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Blessed are the pure in heart (Mt 5:8). Letter to religious and priests

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I am going to speak about purity of heart as a 76-year-old monk, after 50 years of priesthood. First, you should know what the Lord Jesus Himself says about purity of heart. In connection with the danger of sin against purity, He gives an illustrative example about the cutting off of the hand or foot, and the plucking out of the eye.

When I was sixteen, I read pre-conciliar literature that truthfully clarified this moral sphere. It was the Czech book “Mladý muž se dívá do života” (A Young Man Looks into Life) by Cardinal Tomášek, “Čistým duším” (To Pure Souls) by Prof Čeněk Tomíšek, “Čisté dospívání” (The Young Man of Character) by Tihamer Toth, and others. The issue of homosexuality, transsexuality or other sexual deviations was not discussed in the books at all. This problem did not exist at the time. The books gave perhaps only a brief warning against homosexuality in accordance with the Bible. Sexual immorality was fundamentally rejected. Immoral films and all pornography were also banned. Young people were warned to avoid the near occasion of sin. Under no circumstances can one play with this danger. This pre-conciliar literature offers very encouraging examples of true heroism associated with purity of heart. This struggle is compared here to the heroism of bloodless martyrdom. This literature showed a connection with the overall moral and spiritual formation of the young person.

It is clear from the Holy Scriptures and Catholic teaching that an intimate premarital life is a grave sin. The sin of masturbation is also qualified as grave sin. It is only explained that in some cases it may not be a grave sin. In this most difficult struggle with themselves, young people are advised to go to confession as soon as possible after failure, to receive Holy Communion as often as possible as a precaution, as well as to have devotion to the Immaculate Mother of Jesus. Based on experience, some authors recommend the practice of the three Hail Marys daily for protection. Others recommend consecrating oneself to the Mother of God according to the devotion by St Louis de Montfort. In this struggle for purity of heart, one must also ask for God’s help, because it is not just a struggle against disordered passion. Often there is an attack of invisible force, an unclean demon, behind it. Jesus often speaks of an unclean spirit in the Gospel. He delivered the people enslaved by unclean demons from their bondage. We also learn that unclean demons often cause diseases, such as deafness, dumbness, blindness, paralysis…

Repeated sin becomes a habit. This weakens and disrupts the mind. Therefore, a demon can easily enter and control the will of the enslaved person. The healing of the mind is often a long process and the attacks of the unclean spirit grow weaker accordingly.

The struggle for purity of heart requires the radicalism of the Gospel. This means, above all, to avoid the near occasion of sin. A person has to distance himself from immoral films, literature, pornography. Today, these things are accessible to everyone, including children, through the internet. It is therefore necessary to impose censorship in order to prevent the spread of immorality. The moral value of a human being and the salvation of the soul are of primary importance.

Another great evil is the purposeful demoralisation of schoolchildren, and even young children, through a changed education system. Sin is not called sin. It is excused. What is more, children are literally induced to commit sin. This is a crime against the young generation and society as a whole. A person enslaved by impure passions loses faith in God and avoids anything that might awaken his conscience to sin and its consequences. Impure passions go hand in hand with other addictions, blinding the conscience and the mind. They are often coupled with alcoholism, drug addiction, occultism, cynicism, decadent music, rebellion against God, crime, satanism… We can see that marriage is no solution. The sobering statistics of increasing divorce rates is proof of this. Not even the suffering of children losing their home is able to stop the divorce of parents. Passion and sin are even stronger than parental love.

In a sacramental marriage this sexual force is ordered to self-sacrifice, marital fidelity, the upbringing of children and responsibility for the family. Sexual love (eros) has a natural and moral order in marriage, and with the growing age it develops into friendly love (philia) or, in other words, into fidelity until death. Married couples that keep God’s laws make sacrifices for each other and together for their children. Here philia grows into agape – divine love. They love one another in Christ to the death. Both are ready to make the greatest sacrifices for each other only to save the soul of the spouse for eternal life. Christian marriage, respecting God’s commandments and laws, is interwoven with Christ’s cross and turns into an earthly paradise and a loving home for children. Such a family is a good example not only for their children but also for their surroundings. Married couples therefore need a source of healthy instruction and encouragement; they need to remember to pray together daily, especially in the Holy Hour from eight to nine in the evening.

It is important to know that pure youth is the best preparation for a happy marriage.

