Friday, October 3, 2008

The Beatitudes, Part Six

The Beatitudes are among the most lofty—and often perplexing—teachings given to us by Christ, and one book I’ve been reading is an excellent study from a social perspective; The Divine Pity: A Study in the Social Implications of the Beatitudes, by Rev. Gerald Vann, O.P., and I’m posting some quotes from it as well as commentary from the Douay Rheims with the Haydock Commentary, and The Navarre Bible, Matthew.

This is the sixth beatitude.

Blessed are the clean of heart, for they shall see God.” (Matthew 5:8)

Rev. Haydock Says:

“Ver. 8. The clean of heart are either those who give themselves to the practice of every virtue, and are conscious to themselves of no evil, or those who are adorned with the virtue of chastity. For nothing is so necessary as this purity in such as desire to see God. Keep peace with all and chastity, says St. Paul, for without this none can see God. Many are merciful to the poor and just in their dealings, but abstain not from luxury and lust. Therefore our Saviour, wishing to shew that mercy was not sufficient, adds, that if we would see God, we must also be possessed of the virtue of purity. (St. Chrysostom, hom. xv.) By this, we shall have our heart exempt from all disordinate love of creatures, and shall be exclusively attached to God. (Haydock) --- The clean of heart, i.e. they who are clean from sin: who are pure in body and mind, says St. Chrysostom. It seems to be a particular admonition to the Pharisees, who were mostly solicitous about an outward and legal cleanness. (Witham)”

The Navarre Bible says:

“8. Christ teaches us that the source of the quality of human acts lies in the heart, that is, in a man’s soul, in the depths of his spirit. “When we speak of a person’s heart, we refer not just to his sentiments, but to the whole person in his loving dealings with others. In order to help us understand divine things, Scripture uses the expression “heart” in its full human meaning, as the summary and source, expression and ultimate basis, of one’s thoughts, words and actions. A man is worth what his heart is worth.” (St. Josemaria Escriva, Christ is Passing By, 164)

"Cleanness of heart is a gift from God, which expresses itself in a capacity to love, in having an upright and pure attitude to everything noble. As St. Paul says, “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about those things.” (Phil. 4:8). Helped by God’s grace, a Christian should constantly strive to cleanse his heart and acquire this purity, whose reward is the vision of God.”

Rev. Vann says:

“We have been thinking of the definition of happiness, first in terms of things that you have, riches, comfort, and so on; then in terms of things that you do, the active life; there remains the question of the contemplative life, the life of vision. This, St. Thomas explains, is not to be found in the first half of any of the beatitudes, since it is not the condition of acquiring happiness but is itself happiness. What you do find in these last two beatitudes is those effects of the life of action which immediately dispose a man to the life of vision; and they are two: there is that quality whereby a man is made perfect in himself for the life of vision, and there is that whereby he is made perfect in his relations with his fellow man. The first of the two is cleanness of heart.

“Let us think, to begin with, of what this means in the context of the moral life. We are concerned with the virtue of temperateness; and once again the word has become attenuated and degraded in our modern speech, and the nature of the virtue seriously misunderstood. It is not synonymous with total abstention from alcohol; it is not, in any case, restricted to a right use of food and drink; and, most important, it is not simply a negative thing, a restraint, but a positive and creative quality, an essential quality of love.

“Temperateness has two aspects. First of all, it is what gives the quality of humility and reverence to our attitude to material things. It is what enables us to love things instead of grabbing and mauling and battening on them; it is what enables us to contemplate and not to devour.” (pp. 177-178)