The Beatitudes, or the commandments of blessedness, given us
by the Saviour, do not in anyway annul the commandments of the Law. On the
contrary, these commandments complement each other.
The Ten Commandments of the Law are restricted to
prohibiting those acts which would be sinful. The Beatitudes explain to us how
we may attain Christian perfection or grace.
The Ten Commandments were given in Old Testament
times to restrain wild, primitive people from evil. The Beatitudes are given to
Christians to show them what disposition to have in order to draw closer and
closer to God, to acquire holiness, and together with that, blessedness, which
is the highest degree of happiness.
Holiness, arising from proximity to God, is the
loftiest blessedness, the greatest happiness that anyone could possibly desire.
The Old Testament Law is a strict code of
righteousness, but the New Testament law of Christ is the law of Divine love
and grace, the only means by which people are given the strength to live in
full observance of the Law of God and to approach perfection.
Jesus Christ, calling us to the eternal Kingdom
of God, shows us the way to it through fulfillment of His
commandments. For their fulfillment He, the King of Heaven and earth, promises
eternal blessedness in the future eternal life.
Our Saviour teaches:
Blessed are the poor
in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom
Blessed are they
that mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the
meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are they
that do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled.
Blessed are the
merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure
in heart, for they shall see God.
Blessed are the
peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.
Blessed are they
which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the Kingdom
Blessed are you when
men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil
against you falsely, for My sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad; for
great is your reward in Heaven.
In each of these teachings of the Lord, one should
observe the commandments on the one hand and promises of reward on the other.
For the fulfillment of the commandments of the
Beatitudes it is necessary to have contact with God through prayer, both
internal and external. One must struggle against sinful inclinations through
fasting, abstinence, and so on.
The First Beatitude.
1. Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs
is the Kingdom of Heaven.
Blessed — joyful in the highest degree and
pleasing to God; poor in spirit — humble, those who are conscious of their
imperfections and unworthiness before God, and never think that they are better
or more holy than others.
Spiritual lowliness is the conviction that our
entire life and all our spiritual and physical blessings, such as life, health,
strength, spiritual capability, knowledge, riches, and every good thing of
life, all this is the gift of our Creator God. Without help from Heaven, it is
impossible to acquire either material well-being or spiritual riches. All this
is the gift of God.
Spiritual lowliness is called humility. Humility
is the foundation of all Christian virtue, because it is the opposite of pride,
and pride introduced all evil into the world. Due to pride the first among the
angles became the Devil; the first people sinned, their descendants quarrelled
and went to war among themselves from pride. The first sin was pride (Ecclus. ).
Without humility it is impossible to return to
God. Nor are any of the other Christian virtues possible. Humility permits us
to know ourselves, to correctly assess our worth and deficiencies. It acts
beneficially in the fulfillment of our obligations to our neighbor, arouses
arid strengthens in us faith in God, hope and love for Him. It attracts the
mercy of God to us and also disposes people to us.
The Word of God says, A sacrifice unto God is a
broken spirit; a heart that is broken and humbled God will not despise (Ps.
50:17). Surely he scorneth the scorners: but he giveth grace unto the lowly
(Prov. ). Learn of me, instructs the Saviour, for I am meek and
lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls (Matt. ).
Physical misery or privation can result in the
acquisition of much spiritual humility if this privation or need is accepted
with good will, without a murmur. But physical privation does not always result
in spiritual humility, it can lead to bitterness.
Even the wealthy can be spiritually humble if they
understand that visible, material wealth is decadent and transitory, fleeting,
and that it is no substitute for spiritual riches. They must understand the
word of the Lord, For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world,
and lose his own soul? (Matt. 16:26).
But Christian humility must be strictly
distinguished from self-seeking self-abasement, such as fawning and flattery,
which discredit human dignity.
It is necessary to strictly reject so-called
"noble self-love" or "defense against affronts to one’s
honor," which reflect prejudices, pernicious superstitions which were
inherited from Roman paganism hostile to Christianity. The true Christian must
decisively renounce these superstitions which resulted in the anti-Christian
and shameful custom of the duel and revenge.
