Or who may stand in his holy place?
He whose hands are sinless, whose heart is clean…
He shall receive a blessing from the Lord,
A reward from God his savior.
- Psalm 24:3-4ab
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus proclaimed, “Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8). In this sense, purity of heart means more than simply avoiding sin (i.e. being "pure"). Its broadest, fullest meaning involves cultivating a spirit of simplicity and focus: “Remain simple and innocent, and you will be like little children who do not know the evil that destroys man’s life” (Shepherd of Hermas, Mandate 2:1). Being pure of heart means to focus our attention, our thoughts, and desires on God’s holiness and to allow ourselves to be filled with God’s love.
|An ancient fresco depicting the "Harrowing of Hell," |
when Jesus freed from Hades all those souls who had awaited the opening
of the gates of Heaven. This image reminds us that Jesus is the "Key of David."
The most perfect expression of this kind of purity is to be found in the virginal heart of Mary, which Caryll Houselander tells us is characterized by emptiness:
“It is not a formless emptiness, a void without meaning; on the contrary it has a shape, a form given to it by the purpose for which it is intended.
It is emptiness like the hollow of a reed, the narrow riftless emptiness, which can have only one destiny: to receive the piper’s breath and to utter the song that is in his heart… She was the reed through which the Eternal Love was to be piped as a shepherd’s song” (from The Reed of God).Tradition tells us that Mary’s parents, Joachim and Anne, were righteous, hope-filled believers, who prayed that God would grant them a child in their old age. Mary was God’s gift to them and it was Joachim and Anne who formed Mary to be a woman of faith. Saint John Paul II reminds us, “On the threshold of the New Testament, it is precisely Joachim and Anne who prepare for the Messiah’s coming by welcoming Mary as a gift of God and offering to the world as the immaculate ‘ark of salvation’” (Angelus, July 25, 1999).
Mary, together with Anne and Joachim, and innumerable saints through the ages, have embodied the hope and trust that are so essential to the Christian life. The faith-filled longing of Anne and Joachim allowed them to become important, although hidden, participants in the salvation of the world. In these final days of Advent, as we begin to celebrate Christmas, keep watching and waiting so that you can truly welcome Christ with a pure heart.
A Prayer for December 20 + O Clavis David
O Key of David,
O royal Power of Israel
controlling at your will the gate of heaven:
come, break down the prison walls of death
for those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death;
and lead your captive people into freedom.