Thursday, September 17, 2009

7th Beatitude: Blessed are the Peacemakers

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

Continuing our commentary on the Beatitudes by Saint Gregory of Nyssa:


In this Beatitude we continue our climb toward perfection.


Gregory says:

All that the Divine Word has so far laid down is indeed perfectly holy. But what we are now' invited to contemplate is truly αδυτον, and the Holy of Holies. For if the blessedness of seeing God cannot be surpassed, to become the son of God transcends bliss altogether… If you call that which the Beatitude promises good, or glorious, or sublime, yet what is made known is something more than these words mean: it is fulfillment that outstrips prayer, gift surpassing hope, grace transcending nature...


How can one give thanks worthily for such a gift? With what words, what thoughts that move our mind can we praise this abundance of grace? Man transcends his own nature, he who was subject to corruption in his mortality, becomes immune from it in his immortality, eternal from being fixed in time–in a word, a god from a man. For if he is made worthy of becoming a son of God, he will possess in himself the dignity of the Father and be made heir of all the Father's goods. How munificent is this rich Lord! How generously He opens His Hands wide to give us His ineffable treasures! Through His love of man He brings our nature, dishonored by sin, to an honor that almost equals His own.


If we were to obtain all the benefits available to us in this world; riches, good health, friends, all kinds of pleasures, etc.; what would it mean if peace were missing.


Gregory says,

Therefore peace itself is sweet to enjoy, and sweetens all that is held dear in life. And even if we suffer any human misfortune, as long as there is peace the evil is borne more easily, because it is mixed with some good; but if life is haunted by war, we become in a way insensible even to our own occasions of grief. For the common calamity is greater than the individual causes of pain…

By this, therefore, one can see how greatly He loves man, that He bestows the precious reward not on pains and sweat, but, so to speak, on the enjoyment of happiness. Peace is indeed the greatest of the joy-giving things; and this He wishes each of us to have in such measure as to keep it not only for himself, but to be able to dispense from the overflow of his abundance also to others.


Now who is a peacemaker? This is a person who “gives peace to another.” To be able to give peace to another you must first have peace in yourself. Therefore God wants us to be filled with the blessings of peace so we can then pass it on to others.


What is peace?


Gregory says,

Surely it is nothing else but a loving disposition towards one's neighbor. Now what is held to be the opposite of love? It is hate and wrath, anger and envy, harboring resentment as well as hypocrisy and the calamity of war. Do you see for how many different diseases this single word is an antidote? For peace is equally opposed to every one of the things mentioned, and wipes out these evils by its own presence. Just as illness vanishes when health supervenes, and as no darkness is left when light begins to shine, so also when peace appears, all the passions connected with its opposite are eliminated.


Gregory asks us to focus on all the passions associated with hate. He say the the passions of the devil appear in those dominated by wrath.


He says

For when the passion lays hold of a man and the heart-blood bolls over, when wrath, as they say, makes the black gall diffuse itself throughout the body, then all the senses that are placed in the head are affected with cramp by the compression of the internal vapors. The eyes protrude from under their confining lids, staring bloodshot like dragons at the offending object; the inside is compressed, panting for breath, the veins III the throat swell and the tongue thickens...

The evils of wrath are obvious and one who prevent such actions are truly blessed. But still worse, he says, is envy and hypocrisy because they are hidden deep in a man’s heart.

Gregory says,

It is cherished secretly in the depth of the heart, like a hidden fire, while externally everything is made to look deceptively like friendship. It is like a fire that is hidden under chaff. For a time it smolders inside and burns only what lies near; the flame does not flare up visibly, only a biting smoke penetrates, because it is so vigorously compressed from within.


We never know when this will bust out causing great harm. This is the story of an envious Cain who murdered Able who received praise. The envy within commanded the murder, but hypocrisy became its executioner, says, Gregory.


Those who have obtained a pure heart, who are able to imitate the Divine love of others and who exemplify the Divine energies of God are truly blessed.


Gregory concludes,

I think that man is called a peacemaker par excellence who pacifies perfectly the discord between flesh and spirit in himself and the war that is inherent in nature, so that the law of the body no longer wars against the law of the mind, but is subjected to the higher rule and becomes a servant of the Divine ordinance.

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