Blessed Are Those Who Are Persecuted Because of Righteousness, For Theirs Is the Kingdom of Heaven

The previous seven beatitudes have linked human virtue as a state of being and way of life in the tempestuous present with a promise of divine fulfillment in the glorious future. In this Sunday’s beatitude, however, the possession of the Heavenly Kingdom by the righteous is not then and there, but here and now, with the Lord Christ invisibly present in the midst. Promise and fulfillment meet at precisely the most difficult moments in a Christian’s life, at their personal Cross. Every Christian is called to be radiantly faithful to Christ like the first Martyr Stephen, “a man full of faith and … [Read more...]

Blessed are the Peacemakers, for They Shall Be Called Children of God

As we continue to explore the Lord Christ’s Sermon on the Mount with specific attention to the Beatitudes, it may be profitable to pause for a moment and reflect upon the nature of beatitude itself.  Beatitude encompasses far more than happiness or blessedness.  It is an eschatological lodestar guiding us to a way of life that promises eternal salvation. The Beatitudes initiate one of the main themes of Matthew’s Gospel, that the Kingdom so long awaited in the Old Testament is not of this world, but of the next, meaning, among other things, that it is not political or external, but spiritual … [Read more...]

Blessed Are the Pure of Heart, for They Shall See God

If the goal of our lives as Christians is union with God (theosis), then the means by which we can attain this union is through the acquisition of a pure heart.  It seems     providential that we have reached this beatitude just as we arrive at the first Sunday of Great Lent.  During this season of the holy forty days, which is a microcosm of our entire lives, we are given an opportunity to struggle, arduously, yet joyfully, for the purity of heart of which the Lord Christ speaks in His Sermon on the Mount.  Saint John Cassian has written, “The goal of our vows, as we have said, is the kingdom … [Read more...]

Moving Beyond Selfishness and Even Altruism: Blessed Are the Merciful, for They Shall Obtain Mercy

If philautia, that pseudo-love of self, is the root of all the passions and the very essence of sickness within the soul as Saint Maximus maintains, then love of the other, in the person of God and the person of our neighbor, can be understood as the source of every virtue and the very essence of spiritual health. For this reason, the fathers would encourage the faithful to cultivate a merciful heart for all of creation, instructing us to “compel ourselves at all times to be inwardly merciful to the entire nature of rational creatures” (Saint Isaac the Syrian, Homily 76).  For the fathers, … [Read more...]

Blessed Are They Which Do Hunger and Thirst After Righteousness For They Shall Be Filled

The Beatitudes can be likened to the rungs on a ladder that we are invited to mount in the journey from earth to heaven. Those rungs comprise both virtuous actions and holy states of being associated with the deepest inclinations of the heart. In order to attain the fortunate condition associated with mourning for our sins and for our distance from God, we must have some acquaintance with genuine self-knowledge, the start of humility exhibited by those with poverty of spirit.  To complete the repentance associated with mourning for our sins, we need to hunger and thirst for the exact opposite … [Read more...]

Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted

On the surface of it, the opening words of this beatitude appear to be contradictory. For how could one who mourns be blessed, meaning free from harm or suffering? These two states—mourning and blessedness—seem to be so mutually exclusive that Saint Augustine once made the comment that “nothing is so akin to misery as mourning, and nothing so remote and contrary to misery as blessedness” (Exposition on the Psalms, Psalm 86). The loss of a loved one can be a devastating experience that affects the way we think, feel, and behave in ways that certainly don’t seem positive. Grief often entails … [Read more...]

Blessed Are the Poor in Spirit For Theirs is the Kingdom of the Heavens

Our past series on the Creed laid out how we should believe in order to inherit the Kingdom of God, stressing how our beliefs transfigure the entire person leading to a new and holy world of blessed thoughts, sacred sentiments, and virtuous actions. In this new series, we intend to look at what the fathers saw as the perfect exemplar for the Christian life that should inform the choices and sharpen the focus of the Christian even as the Law of Moses guides the Jew in day-to-day life. The subject, then, of this new series will be the Sermon on the Mount in which the Lord Christ spoke about the … [Read more...]