August 12, 2015

An Interpretation of the Beatitudes of Christ (3 of 9)

...continued from part two.

By His Eminence Metropolitan Hierotheos
of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” (Matt. 5:5).

The third beatitude of Christ refers to those who have meekness and are meek. And because there is a sequence between each of the Beatitudes, it seems clear that after humility and mourning, through which a person receives comfort and consolation from God, there follows meekness. This means that meekness is not a natural virtue, but a spiritual gift given to those who repent.

Meek people are not those who never get angry, because such people are unconscious. And of course Christ by blessing meekness does not praise one who is in an unconscious state. Rather, the meek are those who have anger but hold it back, or even better they use it to implement Christ's commandments through the practice of the virtues.

According to the theology of the Fathers of the Church, the human soul has three powers: namely the intellectual, desiring and incensive. Thoughts proceed from the intellect, which turn into a desire and ultimately desire is accomplished by the incensive power. Therefore, the incensive power is that which carries out the desire. When thoughts and desires move in an unnatural way, then the incensive power accomplishes all the unnatural desires of the soul, whilst, when thoughts and desires move according to nature and beyond nature, then the incensive power helps desires in their achievement.

This means that when the soul is ill, then the incensive part of the soul is also ill, and when the soul is healthy, then the incensive part of the soul is also healthy, and rushes to God to help a person obtain union with God.

Thus, meekness is not inaction, unconsciousness or indifference, but that great power which holds back the passions and, when a person is healthy, it does not allow evil desires to be realized. Meekness controls the passions and in the best case scenario it suppresses them and guides their energies to God. Hence, the healing of the passions can begin with good thoughts or they can begin with the good operation of the incensive part of the soul, when this controls the other parts of the soul and does not carry out the thoughts and desires of the soul. There could also be a combination of the two.

Such serious issues are handled within the so-called neptic or hesychastic teaching of the Church, which, unfortunately, is ignored by Christians, with the result that psychology and psychoanalysis have become widespread in our age. If we had a knowledge of the neptic tradition of the Church, then we would know how to heal the soul and body, which consists not in eliminating the passions, but in transforming them to work for the salvation of people.

On the issue of anger the neptic tradition of the Church teaches that anger was given by God so that with this power people could turn towards Him and fight against the devil, and should not be used against other people. We did not receive anger to dispute with God or people, but to do battle against wicked spirits.

Christ said to His listeners: "Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am meek and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls" (Matt. 11:29). Meekness is associated with humility. Christ is meek and humble in heart and those who learn from Christ should be meek and humble in heart, lifting the yoke of the observance of the commandments of Christ and finding rest in their hearts.

Christ was meek, but at the same time He rebuked the Scribes and Pharisees, expelling from the Temple the merchants who turned the Temple of God into a place of trade. This means that the meek are not unconscious, but they use their anger to implement Christ's commandments. Therefore, the meek have anger but they hold it back, and become enraged when it is needed against the passions and in this way they follow Christ.

The meek, according to the beatitude of Christ, will inherit the earth, namely the noetic earth, which is heaven, but also this earth. They will inherit heaven, the Kingdom of God, because they turn their anger to fight against the devil in order to keep the commandments of Christ, and by this they are united with God and achieve deification. But they also inherit this earth, because, although they are considered out of their minds by other people and are bereft of all possessions, yet they have everything. A healed person enjoys everything, having peace and meekness in their hearts, confronting with the right thoughts, good desires and healed anger all the difficult situations in life, thus becoming a whole and fulfilled person.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.