Tuesday, September 1, 2009

2nd Beatitude - Blessed are the Meek

Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth.


Saint Gregory sees the Beatitudes as a series of steps, an ascension to union with God.


It seems to me that the Beatitudes are arranged in order like so many steps, so as to facilitate the ascent from one to the other. For if a man's mind has ascended to the first Beatitude, he will accept what follows as a necessary result of thought, even though the next clause seems to say something new beyond what had been said in the first.


Why is it then that in the first Beatitude we receive the Kingdom of Heaven and in the second we inherit the earth? In answering this question he writes,

But if the [1st] sermon has given us wings, and we have been placed on the ridge of the heavenly ark, we shall then find the super-celestial earth which is reserved to be the inheritance of those who have led a life of virtue.


Here he is pointing out that all we can perceive of heavenly things is described in earthly terms. Even God the Word had to descend to us because we were unable to ascend to Him. So to grasp higher spiritual things, we must first be raised beyond what is earthly, or known to us by our senses, so we can see that which is beyond the reach of our senses. The meaning of Kingdom is not an earthly one with a throne and a king dressed in fine clothes and jewels, but much more.


He writies

Therefore the word "earth," though it comes after that of "heaven," should not draw down your thought to the earth below; but if by the preceding Beatitude the Word has raised your minds to the heavenly hope, you should ask me about that earth which is not the inheritance of all, but only of those whose holy life has rendered them worthy of that promise.


He uses David as an example of a holy person who is worthy to “inherit the earth.” He is one, who based on his faith, could see in earthly things the goodness of God.


Gregory writes,

[David] grasped by faith the things for which we hope, when he said, “I believe to see the good things of the Lord in the land of the living.”

For I do not suppose the prophet called this earth the land of the living, seeing that it brings forth only mortal things and again dissolves into itself everything that comes from it. But he meant the land of the living which death does not approach, where they do not tread the way of sinners, and where wickedness finds no foothold… but the land of the water of refreshment and the green places, where springs up the fourfold fountain and the vine that is tended by the God of all creation, and all the other things the inspired book teaches us in metaphors.


How else do we describe the “good things of the Lord”? We cannot find the proper words to do so. to understand them using earthly terms, we must be lifted to a higher spiritual awareness, giving our limited speech higher meaning. This was the object of the first beatitude. We must first become "poor in spirit," humble, so we can be lifted to the heights of the Kingdom of Heaven, giving us an open mind for higher understanding. Then we will be able to view the earthly life from the perspective of this higher level of understanding. Lifted to the "Kingdom of Heaven" we can grasp the meaning of "inheriting the earth."


These are all steps along the pathway of the Orthodox Way of Life.

After mastering the first Beatitude we can now address the second one about being meek.


Gregory says,

If we are able to contemplate the transcendent land above the heavens, whose capital is the city of the King, of which, as the prophet says,

glorious things are spoken, we shall probably no longer be surprised at the order in which the Beatitudes follow each other.


Peace until the next posting.

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