The great Russian Orthodox monk and Metropolitan, Anthony Bloom, has left a wealth of wonderful spiritual reading — his book Beginning to Pray is one of those amazing, small books that has something worth underlining and taking to contemplation on every page — and his book Courage to Pray is a similarly illuminating, but brief, read.
In that book he writes about how the clarity of our comprehension, and our ability to see the world, is rooted on possessing a “purity of heart” — that is, a heart unencumbered by worldly ideas, and willing instead to see things in a more Godly light, in so much as we may. In Courage to Pray, he writes, “Just as an unclear eye projects its own shadow on all it sees, so an impure heart cannot judge or see things in the way that God sees them.”
He shares a story about the desert fathers, to make his point:
[A desert father] followed by his disciples comes to the gates of Alexandria. He sees a very beautiful woman coming along the road. The disciples cover their heads with their cloaks so as not to fall into temptation. Perhaps the escape from the temptation of the flesh, but not from the temptation of curiosity. From underneath their cloaks they see their master and are scandalized to find that he is looking straight at the approaching woman. After she has gone into the town, they remove their cloaks and ask him, “How could you succumb to the temptation to look at that woman?”
He replied sadly, “How impure are your hearts. You saw her only as a temptation. I saw her as one of God’s wonders.”
We can all do better in how we look at others, whether we see them through a lens of impurity or of arrogance or suspicion or moral superiority.
Read more: 5 Warning Signs of a Toxic Faith