Summary: Those who have eyes of the heart are able to see things that other people don’t see. They are blessed because they have developed a unique ability to see the heart of God.
Seeing With the Eyes of the Heart
June 19, 2005
Maria Yudina was one of the greatest pianists of the 20th century, although she remains largely unknown outside of Russia. She has a fascinating story.
She was born in 1899, died in 1970, and was graduated with honors from the St. Petersburg Conservatory of Music.
When Germany invaded Russia in 1941, Maria was in Leningrad where she stayed during the siege of that city. Freezing, hungry, and not far from death herself, she kept playing concerts and recording for the people of her city who needed some reasons to continue to struggle on.
In 1944, with the end of the war still a year away, a new music institute was opened in Moscow and Maria was brought in to be a teacher. Through all of these duties she kept up her schedule of concerts filled with Bach and Beethoven, Schubert, and Schumann.
What makes her even more special and more fascinating is that she was a Christian who defied Stalin and lived to tell about it. Throughout all the crackdowns on religion, she kept going to church, corresponding with theologians, and refusing to cower before the threat of the Gulag. (Maria Yudina, “The Voice of Russia” www.vor.ru/English/Music_Portraite_ 43.html. Accessed March 24, 2005).
The great Russian composer Dimitri Shostakovich told a remarkable story about her. During the latter days of his life, as Stalin began to get more and more bizarre in mood and behavior, he sat one night listening to the radio on which played Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 23, performed by Yudina. He called the radio station and told them to send him the record of the music.
Actually there was no record because the radio broadcast had been live, but everyone was afraid to tell Stalin the truth. So they immediately called in Yudina and an orchestra to record the piece, so that it could be sent to the dictator. It took a whole night’s work, but the recording was finished in the morning.
Not long after that, she received an envelope with 20,000 rubles in it, sent directly from Stalin himself. She wrote him a letter. In that letter, she said, “I thank you Joseph, for your aid. I will pray for you day and night and ask the Lord to forgive your great sins before the people and the country. The Lord is merciful and he’ll forgive you. I gave the money to the church that I attend.”
That letter was an act of suicide. An order to arrest her was drawn up by Stalin, but nothing happened. He never signed it. It was this recording of Mozart that was found on his record player when he was discovered dead in his home. It was the last thing to which he had listened (“The Ladder of the Beatitudes,” Jim Forest. 1999. Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books. page 101-103).
An internet article I read about her said this: “Maria Yudina knew how to separate eternal values from the vanity of everyday life, in her selfless service to music. Everything else looked unimportant. The rough and tumble of everyday life certainly had its toll on her but never touched her soul. She just couldn’t care less about what she was wearing and how her hair looked. She lived a life that was bubbling inside her and it was there that she was looking for harmony and purity” (The Voice of Russia). As I interpret her life, it is clear, at least to me, that she wanted nothing more than to see and do the work of God.
Which brings us to continuing sermon series on the beatitudes. We have come to “Blessed are the pure in heart.” My hope is that our goal, like that of Maria Yudina, is to discover harmony and purity of heart that bubbles over into everything we do.
I think we need to do at least a cursory search of both the Old and New Testaments to find some biblical thoughts and attitudes on purity and heart. When you go back to the Old Testament and look at the purity laws contained there, you find that they mostly had to do with the discipline of ritual life: what foods were clean or unclean, what acts caused one to be ritually unclean, what one should wear, various conditions or diseases that caused one to be unclean, and the ceremonial washings which restored ritual purity.
In a real way, purity was defined as an outward condition. But it was also seen as an inward quality. Purity referred to a person who had right motives and integrity. A person who displayed purity was one who was blameless, sinless, and possessing of a clean heart. Psalm 24:3-4 says:
Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord? And who shall stand in his holy place? Those who have clean hands and pure hearts, who do not lift up their souls to what is false, and do not swear deceitfully.