How man can attain to the Purity of Heart which will enable him to see God in this life, to be sensible of His Divine Inspiration, and hereafter to possess and enjoy Him for ever.
Beati mundo corde, quoniam ipsi Deum videbunt
"Blessed are the clean of heart for they shall see God."
Mark well, dear children, how all those who desire to be pleasing unto God, must be cleansed from all outer and inner stains and blemishes, for otherwise God will not accept them, but will let them perish in many outer and inner errors.
He who would gladly be freed from sin, and who desires to possess a pure and empty heart, free from anxiety, with which, even in this life, in spirit he may see God, must seek the Grace of God; and must, before all things, examine his conscience diligently, that he may learn to cleanse it, by dying to all the vices of which he was ever guilty, either outwardly or inwardly. Now what is a good conscience? It is a quiet, peaceful, pure heart, humble and lowly, which desires God's Will and Honour, and is ready to give or receive all things, without making any choice; he who has such a heart will be blessed, and the Will of God will be done by him. But before a man can attain to this, so that his conscience is pure, empty and quiet, he will have to go through great suffering; and his conscience will be constantly pricking and gnawing him. First, he acknowledges the greatness of his sins, which he mourns and repents. Then he begins to shun and avoid evil, and to resist sin and all that causes it; so that he may learn to die unto it, that he may be clean and no longer consent to it. After this he begins to do good, and to set his face against all wanton desires of the senses, even giving up things which are allowed (as David did), in eating and drinking, walking and standing, seeing and hearing, walking and resting in many things that are permissible, in order that he may grow better, and follow the teaching of the Gospel. Therefore, those things in which he has taken great delight, and in which he has indulged, he must subdue and repress. By this means conscience learns how to purify the desires, as before it had striven to guard against gross sins.
After this the outer man suffers great discomfort which the body can ill bear. When man has succeeded, by the Grace of God, in cutting off gross sins, and has begun to get the mastery over his spirit, by cutting himself off from all his accustomed pleasures, it seems strange to his animal nature, which begins to struggle. Then, whether he take it amiss, or simply,plainly and patiently, yet he will find that he is ill at ease, and full of infirmity, and that his ill-ordered mind will not submit to guidance. He cannot keep his senses outwardly under control; he cannot keep silence, but must talk, either to complain of his wants, or to boast of his good works. He finds fault with all that he does not like, and casts aside everything to which he is averse. He complains of all that harms him, while anything, which is advantageous, pleases him. That which is sweet is also pleasant; while he is unwilling to accept any task that is hard and difficult. All that he praises must be praised; while no one may praise, in his presence, anything with which he finds fault. See, dear children, how a man thus begins to fathom and to probe his own heart, and to realise what he is, and what he can do of himself. He earnestly desires to drive some evil things out of his heart, and to purify it; but it is sour and hard to him. His nature can as yet scarcely bear suffering, mortification and oppression and shame, though on account of many things he is conscience-stricken and repentant, and acknowledges before God and man that he has not done right in these things. Because he does not yet know what it is to die to all evil desires, he may easily fall a prey to them; and not without cause; for evil desires lie hidden at the bottom of his heart, to which he is outwardly so much inclined, that it is most needful he should exercise himself, in the outer man, in the virtues shown forth by our Lord Jesus Christ, while he shares those things to which he is inclined.
After this the man begins to be more spiritually-minded, in a fruitful and virtuous life; he must begin with a fervent prayer, which must arise from his conflict with sin, as has already been said. Further, true penitence and sorrow for sin arise from such prayers; then contempt of self and his sinful life, and then the man begins with good will to yield himself up to suffer pain, mortification, oppression, contradiction and ignominy and all kinds of trouble in which he may find himself, while in all he gives and offers himself up to God. He begins out of love to learn true resignation and patience in the faith and hope of Christ. He will have nothing more of self, that the purity of his conscience may in no way be stained. He then begins to hate himself, and despise himself, while he endeavours to guard against all judging of others, and strives to shut out all sin when he becomes aware of temptation. He diligently guards against all incitements to sin, so that he may not give place to the Devil. He hangs on God with all his heart, and cleaves to nothing else. He patiently suffers to the end all the suffering that comes to him, till God releases him. He will not seek for ease by means of any comfort, either bodily or spiritual. The consequence of all this is, that he is willing to be guided by his superiors, desiring to subject himself wholly unto God. He first notices what is present to him, and then exercises himself therein. If it is good, he is thankful; if he is tempted, he fights against it. Further, he learns that he must bewail his need to none, save God, to Whom he prays for perseverance. He is never uplifted by anything on earth, and has no pleasure in self; but he delights only in God, in all things, and above all things. He is thankful and good tempered, whether things go well or ill with him. He loves his neighbours, feeling pity for their weakness, and shuns all external things and all sudden outbursts, especially in mirth. He avoids all lukewarmness in discipline and excess of pleasure. All that belongs to God is good; therefore man should be careful in keeping watch over himself, not high-minded but thinking little of self. Everything that he advises another to shun, he must shun himself, such as self-will, of which especially he must rid himself. He must strive to build on his imperfection and littleness, offering himself in all his suffering to God, and bearing always the Life and Sufferings of Christ in his heart. He will cling to no creature, that God alone may be his Love and his Lover. He purifies his heart that he may learn to see God here in truth, and that he may see Him yet more purely and more clearly in eternal salvation. God grant that this may be our portion. Amen.