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August 22, 2015

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

...continued from part eight.

By His Eminence Metropolitan Hierotheos
of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou

"Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in the heavens, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you" (Matt. 5:11-12).

This beatitude is a continuation of the previous beatitudes of Christ which He made in His Sermon on the Mount prior to His activities. As can be easily seen, the previous beatitudes were addressed in the third person - such as "blessed are the poor in spirit", etc. - while this beatitude is addressed in the second person, which means that with this beatitude Christ turns to His Disciples and Apostles, saying "blessed are you."

Thus, this beatitude is a continuation of the previous beatitude that refers to persecution, but it applies to His Disciples. This is why it is not a different beatitude, but it is counted together with the previous one.

It speaks here of insults, persecutions and false and evil statements, for the Apostles were called charmers, deceivers and many other things. If someone is insulted or persecuted without a false statement or not on behalf of Christ, then they will be miserable and a scandal to many.

Whoever is persecuted for Christ and the life of Christ, should not be saddened, regretful or bitter, but they should rejoice leaping for joy, because they will receive a great reward in the heavens. This is the glory that adorns the Martyrs and the persecuted. When we speak of glory, we mean the Light of God, because this Light is the Kingdom of God, the spiritual heaven. In this beatitude "heavens" is in the plural, because everyone will participate in the Light of God depending on their spiritual condition, which is why Christ said: "In My Fathers house there are many mansions" (Jn. 14:2).

Christ, addressing His Apostles, reminds them of the Prophets, who were persecuted and acquired great glory. This is the lot of the Righteous. The Prophets, Apostles and Martyrs are models and examples to us on how to live our lives, how to die and how to live for eternity.

When one reads the eight beatitudes carefully, from beginning to end, they will find that it records the path of the Christian life. A Christian begins their spiritual life with humility, which is a sense of poverty in Christ, having the feeling that one is far from God, and being without grace they are impoverished, for which they acquire godly mourning. Repentance is the state of humility. After mourning comes meekness, which is followed by hunger and thirst for the righteousness of God. Since the Grace of God can now be tasted, they begin to search for something more. Thus, they become merciful, pure in heart, a peacemaker, and then they endure persecutions with joy.

Saint Symeon the New Theologian presents the relationship that exists between each of the Beatitudes of Christ and how from the first beatitude the Christian progresses towards the last beatitude. He teaches that where humility is found, there are the depths of a humble spirit and there is the illumination of the Holy Spirit, there prevails the emanation of the Light of God and God lives with wisdom and in the knowledge of His mysteries. There also is the Kingdom of Heaven, and the awareness of the Kingdom and the hidden treasures of spiritual poverty.

Thus, according to Saint Symeon the New Theologian, where there is spiritual poverty there is joyful mourning and ceaseless tears that cleanse the soul, making it most radiant. By this the soul is lifted, it recognizes Christ and becomes gentle, motionless towards anger, and it hungers and thirsts to learn the righteousness of God. Hence they become merciful and sympathetic, their hearts are purified and cleansed, and they clearly see the glory of God. Then, those who have such pure souls, which can see the Light of God, are called peacemakers and become children of the Highest, who love God and endure every pain and sorrow, insult and persecution with a feeling of joy, because they have become worthy of being dishonored by people for His love.

By experiencing the Beatitudes of Christ and the radiance of the divine Light we receive the seal of the Holy Spirit in the heart by which the spiritual fruits of Christ shoot forth, such as meekness, peace, mercy, sympathy, kindness, goodness, faith, temperance, love and joy for temptations and the willingness to die for the brethren.

And Saint Symeon the New Theologian urges us to examine ourselves with precision, that we may know if our souls bear the seal of the Holy Spirit and if Christ is within us. Conversely, if we have not received Christ and His seal, then there lives within us this wicked world and we are strangers to eternal life and the Kingdom of Heaven.

From all this it seems that the spiritual life begins with humility, the sense of our spiritual poverty, and progressively a Christian will live in the Grace of God, and eventually the entirety of this life is completed with persecutions and martyrdom, which is the glory of the Christian.

Hence, martyrdom is the end of the Christian life, the fruit of the vision of God, the result of the knowledge of God. Martyrdom is not simply a good mood or human emotion and a strong will, but it is the fruit of the vision of God. This is shown by the fact that along with the beatitudes a person experiences the Kingdom of Heaven, is comforted by God, inherits the earth, is satisfied with the Grace of God, obtains mercy, sees the Light of God, and becomes a temple of God. With such great spiritual gifts on the one hand they are not accepted by the world, and they cannot keep up with people's thoughts.

The Beatitudes of Christ are the basis of the Christian life. Within them is hidden our entire spiritual path. May we all experience them in our lives.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.