In reward for meekness of spirit, humility, the
Lord Jesus Christ promises the Kingdom
of Heaven, a life of eternal blessedness. Participation in the
Kingdom of God for the humble begins here and now — by means of faith and hope
in God; but the ultimate reward in all of its fullness will be seen in the
The Second Beatitude.
2. Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall
The weeping about which the second beatitude
speaks is first of all true tribulation of heart, and repentant tears for our
sins, over our guilt before the merciful God (for example, the tears of the
Apostle Peter after his renunciation).
For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation
not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death, said the
Apostle Paul (II Cor. 7:10).
Tribulation and tears coming from misfortunes
which befall us can be spiritually beneficial. For example, the death of one of
our close ones can result in beneficial tears, if the sorrow is permeated by
faith and hope, patience and devotion to the will of God. Jesus Christ Himself
wept over the death of Lazarus.
Even more so can tears and tribulation lead to
blessedness when they are shed over the suffering of our unfortunate neighbor,
if these sincere tears are accompanied by Christian deeds of love and mercy.
Worldly grief is grief without hope in God. It
proceeds not from acknowledgment of one’s sins before God, but rather from
disappointment in ambition, aspiration to power, desire for gain. Such sadness,
characterized by despondency and despair, leads to spiritual death, which can
also result in physical death, by suicide or simply weakness due to lack of
will to live. An example of such grief is that of Judas Iscariot, the betrayer
of Christ the Saviour.
As a reward for mourning the Lord promises that they
that mourn will be comforted. They will receive forgiveness of sins, and
through this, internal peace. The mourners will receive eternal joy, eternal
The Third Beatitude.
3. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit
Meekness is peaceful, fully developed Christian
love, free from all malice. It is manifested in the spirit of a man who never
becomes angry, and never permits himself to grumble against God or people.
Meek people do not become irritated and they do
not vex or aggravate other people. Christian meekness expresses itself mainly
in patient endurance of insults inflicted by others and is the opposite of
anger, malice, self-exaltation and vengeance.
A meek person always regrets the hardness of heart
of the offending party. He desires his correction, prays to God for forgiveness
of his deeds, remembering the precept of the Apostle: // it be possible, as
much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. Dearly beloved, avenge not
yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is
mine; I will repay, saith the Lord (Romans 12:18-19).
The best example of meekness given to us is that
of our Lord Jesus Christ praying on the cross for His enemies. He taught us to
not take vengeance on our enemies but to do good to them. Take my yoke upon you
and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto
your souls (Matt. 11:29). Meekness tames even the hardest hearts. We can be
convinced of this by observing the lives of people, and we find confirmation of
it throughout the history of Christian persecutions.
A Christian may become angry only with himself, at
his own fall into sin, and at the tempter — the Devil.
The Lord promises the meek that they will inherit
the earth. This promise indicates that meek people in the present life will be
preserved on earth by the power of God, in spite of all the intrigues of men
and the most cruel persecution. But in the future life, they will be heirs of
the heavenly homeland, the new earth (II Peter ) with its eternal blessings.
The Fourth Beatitude.
4. Blessed are they that do hunger and thirst
after righteousness, for they shall be filled.
Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness are
those people who deeply acknowledge their sinfulness, their guilt before God,
and have a burning desire for righteousness. They try to serve God by a
righteous life according to the commandments of Christ, which requires from
Christians the most holy righteousness in all their relations with their
The expression "hunger and thirst"
indicates that our yearning for righteousness must be very strong, as strong as
our desire to appease our appetite and thirst. King David beautifully expressed
such yearning, As the hart panteth after the fountains of water, so panteth my
soul after thee, O God. My soul thirsted for God, the mighty the living (Ps.
