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August 13, 2015

An Interpretation of the Beatitudes of Christ (4 of 9)

...continued from part three.

By His Eminence Metropolitan Hierotheos
of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou

"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled." (Matt. 5:6).

The fourth beatitude of Christ refers to hunger and thirst for the righteousness of God, the righteousness that fills a person.

We know what physical hunger and thirst mean. They are unbearable situations for humans. The human body, in order to satisfy the processes necessary for life, must accept the right foods. It also needs the necessary fluids for the body to operate, which for the most part consists of water. When the body is deprived of adequate food and fluid, then it reacts, creating a feeling of hunger and thirst.

In this beatitude it is not physical hunger and thirst that are blessed, but hunger and thirst of the soul for righteousness. Righteousness can be understood in many ways: virtue in general by which one is united with God, or even partial justice as opposed to greed and injustice. In both cases, the result is the same, namely the union of man with God and love for people.

This beatitude is in sequence and a result of the preceding beatitudes, since humble people who repent and are distinguished by meekness will hunger and thirst for the prevalence of justice on earth. This beatitude also pre-announces the forthcoming beatitude which speaks of mercy and almsgiving. This is important, because one must first be just in order to be merciful. And this is necessary, because it is likely for one to be greedy, unfair, gather wealth through illicit means and be prosperous by committing various injustices, and then presenting oneself as merciful and charitable, ostensibly for the good of society and people. But above all a person must be just, to not be unlawful, to not be unjust to others, to not enrich themselves at the expense of others.

What makes an impression about this beatitude is that it is not the just that are blessed, but those who hunger and thirst for the righteousness of God. Even the Pharisees felt they were just, since they were not unjust with others, but loved people. Thus, it is not the mere existence of the just that is praised, who may be lawful but could lack morality. What is praised is hunger and thirst for righteousness, so that a person will care for the prevalence of justice with great desire and for their disposition to increase daily in order for justice to prevail.

Hunger and thirst for righteousness is a human need of the soul, on the one hand for legal principles to prevail, and on the other hand for God to prevail in society. Beyond physical needs there are needs of the soul and, unfortunately, people give greater importance to physical needs while little to no importance is given to the needs of the soul. People are psychosomatic beings and should not limit themselves to simply the physical.

Nowadays there is an imbalance in this regard, because people give priority to material things and biological desires while ignoring the desire of the soul for God, for peace and for righteousness, for love and for meaning in life. This is why people remain dissatisfied despite the satisfaction of their physical needs, and why they feel something is missing.

The fullness that is mentioned in this beatitude is psychosomatic, that is, psychosomatic health fulfills a person, giving meaning to life. However, this fullness is not a static condition. What happens to the body when it is satisfied, even after it has processed food, is that hunger and thirst reappear, and even more so takes place with spiritual matters. The satisfaction and fullness gained by being righteous creates even greater hunger and thirst, it is an "insatiable fullness" for the love of God, the continuous and unending journey on the path to perfection.

The timelessness of the Beatitudes is great, because in our society, in spite of overregulation, there is great injustice and inequality. This is why we must fight for the prevalence of justice. However, since societies are composed of people who are possessed by various passions and fight to satisfy them, this is why even beyond human and societal justice - which we should not ignore - we must seek the prevalence of God's justice, which is love, and we must hunger and thirst for God. Without God and His Grace we will constantly be spiritually hungry and thirsty.

Saint Paraskevi, whom we celebrate today, hungered and thirsted for this righteousness. She loved Christ very much, giving her entire fortune to the poor to dedicate her entire self to Him, even until her martyrdom. May we constantly have her as a model of true life.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.