Wednesday, September 16, 2009

6th Beatitude (continued): Blessed are the Clean of Heart For They Shall See God

We are continuing with Gregory of Nysaa’s commentary on the Sixth Beatitude: Blessed are the clean of heart, for they shall see God.

Gregory has shown us that the way we see God is from within but it is hidden from our apprehension due to our sinfulness. Our heart is clouded with evil. He has also pointed out that attaining a pure state of virtue is difficult but not impossible. He now gives some advise on how to proceed.


The evil that clouds the heart comes from two sources: works and thoughts. He writes, The former, that is to say, the iniquity that shows itself in works, He has punished through the Old Law. Now, however, He has given the Law regarding the other form of sin, which punishes not so much the evil deed itself, as guards against even the beginning of it.

To get at this new kind of sin we need to remove evil from our will so we will no longer choose what is bad and choose instead what is good.

He tells us how the Lord set out to help us.,

Since evil has many parts and forms, He has opposed by His precepts its own remedy to each of the forbidden things. The disease of wrath is present everywhere all through life, so He begins the cure from what is most prominent, and first lays down the law to refrain from anger. You have learned, He says, from the Old Law, Thou shalt not kill. (Matt 5:21) Learn now to keep your soul from wrath against your neighbor. He has not forbidden wrath completely. For sometimes one may lawfully turn such an emotion also to good use; what the precept abolishes is to be angry with one's brother for no good reason–for everyone who is angry with his brother in vain: the addition in vain shows that the use of anger is often opportune, namely, whenever this passion is roused for the chastisement of sin.

He then passes on to the healing of the sins committed for the sake of pleasure, and, by His commandment, frees the heart from the vile desire of adultery. Thus you will find in what follows how the Lord corrects them all one by one, opposing by His Law each one of the forms of evil. He prevents the beginning of unjust violence by not even permitting self-defense. He banishes the passion of avarice by ordering a man who has been robbed and stripped to give up also what is left to him. He heals cowardice by commanding to scorn death. And, in general, you will find that by means of each of these commandments the Word digs up the evil roots from the depths of our hearts as if by a plough, and so through them we are purged from bringing forth thorns.

Gregory concludes, by asking us to consider what a way of life that does not pursue goodness of life would be like. This may keep you from being discouraged, but there is still the effort required to pursue goodness. The fear of hell can help us to seek goodness. He says, the fear that is present in the thought alone will suffice to chase away the passions.

He reminds us of the consequences

For if the clean of heart are blessed, those with sordid minds are altogether miserable, because they look at the face of the adversary. Further, if the Divine character itself is impressed on the virtuous life, it is clear that the evil life resembles the form and face of the enemy. Now, according to different concepts, God is called by those representing the good, for example, light, life, incorruption, and similar things. By contrast, everything opposed to these is dedicated to the instigator of evil, for example, darkness, death, corruption, and whatever else is like to these. Hence, as we have learned what is an evil life and what is a good one–for we have It In the power of our free will to choose either of these–let us flee from the form of the devil, let us lay aside the evil mask and put on again the Divine Image. Let us become clean of heart, so that we may become blessed when the Divine Image is formed in us through purity of life, in Christ Jesus Our Lord, to whom be glory for ever and ever.

Next: Blessed are the peacemakers.

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