Tuesday, June 23, 2009

On Purity of Heart

On purity of heart which is to be sought above all things

If your desire and aim is to reach the destination of the path and home
of true happiness, of grace and glory, by a straight and safe way then
earnestly apply your mind to seek constant purity of heart, clarity of
mind and calm of the senses. Gather up your heart's desire and fix it
continually on the Lord God above. To do so you must withdraw yourself
so far as you can from friends and from everyone else, and from the
activities that hinder you from such a purpose. Grasp every opportunity
when you can find the place, time and means to devote yourself to
silence and contemplation, and gathering the secret fruits of silence,
so that you can escape the shipwreck of this present age and avoid the
restless agitation of the noisy world. For this reason apply yourself
at all times to purity, clarity and peace of heart above all things, so
that, so far as possible, you can keep the doors of your heart
resolutely barred to the forms and images of the physical senses and
worldly imaginations by shutting off the doors of the physical senses
and turning within yourself. After all, purity of heart is recognized
as the most important thing among all spiritual practices, as its final
aim, and the reward for all the labors that a spiritual-minded person
and true religious may undertake in this life. For this reason you
should with all care, intelligence and effort free your heart, senses
and desires from everything that can hinder their liberty, and above
all from everything in the world that could possibly bind and overcome
you. So struggle in this way to draw together all the distractions of
your heart and desires of your mind into one true, simple and supreme
good, to keep them gathered within yourself in one place, and by this
means to remain always joined to things divine and to God in your mind,
to abandon the unreliable things of earth, and be able to translate
your mind continually to the things above within yourself in Jesus
Christ. To which end, if you have begun to strip and purify yourself of
images and imaginations and to simplify and still your heart and mind
in the Lord God so that you can draw and taste the well of divine grace
in everything within yourself, and so that you are united to God in
your mind by a good will, then this itself is enough for you in place
of all study and reading of holy scripture, and as demonstration of
love of God and neighbour, as devotion itself testifies. So simplify
your heart with all care, diligence and effort so that still and at
peace from the products of the imagination you can turn round and
remain always in the Lord within yourself, as if your mind were already
in the now of eternity, that is of the godhead. In this way you will be
able to renounce yourself through love of Jesus Christ, with a pure
heart, clean conscience and unfeigned faith, and commit yourself
completely and fully to God in all difficulties and eventualities, and
be willing to submit yourself patiently to his will and good pleasure
at all times. For this to come about you must repeatedly retreat into
your heart and remain there, keeping yourself free from everything, so
far as is possible. You must always keep the eye of your mind clear and
still. You must guard your understanding from daydreams and thoughts of
earthly things. You must completely free the inclination of your will
from worldly cares and cling with all your being to the supreme true
good with fervent love. You must keep your memory always lifted up and
firmly anchored in that same true supreme good and only uncreated
reality. In just this way your whole mind gathered up with all its
powers and faculties in God, may become one spirit with him, in whom
the supreme perfection of life is known to consist. This is the true
union of spirit and love by which a man is made compliant to all the
impulses of the supreme and eternal will, so that he becomes by grace
what God is by nature. At the same time it should be noted that in the
very moment in which one is able, by God's help, to overcome one's own
will, that is to cast away from oneself inordinate love or strong
feeling, in other words so as to dare simply to trust God completely in
all one's needs, by this very fact one becomes so pleasing to God that
his grace is imparted to one, and through that very grace one
experiences that true love and devotion which drives out all
uncertainty and fear and has full confidence in God. What is more,
there can be no greater happiness than to place one's all in him who
lacks nothing. So why do you still remain in yourself where you cannot
stay. Cast yourself, all of yourself, with confidence into God and he
will sustain you, heal you and make you safe. If you dwell on these
things faithfully within, they will do more to confer a happy life on
you than all riches, pleasures and honours, and above all the wisdom
and knowledge of this present deceitful world and its life, even if you
were to excel in them all that ever lived.
St. Albert of Jerusalem

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