, our special advocate and example, S. Bernardino: present our prayers to the Holy Family, and beg of them that, with piety and the fear of God, holy purity in soul and body may reign in all Christian families, and in all who are children of the Holy Roman Church, our mother. Amen.

His Holiness, Pope Pius IX., by a rescript of the Sacred Penitentiary, Feb. 27, 1862, granted to all the faithful, every time that, with at least contrite heart and devotion, they shall say these prayers to obtain holy purity: An Indulgence Of Three Hundred Days.

Prayer of St. Thomas Aquinas for Purity

O good Jesus, I know that every perfect gift and, above all others, that of chastity depends on the powerful action of Thy divine Providence; I know that without Thee a creature can do nothing. This is why I beseech Thee to defend, by Thy grace, the purity of my soul and of my body. And if I have ever received any impression whatsoever of a sentiment capable of soiling this ineffable virtue, do Thou, O supreme Master of my faculties, blot it out from my soul, that with a clean heart I may advance in Thy love and in Thy service, offering myself chaste all the days of my life on the most pure altar of Thy divinity. It is the Cross that I adore. The Cross of the Lord is with me. The Cross is my refuge. Amen.