God promised that those who hunger and thirst for
righteousness will be filled. By this is meant spiritual satisfaction,
comprised of internal spiritual peace, a calm conscience, justification, and
forgiveness. Such satisfaction in the present, earthly life occurs only in
part. The Lord reveals the mysteries of His kingdom to those who hunger and
thirst after righteousness, more than to others. Their hearts in this world are
delighted with knowledge revealed in the divine truths of the Gospel, in
Full satiety, full satisfaction of the holy
yearnings of the human soul, and from this highest joy and blessedness, will be
granted them in the future, blessed life with God. As the psalmist King David
says, I shall be filled when Thy glory is made manifest to me (Ps. 16:16).
The Fifth Beatitude.
5. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall
The merciful are those who have compassion on others,
who with all their hearts pity those who have fallen into misfortune or
unhappiness, and who try to help them with good works.
Works of mercy are both physical and spiritual.
Bodily works of mercy:
Feeding the hungry.
Giving drink to the
Clothing the naked.
Visiting those in
Visiting the sick and
helping them recover or preparing them for a Christian death.
Inviting strangers and
foreigners and travellers into one’s home and giving them rest.
Burying the dead.
Spiritual works of mercy:
By word and example to
convert the sinner from the error of his way (James 5:20).
Teaching the ignorant
truth and goodness.
Dispensing good and
timely advice to neighbors who are in distress or danger.
Refraining from returning
evil for evil.
Forgiving offenses with
all one’s heart.
Praying to God for
To the merciful, God promises in return that they
will receive mercy. In the future judgment of Christ they will be shown the
special mercy for the righteous. They will be delivered from eternal punishment
for their sins to the degree to which they showed mercy to others on earth (See
The Sixth Beatitude.
6. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they
shall see God.
The pure in heart are those people who not only do
not sin openly, but’who do not conceal unclean thoughts, desires and feelings
in their hearts. The hearts of such people are free from attachment and
infatuation with physical, earthly things. In general they are free from sinful
passions caused by self-centeredness, egotism and pride. People with pure
hearts unceasingly think about God.
In order to acquire a pure heart, it is necessary
to observe the fasts proclaimed by the Church, and to guard oneself against
gluttony, drunkenness, depraved spectacles and amusements, improper teachings
and indecent books.
Purity of heart is far superior to simple
sincerity. Sincerity requires only that a person be candid and single hearted
in relation to his neighbor. But purity of heart requires complete suppression
of depraved thoughts and constant remembrance of God and His holy commandments.
To the pure in heart God promises that they will
see God. Here on earth they will see Him through Grace, mysteriously, with the
spiritual eyes of their hearts. They can see God in His revelations, images and
likenesses. In the future, eternal life, they will see God as He is (I John
3:2). Furthermore, since contemplation of God is a source of the highest
blessing, the promise to see God is a promise of the highest degree of
The Seventh Beatitude.
7. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall
be called the children of God.
Peacemakers are people living with everyone in
peace and harmony and fostering peace among people. When other people are at
enmity among themselves they try to reconcile them, or at least pray to God for
Peacemakers remember the words of the Saviour, Peace
I leave with you, My peace I give unto you (John ). It be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably
with all men, said the Apostle Paul (Romans 12:18).
To the peacemakers the Lord promises that they
will be called sons of God. They will be the closest to God, heirs of God,
joint-heirs with Christ. The peacemakers by their spiritual feat resemble the Only-begotten
Son of God, Jesus Christ, Who came to earth to reconcile sinful people with
Divine judgment and establish peace among people in place of the animosity
reigning among them. Therefore to the peacemakers is promised the epithet,
"sons of God," and inexpressible blessedness.
The Eighth Beatitude.
8. Blessed are they which are persecuted for
righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.
For righteousness’ sake, is meant to live
righteously according to the commandments of God, and resolutely fulfilling
Christian obligations. Persecuted — for their righteous and pious life, they
suffer oppression, persecution, privation and adversity at the hands of the
unrighteous enemies of truth and goodness, but nothing can cause them to waver
from the truth.
Persecution is inevitable for Christians living
according to the Gospel’s righteousness, because evil people detest
righteousness, as truth exposes their evil deeds, and always persecute people
who stand up for the truth. The Only-begotten Son of God, Jesus Christ, was
Himself crucified by haters of God’s truth. For all His followers He predicted:
// they have persecuted Me, they will also persecute you (John ). All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer
persecution, says the Apostle Paul (II Tim. ).
