August 11, 2015

An Interpretation of the Beatitudes of Christ (2 of 9)

...continued from part one.

By His Eminence Metropolitan Hierotheos
of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou

"Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted" (Matt. 5:4).

After the sense of spiritual poverty, which comes to us by the Grace of God, as stated in the first beatitude of Christ, there follows the second beatitude, which refers to mourning, repentance, tears and weeping. Indeed, anyone who understands their spiritual condition, that they have fallen from the spiritual life, will begin to mourn.

People usually praise and bless those who rejoice, who have plenty of material assets and enjoy being honored and having a reputation from people. Christ, however, praised those who mourn. This will truly sound strange to modern ears.

We know that mourning is the great pain and suffering our soul feels for the death of our loved ones. Indeed, mourning lasts for a period of time, depending on the mental and spiritual condition of a person and it is expressed in various ways. Usually, those who mourn express some sort of anti-social behavior, distancing themselves from people, closing within themselves, constantly thinking of the one they love, moanfully weeping, among other things.

But Christ does not bless this worldly mourning, but a mourning that is of a particular feature and has a different effect. Christ did not just praise those who mourn, but those who mourn for their sins, especially when they realize they are deprived of God and His life, having lost Paradise. Also, the sad are not blessed here, but those who mourn. Sadness is a psychological condition. Mourning, however, is expressed with the entire human organism, and is not simply an emotional state, but a spiritual state of life of a person who understands that they are far away from God.

The Apostle Paul distinguishes between a worldly and a godly sorrow. He writes: "Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death" (2 Cor. 7:10). Worldly sorrow is a psychological condition, derived from the loss of material goods, the break in relations with a person, the failure in several areas of life. But godly sorrow comes from the Grace of God, since, when it illuminates people, then they understand their condition and immediately ask God for His help to return to their original condition.

Godly mourning is stronger than sadness and comes from a sense of a threefold poverty, according to Saint Gregory Palamas. When the Saint speaks of a threefold poverty of the spirit, he means the humility of the spirit, the suffering of the body and landlessness in life. Spiritual mourning comes from such poverty, bearing tears and healing the soul, and as a result the entire person is healed. Hence, spiritual mourning does not create sadness, anxiety, hopelessness and despair, because it comes from the Grace of God, which brings spiritual health and healing to humanity.

This is reflected in the prayer that comes from spiritual mourning. Christ said: "Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted." When one mourns for the loss of some person, or material goods, or social position, it is difficult to be comforted. But when we mourn for our spiritual condition and seek help from God, then we assume God will comfort us. In a blessed way, whoever mourns for their sins, whoever senses their spiritual condition and repents and confesses, such a person rejoices spiritually. This comfort, that comes from God, gladdens the soul of a person in this life, and even more so in the next.

It is to be understood that mourning is spiritual, joy is spiritual, and the world is ignorant of both.

People connect happiness with bliss, with external feigned joy, a joy that comes from the senses and is associated with a secular life. But such joy is temporary, it is like giving a cancer patient an aspirin or a painkiller. God's people, however, who mourn for their sins, are freed from all their dependencies, they move towards God, and are therefore comforted. In this case God is a Comforter, who unites our broken existence, simplifies our entire life, and makes us authentic people, the people of God.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.