Delight in the Law of God: Sermons on the Beatitudes and Commandments of God (Part VII)

Icon of the Mother of God "Economissa"

Icon of the Mother of God "Economissa"

My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE. Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ! ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.

DELIGHT IN THE LAW OF GOD: SERMONS ON THE BEATITUDES AND THE COMMANDMENTS OF GOD (PART VII)
by Protopresbyter James Thornton

"Blessed are the peacemakers". - Saint Matthew 5:9

The Seventh of the Beatitudes of Christ Jesus is "Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God." Peace is an attribute of the very Nature of God, while intrinsic to the nature of fallen mankind is conflict: conflict great and conflict small. Directly associated with the peace that is an attribute of God is God's unity and His desire for unity among men, a unity based, of course, upon truth. By way of contrast, mankind inclines toward diversity of mind n all things, and, hence, to conflict, war, hatred, discord, quarrels, and dissension. "God is love" (See I John 4:8, 16), and so wishes to bring mankind together in His love. Men, for the most part, reject God's wishes and strive to divide, and so alienate one from another, in a spirit of perpetual hostility and strife. Since the fall of Adam, my beloved children in Christ, that is the lot of the human race.

"Blessed are the peacemakers"--in what sense are committed Christians called to be peacemakers? They are called to that by Christ, despite the fact that Christ Himself tells us that even near the end of time, we "shall hear of wars and rumors of wars" (St. Matthew 24:6; St. Mark 13:7). Our own Saint Philaret of New York (1903-1985) pointed out these words of Christ's and noted, "With these words, the Lord refutes all statements that war is avoidable" (Metropolitan Philaret, On the Law of God [Jordanville, NY: Holy Trinity Monastery, 2002, p.64.]) Until Christ comes again, mankind will never enjoy universal peace. Moreover, it is clear that since God is Truth, Christians may not properly be advocates of peace at any price. When, to consider a recent example, the United States was arrayed with its allies against the rapacious, anti-God, satanocratic murder machine that was Bolshevism, it became necessary to defend civilization against that barbarous world menace, which sought not only the destruction of the freedom, property, and lives of opponents, but which sought to rob men of their very souls. And there are other like examples from history, examples that warn us against peace at any price: the peace of the universal graveyard, the peace of the universal madhouse, or the peace of the universal concentration camp. Christians must nurture naiveté about such realities.

However, Christ was not addressing His words exclusively to the leaders of nations, those entrusted by God with decisions of peace and war. His words He addressed, on the occasion of His Sermon on the Mount, to simple men, and so it is clear that what Christ had primarily in mind was not political peace, but peace at the level of the individual person, of the family, of the neighborhood, and of the community. Here it is that we are called upon to be peacemakers. We are peacemakers, first of all, in our own personal lives. Saint Gregory of Nyssa writes:

"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" (St. Gregory of Nyssa, The Lord's Prayer/The Beatitudes).

That is to say, we achieve peace within ourselves when we follow the law of God in all things. Another Holy Father, Saint Jerome of Bethlehem, writes similarly:

"The peacemakers are called blessed who first make peace within their own heart, and then between their dissident brethren. For what does it profit you to make peace between others, while vice is at war within your own heart" (The Sunday Sermons of the Great Fathers, Vol.iv, p. 468).

We are peacemakers when we banish hostility toward our neighbors and put our hearts, minds, and spirits at peace. Saint Gregory of Nyssa writes also:

"The Lord and Giver of good things completely annihilates anything that is without affinity and foreign to goodness. This work He ordains also for you, namely to cast out hatred and abolish war, to exterminate envy and banish strife, to take away hypocrisy and extinguish from within resentment of injuries shouldering in the heart".

Instead, the Saint counsels us, all of this evil is to be replaced in ourselves by "charity, joy, peace, benignity, [and] magnanimity." We are blessed when we achieve peace in ourselves, the Saint tells us, since in doing so we "imitate the gifts of God" and we come closer in our beings to the Nature of God. And so, first on the agendum of the peacemaker is the making of peace within ourselves and then with our brethren. Yet, Christ expects more. As Saint John Chrysostomos says, "...He not only takes away altogether our own strife and hatred amongst ourselves, but He requires besides this something more, namely, that we should set as one again others, who are at strife."

Following what we have just discussed, we must make peace in our hearts and, in doing so, make peace with our fellow man. Yet, as Saint John Chrysostomos says, we must also do more by seeking peace among our neighbors, to reconcile each to the other and all to God. Saint John of Kronstadt declares:

"We must also strive to reconcile other who are warring among themselves, if we can; and if we cannot, then we must pray to God for their reconciliation, for what we cannot do, God, Who can make even a brutal heart lamblike, can." (Saint John of Kronstadt, Then Homilies on the Beatitudes, p. 82)

Let us now encapsulate all that we have discussed thus far. Christ God directs us to bring peace to our own lives. We do that by bringing spiritual harmony to our lives, in our struggle against sin. As long as sin prevails, we will experience inward conflict. We must put an end to that inward conflict by submission to God. We enhance the peace that spiritual harmony confers by making peace with the other people we encounter in our lives: family members, friends, and neighbors. This is realized by eradicating feelings of hatred, revenge, envy, hypocrisy, pride and related evils within our hearts. It is often a hard thing to make peace with others. Our pride tells us that we are right and others are wrong, and that justice requires that our adversary take the first step toward healing enmity, not us. When overweening pride holds sway, peace is expelled from our hearts and held at bay. Therefore, let us take the first step and engender the sweetness and beauty that is peace. In achieving that, we bring peace to our internal selves, and we therefore become the peacemakers that Christ Jesus blesses...

What is the reward for peacemakers? Peacemakers, Christ promises "shall be called the children of God." What does this title confer? Saint John of Kronstadt declares it to be "the greatest honor before all the Angels and all the people: for there is no greater honor for a mortal person than to be called a son of the Immortal and Blessed God and to himself become immortal and blessed and inherit the Kingdom of Heaven, having become an heir of God and the co-inheritor of Christ."

Do any here wish not to become the children of God, in the extraordinary sense in which God grants to them His immortality and makes them heirs to the Kingdom of Heaven? Surely none here would refuse that honor if offered. It is offered, as we have seen, by Christ in the Seventh Beatitude.

We need only make peace with ourselves, by obedience to God's Law, and crush our prideful egos, by making peace with our neighbors, neighbors meaning all the other persons with whom we have contact--family, friends, and acquaintances. Having succeeded in these things, we must try to bring peace among our neighbors, if that is possible. May we all resolve to be peacemakers and thereby claim our eternal legacy.

(To be continued)

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MY BLESSING TO ALL OF YOU

The Grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.

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Glory Be To GOD For All Things!

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With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+Father George