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Sermon on the Mount
Matthew chapter 5-7
by Blessed Theophilact

Matthew, chapter 5



The Beatitudes

1. And seeing the multitudes, He went up onto the mountain. He teaches us not to do anything ostentatiously. For when He is about to teach, He goes up onto the mountain, thus instructing us also when we would teach, to depart from the bustle in the city. And when He had sat down, His disciples came to Him. The multitude comes for the miracles, but the disciples come for the teachings. So when He has finished the miracles and healed their bodies, then He heals their souls as well, that we may learn that He is the Creator of both souls and bodies.

2. And He opened His mouth, and taught them, saying. He taught not only His disciples, but the multitude as well. He begins with the beatitudes, "Blessed are they," just as David began the Psalms with the beatitude, "Blessed is the man."

3. Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. First He lays down humility as a foundation. Since Adam fell through pride, Christ raises us up by humility; for Adam had aspired to become God. The "poor in spirit" are those whose pride is crushed and who are contrite in soul.

4. Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted. "Blessed are they that mourn" for their sins, not for things of this life. Christ said, "They that mourn," that is, they that are mourning incessantly and not just one time; and not only for our own sins, but for those of our neighbor. "They shall be comforted" both in this life, for he who mourns for his sin rejoices spiritually, and even more so in the next life.

5. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Some say that the "earth" is the spiritual earth, that is, heaven. But understand it to mean this earth as well. Since the meek are thought to be those who are despised and deprived of wealth, Christ says that it is the meek, rather, who possess everything. The meek are not those who never get angry at all, for such people are unfeeling and apathetic. Rather, the meek are those who possess the capacity for anger but control it, and become angry only when it is necessary.

6. Blessed are they who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled. Since He is about to speak about almsgiving, He first shows that one must pursue righteousness, and not give alms from what has been acquired by theft and extortion. And one must avidly practice righteousness, for this is what it means to "hunger and thirst." Since it is the greedy who are thought to be well off and satisfied, Jesus says that it is rather the righteous who shall be filled, even here in this life, for what is theirs they possess with surety.

7. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. Not only with money does one show mercy in almsgiving, but also with words. And should you have nothing at all to give, show mercy with tears of compassion. "They shall obtain mercy" even here in this life from men; for if he who showed mercy yesterday should be in want today, he will obtain mercy from all. And in the next life, how much more mercy shall he obtain from God?

8. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. There are many who are not rapacious and greedy, but are generous in almsgiving, yet they fornicate and commit other uncleanliness. Christ commands, therefore, that along with the other virtues we should also be pure, that is, chaste and temperate, not only in the body, but in the heart as well. Without holiness no one will see the Lord. Just as a mirror will reflect images only if it is clean, so also only a pure soul admits the vision of God and the understanding of the Scriptures.

9. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. "The peacemakers" are not only those who are themselves peaceable with all, but also those who reconcile others who are at odds. "The peacemakers" are also those who by their teaching convert the enemies of God. Just as the Only-begotten Son reconciled us to God when we were His enemies, so too are the "peacemakers" "sons of God."

10. Blessed are they that are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. It. is not only the martyrs who are persecuted; many others are persecuted as well, for helping those who have been wronged, and simply for every virtue which they possess. For "righteousness" means every virtue. Thieves and murderers are also persecuted, but they are not blessed.

11. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you and persecute you. He addresses the apostles directly, showing that it is especially the mark of a teacher to be reviled. And shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for My sake. lt. is not simply he that is reviled who is blessed, but when he is reviled for Christ's sake, and falsely. If these two conditions are lacking, he is a wretch, as he has been a cause of temptation to many.

12. Rejoice and he exceeding glad, for great is your reward in heaven. Of the others whom He has said are blessed, He does not speak of a great reward. But here He does, to show that to patiently endure reviling is a great and most difficult thing; so difficult that there have been many who have even hanged themselves to escape this trial. Even Job, who patiently endured his other trials, was troubled when his friends reviled him by saying that he was suffering for his sins. For so persecuted they the prophets which were before you. So that the apostles would not think that they would be persecuted for teaching something contrary to God, He exhorts them by saying, "Even the prophets before you were persecuted for the sake of virtue, and so you have the example of their sufferings to give you courage."

Published with the kind permission of Bishop Alexander Mileant

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