Religious and priests, though having made a lifelong vow of chastity to God, must be aware that they are not saved from temptation or struggle for purity of heart. Sooner or later, each of them – perhaps with a few honourable exceptions – faces an existential test. How to make sure you stand the test? Strive to live your consecrated life fully from the heart! Avoid the near occasion of falling into sin, do not play with fire, and strive for purity of heart. It requires true self-criticism, the spirit of interior prayer, and a true religious or priestly community. Priests in pastoral ministry should spend at least one full day a week in prayer and fellowship… (see Acts 2:42). They should also set aside a penitential day of prayer once a month – the biblical new moon or so-called Fatima Saturday.

If, despite being sincere before God, you have been deceived by the enemy into committing a sin against chastity, show true repentance immediately after confessing this sin. True repentance overcomes not only the demon of pride and self-deception, but also the unclean demon that deceived your mind and controlled your will. Here again, the fall was caused by blindness – pride which, as the saying goes, “comes before a fall”. A person who circumvents God’s law knowingly dulls his conscience. He makes light of minor offences, which ultimately results in a tragic fall. Let me point out again: whole generations of holy monks and priests before us respected God’s laws and lived a life of chastity. You can have no agreement with the spirit of this world either. The spirit of this world separates us from a living communion with God. It makes us view prayer as an unbearable burden. But it is still true that “saints became saints because of prayer; they were men and women of prayer!” Interior prayer is really the basis of the spiritual life of a monk and a priest. In prayer, one needs to fight both physical and mental laziness as well as distraction. I am not going to discuss now the experience of interior prayer, which is a personal relationship with our Lord and Saviour. I suppose I am talking primarily to souls who pray regularly and lead a spiritual life. True priestly fellowship is an effective help for every lone priest.

Today, priests and religious are exposed to the influence of the world, especially through the telephone and the internet. Now the need for self-discipline is greater than 70 years ago with the advent of television. That is why this fight against the global unclean spirit, which controls almost all the mass media, requires extreme vigilance. These external influences must be taken seriously as a great danger!

The greatest danger, however, lies within us. Let me therefore warn again that a religious or priest must remember to keep his thoughts and feelings pure. The words of Jesus about “cutting off the hand or foot” apply especially here. A person may fall into a sin against purity even without using his hand, foot or eye. Even if you cut off both your hands and feet or plucked out your eyes physically, you would still not be saved from sinning with your inner eye – that is, your imagination, and your impure thoughts and feelings.

The battle for purity is easier for religious who, bound by religious rule, reveal their temptation or attack to their spiritual father at its early stage. They are also protected by their religious community.

A zealous preacher fell into a sin against chastity and left the priestly ministry. The root of his downfall was that he built his spiritual life on the changing views of contemporary liberal theologians. They regard themselves as ecclesiastical authorities, but they do not follow Jesus Christ. They have no experience of spiritual battle or spiritual life. They are mere theorists who can perhaps pass on some interesting religious information. Their ego and their intellect is the highest authority for them. The “folly of the cross” (1Cor 1:20-25) and the power of God have practically no place in their life. They have such empathy for sinners and sins that they finally approve of sin. By doing so, they oppose God and God’s law. Today we are reaping the disastrous fruits of the conciliar aggiornamento, which has opened the door to the spirit of this world.

May the words of Jesus ring in our souls, “Blessed are the pure in heart.” And Jesus continues, “They shall see God!” (Mt 5:8)

He who keeps his thoughts and feelings pure has a pure heart. Therefore, it is necessary at an early stage, even if it hurts, to cut off an impure memory, image or feeling, to leave the place where there is danger of sin, and to avoid the near occasion of sin. This requires prayer, humility, and true self-criticism. This battle decides the salvation of your soul as well. Do not be afraid and fight! Saint Augustine heard a voice saying, “Can you not do what so many others have done?”

Dear fathers and brothers, it is especially to you, whom I carry in my heart, that I am writing this short letter, but may it also be of benefit to all those to whom you will show by example the safe way of salvation, which is to be achieved through the following of our Lord Jesus Christ. I have long felt that I owe a great debt to you and should speak on this topic as it affects every single one of you. Sooner or later, you can find yourself being put to a hard test, so you need to know what precaution to take that you may be able to stand.

I pray for you, that you may be pure and holy monks and priests!

In Christ,

 

+ Elijah

Patriarch of the Byzantine Catholic Patriarchate

 

11 May 2022

 

Download: Blessed are the pure in heart (Mt 5:8). Letter to religious and priests (11/5/2022)

 

 

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