Purity and Play

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Blessed are the pure of heart: for they shall see God.

Matthew 5:8

Our Lord tells that, to be saved, we must become like little children (Mt. 18:3).

Speaking as Divine Wisdom, he also tells us of that “When [the Lord] prepared the heavens, I was present”; “I was with him forming all things: and was delighted every day, playing before him at all times; playing in the world: and my delights were to be with the children of men” (Prov. 8:27-31).

To become like a child is to become like God, to return to the likeness in which we were created, which in the meantime has been obscured by sin.

To the extent that we allow God to free us from sin, we ought to discover a playfulness in our souls, which is a result of his bestowing upon us the favor that the Psalmist begged: “Create a clean heart in me, O God: and renew a right spirit within my bowels” (Ps. 50:12).

What is the connection between purity and play?

As Sean Fitzpatrick explains, “Play exercises the imagination to recreate the goodness of things, . . . to bask in the delight of truth, goodness, and beauty and, in so doing, to catch a glimpse or some fleeting flash of the eternal in the transient.”

Sin, to the contrary, as Father Kirby notes, is rooted in the abuse of our powers of imagination, when we use those God-given powers “to create a fantasy world where we are our own gods.”

In his magisterial Reality and the Good, Josef Pieper shows that the virtue of prudence—the practical wisdom by which we learn how to live happily—is rooted in an attitude of perfect objectivity.

Our intellects are divinely created to receive the imprint of reality. The same reality our intellect perceives as truth, our will perceives as the good.

When this good is already complete, our will loves and rejoices in it. When the good is as yet incomplete, our will prompts us to search for ways of making it actual.

When we use our intellects and wills as intended by God, we are able to perform a complex but beautiful dance in which we receive reality as conceived by Divine Wisdom and, making it ours, respond in loving praise and obedience.

This dance is spoiled when our wills as it were step on the toes of our intellects, attempting to determine rather than receive the substance of the true and good.

It is only by removing the log of self-will from the eyes of our souls, and training our wills upon the perfect will of God, that we become free to see God, and rejoice playfully in the pure goodness of his Creation.

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