Many years ago there used to appear in newspapers – at least in the UK – a strange-looking picture. These pictures weren’t in every day, but would appear occasionally as a kind of diversion for people.
These pictures looked really odd – just a half-page of colors and blotches, with nothing but a vague clue to give you the idea of what it is you should be seeing.
But … if you stared into this mass of blobs and colors, and if you focused your eyes a certain way, all of a sudden an incredibly rich 3-dimensional image would appear, and you would instantly understand the vague clue. And once you’d seen that image, you could no longer unsee it – and you’d wonder how it was that you were never able to see it before!
These images, commercially known as ‘Magic Eye’ pictures (but properly known as ‘autostereograms’), were originally developed to study human depth perception. And that is what you have to do to reveal the image: focus beyond the image so that you actually see what is really there.
During a sermon about the Beatitudes (which means ‘blessings’), given by St. Gregory of Nyssa (335-394 A.D.) he said that when Jesus proclaimed the blessings one finds in the Beatitudes (Matt 5:3-12; Luke 6:20-22), He wasn’t just giving people a list of impossible virtues, but was actually letting the people know the blessings that were being made available to them.
St. Gregory focuses on Jesus’ “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” and comments: “So magnificent a consummation is offered to our hope in the promise made in this Beatitude. But since, as has been shown before, the seeing has been made dependent on purity of heart, my mind once more grows dizzy, lest perhaps purity of heart should be impossible to achieve because it surpasses our nature”.
I would reckon that most of us feel this way! But St. Gregory continues: “Yet should the Lord command something so great that it completely surpasses our nature and the limits of its power? Surely not. He does not tell those he had not provided with wings to become birds, nor does he bid creatures he has destined to sojourn on land to live in the water.”
So … according to St. Gregory, seeing God, although it requires of us purity of heart isn’t something that is beyond us, but it is something that makes a demand on us.
And what is this ‘purity of heart’ of which Jesus spoke? Well … it isn’t a kind of naïve simplicity within a person – something we might find in the person of the movie version of Forest Gump. No – naivety isn’t involved; only a new way of looking at the world.
Back in the day of Jesus, the heart was understood to be the seat of the emotions. Purity of heart means to let go of all negativity, let go of jaded ways of viewing everything, and to trust God to show you the way things really are.
Just as those Magic Eye pictures required of us a new way of viewing a flat page in order for a whole new 3D world to be revealed, so God requires of us that we look at the world in a new way – one in which we see the Creator of all in everything.
This isn’t as easy as it sounds –it takes a whole lot of practice. A continuous lifetime, to be exact.
But once you begin to look into and beyond creation, you will catch tiny glimpses of … well … nothing ever seems the same again, and you can never unsee those images. And it affects you in every part of your being, making your heart sing, and your mind amazed in wonder.