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The Beatitudes


tariki
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Just doing a quick search of our forum, I see that the Beatitudes have often been referred to. I thought that maybe it would be beneficial to go through each beatitude, according to St Matthews Gospel, just as we have been going through the Tao Te Ching.

 

For me, it would be a chance to perhaps "google" around a bit and see what could be found, as well as consider offering any personal thoughts. Hopefully others would have much to offer.

 

According to St Matthews Gospel there are eight.....

 

"Blessed are the poor in spirit,

for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

 

Blessed are they who mourn,

for they shall be comforted.

 

Blessed are the meek,

for they shall inherit the earth.

 

Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness,

for they shall be satisfied.

 

Blessed are the merciful,

for they shall obtain mercy.

 

Blessed are the pure of heart,

for they shall see God.

 

Blessed are the peacemakers,

for they shall be called children of God.

 

Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness,

for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."

 

So, one by one.......

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Just to get the ball rolling............

 

As a lover of quotes, my first thought is of the sermon by Meister Eckhart(number 22 in the Penguin Classics edition of Eckharts sermons) given on this Beatitude.

 

Eckhart says near the beginning that the verse can indicate an external poverty, which is not to be sneezed at (MY expression! :D ), but Eckhart then says he will say nothing more of this, but that he wishes to speak of an internal poverty. Eckhart defines such an internal poverty as that of desiring nothing, knowing nothing and possessing nothing.

 

Nevertheless, maybe others would speak of the external poverty?

 

Or..........

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Eckhart defines such an internal poverty as that of desiring nothing, knowing nothing and possessing nothing.

I like this as the internal meaning.

 

"To me, being poor in spirit means caring about poor people (whatever that means) and working to make things better and fairer for them."

I like this as the external meaning.

 

Thank you

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Blessed are the poor, (Note my moved comma not in original Greek)

in spirit theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

 

In general, the poor are not much taken by the cares of this world as are the rich. Their life is hard and therefore they are more open to the things of the Spirit when presented to them. In that way they are blessed. For it is harder for a rich man to rnter the spirit world. His awareness is taken up by the cares of the flesh.

 

Just my take and own translation,

Joseph

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I think the opening line of the beatitudes is partly meant to focus compassion on the poor in a material sense… blessed are the poor reversed the cultural view that to be needy or destitute, or sick or disabled, was punishment from God - which added guilt to their suffering. Jesus taught the opposite - God is close to us when we are broken and afflicted. He gave them bread and fish, and beyond that, he gave them hope, belief in themselves.

 

At the same time, poor in spirit is about the mental emptiness, the internal poverty that Eckhart pointed to turned away from the finite, acknowledging our total dependence on God. What have ye that ye have not received? All that I am, is by the grace of God. Being aware of grace of receiving more than we can earn or deserve -- and realizing that we human beings all stand on the same level ground before the Creator.

 

Henri Nouwen talked about being poor in spirit Prayer requires that we stand in Gods presence with open hands, naked and vulnerable… making available the inner space where God can touch you with transforming love.

 

Its like the verse in Joy to the world -- let every heart prepare him room

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I do seem to remember when I read a few things about Judaism at the time of Jesus (possibly in one or two books by E P Sanders) that it was a common thought in those days that material prosperity was a sign of God's favour. And I think the St Luke version of the beatitude in fact just says "Blessed are the poor." Obviously, if we favour the social gospel then the words of Jesus can be seen as fairly revolutionary. Certainly for anyone in those days who shared the "common thought",the words would tend to jolt them and cause a few reconsiderations, and the rich in material things would be jolted from complacency.

 

I liked Soma's both/and approach. Yet, further, that we should seek first the kingdom of heaven and all things shall be added unto us. I would never like to see the gospel reduced to a purely social one, a pure "this worldly" helping of the underpriviledged. For me, based upon my own experience, any true ethical stance and action within the world is born of the internal meaning...........of desiring nothing, knowing nothing and possessing nothing. (Yet, again, possibly a dialectic involved, between internal and external, some sort of spiral of understanding?) When we know deeply and truely that any good we have - and do - is not our "own", could never be our own, I think we see/know clearly.