In order to endure persecution patiently for
righteousness’ sake, a person must have love for the truth, be steadfast and
firm in virtuous living, have courage and patience, and faith and hope in the
help and protection of God.
To those persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for
their struggles in confessing the truth, the Lord promises the Kingdom of
Heaven, spiritual triumph, joy and blessedness in the heavenly dwellings of the
future eternal life (see Luke 22:28-30).
The Ninth Beatitude.
9. Blessed are ye when men shall revile you,
and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my
sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad, for great is your reward in Heaven.
In the last, the ninth commandment, our Lord Jesus
Christ calls especially blessed those who for the sake of Christ and for the
true Orthodox faith in Him, patiently bear disgrace, persecution, malice,
defamation, mockery, privation and even death. Such a spiritual feat is known
as martyrdom. There is no higher spiritual feat than martyrdom.
The courage of Christian martyrs must be
distinguished from fanaticism, which is irrational zeal not according to
reason. Christian courage must also be distinguished from the lack of feeling
brought on by despair or pretended indifference, with which some criminals
because of their incorrigible hardness and pride, serve out their sentences and
go to execution.
Christian courage is based on the highest of
Christian virtues, on faith in God, on hope in God, on love for God and
neighbor, on complete obedience and unshaken faith in the Lord God.
The highest form of martyrdom was suffered by
Jesus Christ Himself, and in like manner, the Apostles and an innumerable
multitude of Christians, who with joy went to martyrdom for the name of Christ.
Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with
so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight and the sin which
doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set
before us, and looking unto Jesus the Author and Finisher of our faith, Who for
the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is
set down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him that endured
such contradiction of sinners against Himself, lest ye be weaned and faint in
your minds (Heb. 12:1-3).
For the spiritual feat of martyrdom, the Lord
promises a reward in Heaven. But here on earth the Lord glorifies many martyrs
for their firm confession of faith with incorruptible bodies and miracles.
If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy
are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part He
is evil spoken of, but on your part He is glorified. But let none of you suffer
as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other
men’s matters. "Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be
ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf (I Pet. -16).
Numberless Christians martyrs rejoiced during
unspeakable torture, accounts of which are preserved in factual accounts of
lives of the Saints. Note: In Roman courts, special scribes were obligated to
write protocols (official records) of judicial procedures and legal decisions.
Such protocols of interrogations, made in Roman courts during the legal process
of Christian martyrs, after the period of persecutions were carefully preserved
by the Church. The protocols came to be trustworthy accounts of the feats of
martyrdom of the Christians.
Discussion on the Meaning of
The concept of evil in the world imposes a grave
burden of doubt in the hearts of many faithful people. It seems inconceivable
that God would permit evil. In fact, God in His Omnipotence could easily
eliminate evil. How could a merciful God allow the evil deed of a single
offender doom thousands, sometimes millions, or even half of humanity to
poverty, grief or disaster? What then is the meaning of evil? With God nothing
is without reason. In order to answer this question, it is necessary to recall
what evil is.
By the term evil we do not mean suffering, need
and deprivation, but sin and moral guilt. God does not desire evil. Almighty
God cannot approve of evil. More than that, God forbids evil. God punishes
evil. Evil or sin is in contradiction to the will of God.
Sin began, as we know, when the highest angel,
created by God, insolently rejected obedience to the blessed will of God and
became the Devil. Evil is caused by the Devil. He inspires or influences the
occurrence of sin in man.
It is not the body which is the source of sin as
many believe. The body becomes an instrument of sin or of good not of itself
but through the will of a person. True faith in Christ elucidates the following
two causes of sin in the world:
1. The first cause lies in the free will of man.
Our free will is the mark of our likeness to God. This gift of God elevates
mankind to the highest of all earthly creatures. By freely choosing good and
rejecting evil man exalts God, glorifies Him and perfects himself.
