Purity is a collapsed wall

Regenerations/7 - Beyond the times of the sand, to the house of the Beatitudes

by Luigino Bruni

published in Avvenire on 13/09/2015

Logo rigenerazioni ridThe poverty of joy that Europe and the West has been suffering for long now is a direct result of forgetting the logic and wisdom of the Beatitudes. The Beatitudes embody and express all the values ​​discarded and despised by capitalism and so from our world that is increasingly built in the image and likeness of the Business God.

Meekness, peace-building, poverty, mercy, purity are not the words of the capitalist economy and its finances, because if we take them seriously we should destroy our empires of sand and start building the house of the man of the beatitudes. Not surprisingly, in these tragic and wonderful days of the unexpected and surprising revival of the Beatitudes in much of Europe, the great absent ones are big businesses and banks, which, with an empathy without compassion continue their production and rites. They remain indifferent and indolent, they do not open the doors of their "houses", they do not know how to take off their shoes to learn to walk barefoot like Adam, like children, like the poor.

Purity is the word that’s least understood and loved by our society of consumption and finance. Yet without purity we cannot understand the world, because we only see its more superficial dimensions and we miss out on the vision of the nicest things. Seeing little and badly, we miss out on seeing the great hidden beauty in what appears as impure and repulsive.

In the Gospel, purity is closely linked to the heart and the eyes: Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. The heart of biblical humanism expresses the profound nature - spiritual and practical - of the person. In Jewish culture, and therefore in that of Jesus and the evangelists, God, however, is not seen. This is one of the deepest and most radical truths of the whole Bible, it is at the centre of its fight against all idolatry worshiping false and therefore highly visible gods. YHWH is a voice that we can listen to through the word of the prophets, and that we can feel throbbing alive in the universe. The condition that brings together all humans is that of being blind listeners of God. What is it then that the pure one can see if it is not God? And what is this new and different type of purity, the purity of the heart?

To understand it, or at least grasp some of it, we should remember that the ancient world had its own idea of ​​pure and impure, which was the basis of the whole social and religious order. There were pure and impure places, people, animals, crafts, times, activities and objects, and society was constructed to avoid contamination and protect purity from impurity. All the sacred hierarchy was explained in relation to this role of separation. The Christian message performed a real reversal in the vision of pure and impure (already foreshadowed by some prophets and the Book of Job), by proposing a new idea of ​​purity that was beyond the category of impurities. That's why the purity of the heart is not the wonderful innocence of children, nor that of animals and nature. These natural purities were the source of the sacred purity of the communities of the ancient world, and after losing it they tried to reconstitute it by sacrificing animals, vegetables, virgins, children to the gods. But the separation of the pure from the impure and the pure ones from the impure ones was too much rooted in the world, although the revolution of the Gospel could last long and create a new civilization. But even in the heart of Christianity we have re-created the unclean ones and the lepers, and brick by brick we rebuilt the same pre-Christian culture of immunity (being uncontaminated), which is experiencing its own apotheosis in our time that is apparently not religious and highly secular, with multinational corporations as its main apostles.

Purity of the heart is exactly the opposite of the old (and post-modern) culture of pure versus impure. Saint Francis of Assisi tells us in his Testament that his conversion really started when he began to attend to the lepers of Assisi, thus breaking down the curtain of separation of purity from impurity. Purity of heart does not run away from lepers, but meets them, seeks them out, loves them, embraces them, kisses them. The first feature of this purity is the elimination of the term impure from the list of bad words, and realising that what we call impurity is exactly where real life takes place. So the first gift of new eyes that the pure one receives means to see a different world where impurity is gone. For this reason, a clear signal that we are not in the presence of eyes of purity is to find the distinction between pure and impure again - in order to position ourselves on the side of the first, of course.

If so, it seems obvious that a general feature that we find in pure hearted people is that they have no self-definition. Once the barrier between pure and impure collapses, purity becomes the environment and it is not seen any more since it is inhabited by the pure hearted. This elimination of the curtain between pure and impure is done in various ways. Almost always it comes as a gift, and sometimes it is an act of liberation that comes at a particular time of life. But it is always a movement of the soul that is not aimed at conquering purity, because looking for purity directly is the main way to lose what we already had and did not know, and to find ourselves left with the pagan type of purity only. For this reason, purity of the heart, like all the other beatitudes, cannot be called a virtue, because it comes without searching for it. Therefore it is pure freedom and the deepest kind of happiness.

This is the first purity of the pure one: to be pure and not to be aware of it, and so not to be able to appropriate its purity to oneself. It is the purity of purity. Furthermore, the one who is pure of heart is not recognized as such, because this purity cannot be seen, and when we see it, it is that ancient and pre-Christian one. The world is filled with pure hearts, but we cannot see them, because we seek purity where it isn't.

The pure ones should be recognized from what they can see around themselves. They See God. But if God is not seen, what do the pure ones see? They can see or feel a presence of the infinite within themselves, something that some feel and call God, and that many others also see and feel but do not know how to call it by name. They can also see it in nature, in the world, everywhere. But above all they can see it in the other, in all others that they meet or discover in books, music, art and poetry. They see every man and every woman as a tabernacle that holds a presence, even when the key to it is lost and the door is closed for good. And so they are attracted to every person, they are lovers of life and especially people. The love of the pure ones is all agape, but it is also all eros and philia. They can see that the world is really filled with beauty, and that the greatest beauty is that of the people. And with their eyes they can tell us: "Little girl, I say to you, arise." Purity watching us has the ability to resurrect the divine image that appears dead to us, too, but in reality it was just sleeping while relatives and friends wept for its death. But the unmistakable signal that reveals the presence of the pure hearted is when we see them embracing and kissing the poor and the lepers.

This purity brings wonderful fruits when we find it in those who happen to be responsible for a community or a business. The leadership of the pure hearted can be recognized for what they can see in others. One of the greatest gifts that life can give us is to place us next to pure hearted colleagues and executives. The yoke of fatigue becomes very light and work becomes our brother.

But there is something more, and perhaps even more sublime. If it is true that the pure hearted can see God and if it is true that God on earth is not seen, then the world is full of people who can see God although not being able to see him, not knowing that what they see is God because they do not recognize him . God is where he isn't, where not even the pure hearted can see him. This is very good news, one that should fill us with hope in this time appearing as the darkest night of God.

Meeting a pure hearted person is often the decisive encounter in life. Thanks to those eyes looking at us differently we can, if only for a moment, connect with the deepest and truest part of us; and feeling looked at like this, there blooms the desire inside us to become what we already were once, but we did not know yet, or simply to go home. In these crossings of eyes we relive something of that first good look of a woman who greeted us when we came into the world, and that we are always looking for in this life. The presence of these eyes is an extremely precious form of common good that keeps the gaze of Elohim on earth, continuing the action of those eyes that changed the world in the streets of Palestine, looking at it in a different way: "And, having looked at it, he loved it."

Purity, as all reality of the earth, can be lost. Even the pure hearted can have a blurred vision. And the only real sign that tells us that we have lost purity is not seeing a presence of the infinite in the other, in the world and inside us, and therefore not being in love with everything and enchanted by everything anymore.

But, like all spiritual realities, purity of the heart can be found again: you can return to be pure. You can return because there is an immense longing for that God we could once see-not-seeing-him in and around us. And the first sign of this return is wishing again, even more, to go back to kiss the poor and the lepers. It takes a long way to find that flourishing and blissful existence again, the purity of childhood - transformed into purity of the heart. "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God."

Download   pdf article in pdf (64 KB)

Print   Email