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Recently I read a novel called The Kindly Ones, which was an account given by an Ex Nazi of his participation in the events of the Second World War. He was SS, and had a hand in a lot of the events of the Holocaust. He was seeking to exonerate himself by various rationalisations. Obviously, being a novel, this was all fictitious, yet actual historical figures came into it, like Eichmann. While reading it I did tend to reflect upon one of the Beatitudes, "Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted." Rather than thinking of this as the mourning of grief for loved ones lost or whatever, I related it to the book, and to the rationalisations of those seeking to "justify" themselves, to absolve themselves of blame for their actions. That in fact they would need to truly confront and acknowledge their crimes, that then their unshielded hearts would face the enormity of their actions, and in seeing that they had by choice killed fellow human beings this would be a form of "mourning". That the comfort offered by the Divine comes from this being a necessary part of redemption.

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I recently posted this on another forum (I may have already posted the same recollection here at some time, but the old memory is beginning to slip....... :unsure: )

 

Just thinking back a bit. I remember the Falklands conflict, when the war was over and the servicemen (and women, but mainly men) were returning. Most landed at the air base at Brize Norton. The scenes were shown on the news. A white tape had been placed across the tarmac and the family groups stood behind it, wives, girlfiends, sons and daughters. As the servicemen walked towards the tape from the plane, every now and then some young child would break ranks and burst through the tape at the sight of "daddie". They would run into his arms and be lifted high. Just after a scene like this was shown, the newscast switched to Buenos Aires, and showed a funeral cortege - a group of four young Argentinian airmen were being buried and their coffins were being paraded through the streets. Their mothers were following behind, each wringing their hands, their faces distorted by grief.

 

Someone else responded by suggesting that such a contrast would be lost on any human being who had become "desensitised or shut down emotionally". I think this points to another way of reflecting upon the beatitude, something suggested by two of the "sublime states" of Buddhism, compassion and sympathetic joy (i.e sharing the joys of others) I have noticed that some people seek to avoid some of the harsher aspects of existence, turning away when scenes of famine are shown, changing the subject when reality in various guises seems to hit the mark too strongly. And not always others..... Yet is does seem that one goes with the other. If we seek to avoid the darker aspects of existence, we will not be able to open as deeply to the joys. Perhaps stretching things a bit, yet it does seem that "mourning" and "comfort" go hand in hand.

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Romans 8:17 (New International Version)

17Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

 

The Valleys are deep, but they do help the Mountains soar above. It seems the mind of Christ creates minds of sacrifice with the agony of the cross, but we all seem to take up the cross from time to time. Humiliated, dishonored and disgraced at some time or many times, a diamond in the rough needs to be cut, ground and polished to be able to catch the light and shine. Mourning grinds and connects our minds and hearts to our deep felt purpose. It seems to cut and open enough to risk the hurt that comes with caring again just enough take on this mystifying and vacillating life. I feel it helps us embrace life and humanity by showing us how to wrap our arms around love, to feel it, and be loved again.

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The blessed are the mourn passage is one of the most difficult beatitudes for me to follow because the problem of evil argument is one of the reasons I find it difficult to believe in a supernatural interventionist god. It's hard for me to reconcile the existence of a loving, intervening god with a world full of suffering and pain and while there are other people who have worse lives than me, there have been moments in my life where I felt let down by God and I wondered if there was a god out there. At the same time, I feel compelled to pray and it's something I find myself coming back to doing even though I'm not sure if there's anything out there and I'm scared of recommitting myself to Christianity or another religion.

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As a Christian I feel my commitment is inside and not to a religion. I feel religion should prepare a person for contemplation and the personal encounter with the Divine. Religion spoils the transformation when it dictates and does more than it should. The institution has become good at covering up Divine Love with authority. When I have been overcome with pain and suffering, it seemed to purge me of attachments, distractions to humble, abandon and empty my mind enough to throw myself prostrate before the Divine. When I look back the suffering did not impede my growth, but accelerated it. Religion as an institution has helped many of us by being the source of deep pain so that we either succumbed to it or found the strength to overcome it. I look back with affection at the major traumas in my life that brought me to the present.

