A READING FROM A SERMON BY ST AUGUSTINE
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Let us make every effort to purify our hearts, exert ourselves to stay alert, and as far as in us lies gain this grace by constant prayer. And if we wonder about external purity, the Lord tells us: Clean the inside, and then the outside will be clean as well.
Some may think that Scripture refers to the body as much as to the heart, for it is written: All mankind will see God’s salvation. How then can there be any doubt that the sight of God is promised to us, unless there is doubt as to the meaning of God’s salvation. But since there is no uncertainty about this, there is no doubt: God’s salvation is Christ the Lord. The divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ can be seen by the eyes of the heart when they are pure, perfect, and full of God; and he was seen also in the body according to the text: Afterward he was seen on earth and lived among men. Thus the meaning of the text: All mankind will see the salvation of God is clear: let no one doubt that it means that we shall see Christ.
Uncertainty remains, however, as to whether we shall see the Lord Christ in the body, or as the Word who was in the beginning, the Word who was with God and who was God, and into this we must inquire. All mankind will see God’s salvation is said to mean that all mankind will see God’s Christ. But Christ was also seen in a body that was no longer mortal, a body that had undergone a spiritual transformation. After his resurrection he himself said to those who saw and touched him: Handle and see, for spirit has not flesh and bones as you see that I have. This is how he will be seen: not only how he was seen in the past but how he will be seen in the future. And then surely the words all mankind will be more perfectly fulfilled. For people see him now, but not all people. On the Day of judgement, however, when he comes with his angels to judge the living and the dead, when all who are in their graves hear his voice and come forth, some rising to life, others to condemnation, they will see the very form which he deigned to assume for our sake. Not only will the righteous see it but also the wicked, both those on the right hand and those on the left, for even those who killed him will see him whom they pierced.
All mankind, then, will see God’s salvation. Both those who see and he who is seen will be in the body because it is in his real body that he will come to judge. But to those placed on his right and sent to the kingdom of heaven he will show himself in the way he promised when he was already seen in the body: Those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and show myself to them.
St Augustine, Sermo 277, 15-16 (PL 38, 1266-1267), from Word in Season 2