The Sixth Beatitude: Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. (Mt 5:8)
El-roi, “the God who sees me.” This was the name Hagar gave to the Lord who spoke to her in Genesis 16:13. Hagar was Sarai’s Egyptian maidservant. We will remember that in Sarai’s barrenness, Hagar was given to Sarai’s husband Abram to bear him a son. Hagar conceived and bore Ishmael. Hagar rejoiced. Abram rejoiced. But Sarai did not rejoice. Sarai was stricken with envy. The heat of Sarai’s resentment ultimately drove Hagar into the heat of the desert.
In her dark night of newfound motherhood, Hagar was visited by an angel. He told her to return to Sarai, to be obedient to her authority, and to welcome her newly conceived son. In doing so, God promised to bless her with numerous descendants.
To the Lord who spoke to her Hagar responded by giving Him a name: el-roi, “the God who sees me.”
Centuries later, a virgin maidservant in a poor and deserted place would also fall under God’s gaze. But while God had looked down upon every handmaiden before her, in Mary’s case He looked up at her. He looked up at her through the eyes of a newborn babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. Elroi (the God who sees) was now Emmanuel (God with us).
God looked at Mary through the eyes of a babe. Mary looked at God through the eyes of faith. Faith was the fundamental virtue of Mary’s life. Her faith was not only constant; it was different. It was different because it needed no sensible signs in order to believe. Mary’s faith was “motivated only by her love of God.” It was a great faith because it was a pure faith. It was a pure faith because it was rooted purely in the love of God.
Mary did not have to wait to get to heaven to see God. She saw Him for 33 years in the person of Jesus Christ, her Son. But this vision was prepared by purity. Conceived without sin from the very moment of her conception, Mary remained pure her entirely earthly life. This is the blessedness of her Immaculate Conception. It is a blessedness incarnate, so to speak. In a sense we could say that her Immaculate Conception is the incarnation of this fifth beatitude.
By incarnating it, Mary teaches us how to live it. She teaches us to open our eyes and to see the whole horizon of purity. Purity involves more than just avoiding the sins of the 6th and 9th Commandments. It also, and maybe more importantly, involves the disciplining of all our affections and desires.
Living the pure life is like driving a horse-drawn carriage. Getting where you need to go requires the control of all the horses. Living purity requires that we not only avoid the sins of the flesh, but that we also discipline the mind (intellect), the heart (will), and the stomach.
Living purity is a matter of saying “no” to curiosity and the mindless consumption of entertainment. It also is a matter of saying “no” all inordinate affections. And finally, it is a matter of also saying “no” to having too much to eat or drink and too much time in any worldly comforts.
But even this is not enough to imitate Mary in her purity.
At some point we must also say “yes”. Mary’s purity was principled sealed through a “yes” and not a “no.” As St. John Paul II teaches us, “Mary is a virgin in body and a virgin in heart, as appears from her intention to live in deep intimacy with the Lord, decisively manifested at the time of the Annunciation. Thus she who is invoked as Virgin of virgins is without doubt for everyone a very lofty example of purity and of total self-giving to the Lord.”
Mary sees God in Bethlehem—and even now more perfectly in heaven—because she first gave herself totally to God in Nazareth. Only those who possess themselves can give themselves. Purity is the crown of this self-possession. We too can hope to see God by crowing our lives with purity, that is, by so owning ourselves through an integral discipline of life that we are able to completely give ourselves to Him in love.
Thus, in contemplating Mary at the Nativity or at the Annunciation today, we should watch, listen and learn from her purity. We should especially reflect on how her example teaches us about acquiring purity in our own lives. But in doing so, we should not forget that Mary’s purity was also a grace. It was a special gift of God. Likewise, in our time of prayer we should ask for the gift of purity.
Blessed are you Mary, for your purity of heart, for by it you teach us how to see God!
Seize the day and make it all Hers!
Fr. Christopher Etheridge, IVE
 St. John Paul II, General Audience 3 July 1996. English translation English translation available on EWTN’s collection of texts of John Paul II reproduced from the Osservatore Romano, and in Theotókos: Woman, Mother, Disciple : a Catechesis on Mary, Mother of God (Boston: Pauline Books & Media, 1998).