 

Suffering in others is another story. I feel that predicament is an opportunity to serve the Divine by alleviating the pain as much as possible. When I have been able to help, I found it helped me on a spiritual plane even though my work was on a mental or physical plane. I feel service and social work is a legitimate path to love, transformation and the Divine.

 

Neon Genesis, You seemed committed to the soul and that it is serving you well because I can feel the integrity and sincerity in your post. My soul's love burns 'as bright as hell' as it consumes my rough edges. I guess we are as smart as moths as we continue to fly prostrated into the flame.

 

I don't know why I put bright as hell, but I think it has something to do with the positive and negative working together. I was going to remove it, but then thought I will not give in to religion's miss interpretations in order to manipulate the masses.

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The blessed are the mourn passage is one of the most difficult beatitudes for me to follow because the problem of evil argument is one of the reasons I find it difficult to believe in a supernatural interventionist god. It's hard for me to reconcile the existence of a loving, intervening god with a world full of suffering and pain and while there are other people who have worse lives than me, there have been moments in my life where I felt let down by God and I wondered if there was a god out there. At the same time, I feel compelled to pray and it's something I find myself coming back to doing even though I'm not sure if there's anything out there and I'm scared of recommitting myself to Christianity or another religion.

 

The idea of an interventionist God makes no sense to me, except in the sense that the divine has "intervened" from the beginning of time. I think all the way along the line there is this idea of "Him" up there, dabbling here and there, responding to humanities "rebellion" against "Him" by intervening at a particular point in time. And then what often seems to go with such things, the idea that "he" intervenes to help some but not others, until we are left with "mystery" as the only option that will keep our "faith" alive.

 

Alongside such there is the Light that lights all who come into the world, who was in the beginning (St John), who is the Great Redeemer of "O happy fault that merited such and so great a Redeemer." There, in the beginning, prior to the subject-object division. So the Divine is in some sense the suffering and pain itself, not outside of it; yet what is eternal is joy, not despair. For me, there is a path back to the beginning, the path to joy that is "mysteriously revealed to us without our exactly realising it" (Merton), and our life is a journey.... "a matter of growth, deepening, and of an ever greater surrender to the creative action of love and grace in our hearts." (Merton, again)

 

Often I reflect upon a story told of a group of rabbi's incarcerated in Treblinka during WW2. Looking at the suffering around them they decided to put God on trial. Arguments flew back and forth and eventually the verdict was given. "No", there could be no God. Then one of the Rabbi's noted the time. It was the time of prayer. They knelt and prayed.

 

So, there is logic. And there is faith.

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Thanks for kicking this one off, Tariki. This is one of my favourite passages.

 

In Matthew five we are called to be detached from any sense of ownership and, in this first beatitude, the word 'poor' in the Greek means 'beggarly'. I found that there is a wonderful parallel between the teaching of Jesus in the Beatititudes and the Bhagavad Gita, which is mainly about detachment (3:9 for instance). The latter is about doing things without the need for reward (as in the prayer of Ignatius). The Tao Teh Ching is, of course, full of references to detachment (see chapter 22).

 

My most warm thought recently was that this passage refers, not simply to the way those who are conscious of being in the kingdom behave, but it is the way God is. At the end of the passage, Jesus says, "Be perfect as your father in heaven is perfect." Once I realised that this is the way God is, many things started to make sense that could not make sense when I thought of God as an almighty dictator who overruled nature at the slightest whim.

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Thanks for kicking this one off, Tariki. This is one of my favourite passages.

 

In Matthew five we are called to be detached from any sense of ownership and, in this first beatitude, the word 'poor' in the Greek means 'beggarly'. I found that there is a wonderful parallel between the teaching of Jesus in the Beatititudes and the Bhagavad Gita, which is mainly about detachment (3:9 for instance). The latter is about doing things without the need for reward (as in the prayer of Ignatius). The Tao Teh Ching is, of course, full of references to detachment (see chapter 22).

