from a Homily by St. Augustine, Bishop of Hippo, on the Beatitudes

(Bk. i. on the Lord’s Sermon, Ch. and 4.)

First, Blessed are the poor in spirit. Secondly, Blessed are the meek. Thirdly, Blessed are they that mourn.

They that are blessed under this third head, having knowledge, do mourn that they possess not yet the Highest Good, which possession belongeth unto the end of their course. But in the fourth place, Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness.

Here there is that earnest striving, wherewith the mind doth struggle to tear herself away from those things whose deathful sweetness would make her fain to cling unto them. Here is hungering and thirsting after righteousness, and there is sore need of firmness, for what it is a joy to have, it must be a grief to lose.

But the fifth head is the declaration that Blessed are the merciful, and in these words a door of comfort and reward is opened unto the toiling. Entangled in such straits a man can be of no use to himself, unless One That is stronger than he help him; and if he be helped of the Stronger, it is but just that he in turn should help such as is weaker than himself.

And so, Blessed are the merciful, for, in their turn, they shall obtain mercy from God. Blessed are the pure in heart.

This sixth benediction is pronounced upon those hearts which by pure, clear consciousness of good works are able to look to that Highest Good, Which only the clear, calm mind can perceive.

Lastly cometh in the seventh place that Blessed are the peacemakers, that is to say, blessed are they who cultivate wisdom, which is the contemplation of the True, since it is the fruit of this contemplation of the True to produce profound and utter internal peace in man, and to catch the reflection of the Divine, this being the idea which is expressed in the words: Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.

The eighth phrase is a return to the first, since it showeth lowliness of spirit in its aspect of completion and crowning; and thence the kingdom of heaven is the reward mentioned in both places. Blessed are the poor in spirit, for their’s is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for their’s is the kingdom of heaven.

Paul saith “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?”

There are therefore seven things which bring to perfection, for the eighth is the glorification and manifestation of that which is perfected, that from this head others again may begin, and be finished. It seemeth to me also that these heads and sayings have some connection with the seven gifts of the Holy Ghost whereof Isaiah speaketh. But there is a difference of order, for there the highest is taken first, but here the lowest; there the wisdom of God, but here the fear of God – but the beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord.

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