Contemplation and the Clean of Heart

Hello dear reader, and welcome to this article on contemplation and the clean of heart.  Among the Beatitudes we see that one of them points more to contemplation and the mystical life than the others. “Blessed are the clean of heart, for they shall see God.” (Matt. 5:8).

Seeing God is a spiritual experience, not a physical one. It is a deep and active interior life going on in the depths of the soul. Seeing God means spiritual vision and with this vision there is also life, love and friendship with Him.

But we are only capable of this through the disposition of a clean heart. A heart that does not cling to the things that God hates, such as sin and an excessive love and attachment to earthly goods.

But if we want to gain this purity of heart, one of the things we can do is simply consider how good it is and how much better it is for us than a heart tainted with affection for sinful and earthly things.

The hearts of the blessed are fixed on God, whereas even the most successful people in the world experience a constant shifting of their affection from one thing to another. What’s really happening is that they are giving their soul the wrong food and this is never satisfying but always leaves a kind of disappointment and increased craving.

Our thoughts are frequently on the things that are dear to our heart. And as Christ says, “where your treasure is, there is your heart also.” (Luke 12:34). So the question is, where is your treasure and what are you thinking about?

If your treasure is here on earth and in such things as worldly reputation, money and the things of the flesh, then that is what you are thinking about most of the time.

If your treasure is in God, then your thoughts will naturally lift above the world to Divine and spiritual things. It will also experience rest, peace and freedom. Whereas the earthly heart misses out on the rest, peace and freedom because it is still searching. It loves creatures rather than God and therefore it can spend a lifetime looking but never finding true peace.

As St. Augustine says, “Thou hast made us for Thyself O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee.” (Confessions).

The way to change the focus of our love is to mortify ourselves at least to some degree each day. And to meditate on spiritual things. It is a gradual process but of immense importance for our spiritual growth and salvation. As the Imitation predicts, “If thou reject exterior comfort, thou wilt be able to contemplate heavenly things and frequently to feel excessive joy interiorly.”

We should never let a day go by without pursuing holiness – doing something to gain a more pure heart and a less earthly and sinful one.

We must focus on not only remaining in the grace of God, but ascending the ladder of perfection.

A day spent without any progress in the spiritual life is a day wasted. We either move towards God and salvation or we drift further and further away.

And God is never far from us. He is within, He is present everywhere and revealed in all good things. He is present Sacramentally in our Churches and calls out to us, “Come to Me all you that labour and are burdened and I will refresh you.” (Matt. 11:28).

Let us now examine some key practical means for attaining to this purity of heart which is the gateway to contemplation.

A Strong Desire for Holiness

Desire is the fuel of your progress towards God, or in fact anything that we want to achieve in life. The fervour of desire comes with great energy and power to bring into effect the thing we have set for our goal.

Desire comes before action, but with little or no desire, we either won’t take action at all or the action we do take will not be significant or effective enough to reach our goal.

If desire for holiness is still lacking, we should make a point of praying fervently to have desire. Holiness, purity of affection, contemplation – these things are wonderful, sublime, of immense value and are in themselves, highly desirable. The more we desire spiritual goods, the more motivated we should naturally be to put in the effort that is required for their attainment.

A Firm Resolution

It is possible to harbour a desire for something but lack any resolution to go and lay hold on it. This could be for multiple reasons, such as the difficulty that we perceive to be involved in the process.

In the case of attaining to contemplation through a purified heart, we know that this takes much dedication and conformity to the Divine will and good pleasure. It entails going against our own will in many things so as to allow for grace to enter into our souls and transform us into images of Christ.

This is a painful process if we are strongly attached to exterior things and caught up with the love of the earth and our own vanities. Irregular passions need to be corrected and brought into discipline so that we are moved more and more by reason and grace.

To succeed therefore in the way of spirituality and contemplation, we need the aid of a firm resolution to support a strong desire.


Frequent Spiritual Exercises

Actually applying ourselves to the work of our sanctification after forming desire and resolution, means to embrace spiritual exercises and give ourselves to them whenever we can reasonably do so.

Examples of Spiritual Exercises Include:

  • Attending Mass
  • Receiving the Sacraments
  • Doing Spiritual Reading
  • Practising Mental Prayer
  • Visiting the Blessed Sacraments
  • Vocal Prayer and devotions, especially the Holy Rosary and Way of the Cross
  • Aspirations throughout the day
  • Transcribing Holy Scripture, such as the Gospels or Psalms
  • Praying some of the Hours of the Divine Office or Little Office of Our Lady, etc.

It can also be good to get creative and come up with your own ideas for spiritual exercises.

The point of these exercises is to train the soul, to lead it upwards. To refocus it and sanctify it. Prayer is loosely defined as ‘the raising of the mind and heart to God.’

During these exercises, we will gradually gain interior light and more refined and supernatural love. This will start to change our entire outlook on life which is a wonderful experience to have. We will be looking at everything from a more elevated and Divine perspective. We will come to know God personally. We will develop a friendship with Jesus Himself, and with other Heavenly personages, such as Our Lady, St. Joseph and our Patron Saints.

But with lack of prayer and communion with God in spiritual exercises we remain, aloof, cold, ignorant and disposed to sin rather than to virtue. Darkness and lack of mortification in the soul prevents us from entering into this wonderful friendship with God and the Saints. We have to push through the darkness and fog by consistent effort until we reach the light at the end of the tunnel. Then we will find that we are no longer such a stranger to God through having been so closed off.

Holy Abandonment

Our efforts at reaching God will certainly be rewarded along the way. But for this operation of sanctification to really work, we will need to have a disposition of allowing God to act in us and through us. We will need to trust Him completely and want whatever He wants for us.

This disposition may take time to grow, but it will if we keep applying ourselves to a spiritual life. Holy Abandonment means being ready for whatever comes our way and trusting that it is all from God and ultimately intended for our sanctification and salvation. It is saying ‘not my will but Thy will be done O Lord.’

Once we have arrived this far, God will usually infuse into us the grace of contemplation. A very high and special light which begets great love of God, of virtue and of spiritual and heavenly things.

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