 

My most warm thought recently was that this passage refers, not simply to the way those who are conscious of being in the kingdom behave, but it is the way God is. At the end of the passage, Jesus says, "Be perfect as your father in heaven is perfect." Once I realised that this is the way God is, many things started to make sense that could not make sense when I thought of God as an almighty dictator who overruled nature at the slightest whim.

 

Many thanks Brian, for the first time I saw the link between the beatitude and the words of Jesus when He said that he had come to serve, not to be served.

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Meek: Definition......Quiet, gentle, and easily imposed on; submissive

 

What would be the earth that such inherit, given human history? To be cynical, about six foot of it, above the head.

 

Obviously,given the possibilties, such would not necessarily be an argument against seeking to be "meek" in certain circumstances.

 

I observe a tit for tat approach to the world and its ways. Many see it as some sort of application of justice. An eye for an eye and suchlike. He hit me, so I hit him. She let the door go in my face, so I let it swing in her face. She won't apologise, so I sure as hell won't. So "strength" has its day, and like a drip into the middle of a placid lake, the ripples move outward. Cause and effect, and the effects roll on and on.

 

Perhaps meekness is having the strength to absorb the wrong - perceived or not - and not striking back. The ripple effect ends there.

 

For me there are other ways of understanding this beatitude, outlined in some ways by what I have posted on the "Your method of seeking, searching and studying" thread. A certain meekness in terms of asserting the demands of the ego self. The earth that such a way "inherits" is not easy to assertain or describe. Maybe a "new creation", though for me not in an eschatalogical "end times" sense, more a understanding of reality itself as containing its own "eschatalogical" nature within itself NOW, in as much as paradise is not "regained", because never lost.

 

Maybe a playing with words, certainly so in the face of much human suffering.

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When I think of "the meek," I am inclined to keep in mind the many "last shall be first" references, and particularly in terms of various kinds of reversals (wise/foolish, weak/strong and so on). And along that line, notions from the Magnificat, such as the poor being filled and the rich made empty, and the proud being sent off confused.

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Possibly time to move on...............though if anyone has something to add to any of the previous beautitudes, please feel free.

 

Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness,

for they shall be satisfied.

 

My own thoughts turn at once to the exact nature of our "hunger" in the light of "salvation" by Grace/Faith.

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"My own thoughts turn at once to the exact nature of our "hunger" in the light of "salvation" by Grace/Faith."

 

 

Perhaps you could elaborate a little for those of us who have not read "Salvation."

 

George

 

Hi George,

 

I'm afraid you have been misled by my habit of putting words in inverted commas, mainly just to indicate I'm using a word that has been defined by others - yet often in ways I would not necessarily agree with. So I'm using the word, BUT.....

 

So what I was saying was not that my thoughts were turning to the exact nature of our hunger fror righteousness in the light of the book "Salvation" by a lady called Grace Faith (!...... :D ), but what was the nature of righteousness given we are saved by faith. And what would the hunger for such mean.

 

Jesus said somewhere......."Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and the Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of Heaven." Yet such people - the "religious" people of Christ's day - kept the Law meticulously, even to the point of giving a tenth of any small herb they grew to God. Yet, they neglected such things as mercy

 

And the episode in the cornfield on the Sabbath, where the disciples were condemned for "working" (picking ears of corn), which, given some OT Laws, was in some ways a justified condemnation if one wished to keep the law. Yet One greater than the Sabbath was there. Sad to say, how many Biblical Literalists would have sided with the Pharisees, back there, THEN, without the gift of hindsight? Who knows, lets not judge.

 

So to thirst for a righteousness that EXCEEDS a complete fulfilment of the written law.

 

Which gets back to what my thoughts turned to.

 

P.S. I must just say that having read a couple of the works of E P Sanders, who wrote about Palestine around the time of jesus, I do not necessarily identify the historical Pharisees with the version of them depicted so often in the NT, which, alas, seems more a product of a polemics.

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