In the book of the Wisdom of Sirach
(Ecclesiasticus ), it says, He (God) in the beginning made man and left him
in the hand of his own free will.
By this God gives to people of good will the
possibility to attain Heaven, and to people of evil will, the other world.
However it happens, the result is only by means of a person’s free will.
Saint Cyril of Jerusalem says, "If nature were fused together and it were not
possible to do good by free will, then for whom would God prepare the
inexplicable crown? Sheep are gentle, but they will never be crowned for their
gentleness, because their gentleness comes not from their own free will but
their very nature."
Saint Basil the Great says, "Why is not
sinlessness incorporated into our nature, so that it would be impossible to
sin, even if we wanted to? You do not recognize good and faithful servants when
you keep them restricted, but only when you see that they voluntarily fulfill
their responsibilities before you. Virtue comes on the condition of free will,
not of necessity; and free will depends on the condition that we be free.
Therefore, whoever reproaches the Creator for not creating us sinless prefers
the irrational, immovable nature, not having any yearnings, to the nature
gifted with judgment and independence." In other words, he prefers robots
to intelligent creatures.
Thus, the internal cause for the origin of evil,
or sin, consists of the free will of man.
2. The second basis for the existence of evil
consists in the fact that God directs evil to good. But God does not tolerate
evil for the sake of good. For God, it is not necessary to pay such a high
God does not wish for evil under any
circumstances. But when evil penetrated into the world through the fault of
sinful people, then God, in His plan for the world, compelled even evil to
serve good. For example, the sons of Jacob sold his brother Joseph into
slavery. They committed an evil deed, but God turned the evil into good. Joseph
rose in Egypt and acquired the capacity to save from starvation the
family from which the Messiah would come. When Joseph saw his brothers several
years later, he said to them, "You intended evil against me, but God
turned it into good!"
In the days of the Apostles, the Jews persecuted
Christians in Palestine. The Christians had to flee from Judea, the
land sanctified by the life and blood of the Saviour. But everywhere they went
they sowed the words of the Gospel. The sins of the persecutors were directed
into spreading Christianity.
The pagan emperors of Rome persecuted the young Christian Church. Tens of thousands of martyrs
shed their blood for Christ. The blood of the martyrs became seeds for millions
of new Christians. The fury of the persecutors, their sins of hatred and murder
were directed by God in this instance into the building up of the Church. They
thought and accomplished evil. God turned all of their deeds to the good. The
entire history of mankind, right up to the events of our day, testifies to the
truth of these words. The greatest downfall of man concurred with the greatest
religious triumph, the turning of men to God.
We need only have patience and wait, one day is
with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day (II Peter
But this intertwining of evil into the plan for
the management of the world did not appear to be some sort of belated addition
for the correction of creation. The intertwining of evil was provided for in
the act of the eternal will of God, in which was determined the creation of the
world. For God is the eternal today! His foresight extends to eternity. It
functions always and without interruption. (Extracted from a brochure by L.
Lusin, "Who is Right?" with additions.).
Our lives must always be guided by the knowledge
we acquire of the true faith and Christian piety. In order to make use of our
piety and knowledge of the faith, it is necessary for each Christian to have
the virtue of discernment, Christian good sense. In addressing the Christians,
the Apostle Peter said, Giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to
virtue knowledge (II Peter 1:5). For whatever is done without discerning
knowledge may turn out to be unwise. Even good can bring harm instead of
The teachings of the Orthodox Church which we have
learned concerning faith and Christian life must be manifest in deeds, and not
hypocritically, but sincerely fulfilling everything we know from this teaching.
If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them (John ).
If we become aware that we sin, that we do not
fulfill the teaching as we must, then we must force ourselves quickly to the
most sincere repentance. We must firmly resolve to shun the sin henceforth,
making reparation for it by opposing it with good works.
When it seems to us that we are doing well in
fulfilling one commandment or another, we must never become complacent or proud
of this. With the deepest humility and thanksgiving we must acknowledge that we
have hardly fulfilled our obligation. As Christ the Saviour said, When ye shall
have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable
servants: we have done that which was our duty to do (Luke ).