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The Beatitudes

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.
—Matthew 5:3

It seems strange that Christ should bless the poor in spirit. Does it mean the spiritless, those who by doing and battling against odds have finally succumbed to a resigned acceptance of God's Will imposed on them, and having resigned, found their reward in the Kingdom of Heaven; or does it mean that that self-recognition, which is the result of honest search, means such a purging of spiritual pride that there can be nothing for us but "poorness of spirit". Humility is the first condition of spiritual growth. Filled with self we cannot receive from others, we have no room. It is pride that takes us furthest from God, because it is exclusion of Him by whom we are. But the First result of our self-emptying must bring the attitude of mind that says, "I am nothing, I have nothing." In the instant of our acknowledgment we have created an ideal, have posited a something higher than ourself, and our mood is one of utter self-abnegation. "Fill me with Thyself!" We cannot aspire higher than to be filled with something not ourself. It is a willing surrender, and being now furthest away from ourself we are nearest the Kingdom of Heaven.

"Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted." Continuing this idea then, what other result could that spiritual abasement beget but sorrow, deep sorrow for shortcomings, misspent time, and countless sins attendant on pride. Sin is sorrow. True sorrow is repentance for misdeed. Not remorse that refuses to acknowledge God's infinite mercy and pardon, but the mourning that is rich in the blossom and fruit of perfected action. Sorrow ideally is a knowledge of estrangement from our ideal, a scission between what we are and what we now would be, an alienation between our possible and our actual self; a lack of correspondence between our universal and our particular soul. All this is sorrow and yet comfort, for the fact that we can see an ideal beyond us, is itself the proof that we can ultimately attain to it, "and this is the comfort given to us by the Father that we may be perfect, even as He is perfect." "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth." Out of this sorrow springs a distrust of self. We cannot understand our failing to have seen the Truth long ago, and as we blindly wandered then, so in fear we advance now, but withal in a new spirit of humility. Our mistrust has made us candid; we are willing to hear of our shortcomings from others, we have a new meekness of heart that invites criticism of itself and takes rebuke as an act of grace. And as when we can "offer the other cheek" we become possessors of ourselves and the smiter, who is disarmed by our gentleness, so is this verse symbolic of our spiritual progress, "they shall inherit the earth."

But this is not all. Seeing that we are derivative beings, we cannot stop short in a process of approximation to perfection—the source whence we are derived. Heaven, not earth, is our goal, and meekness must not lapse into weak acceptance of our failings, without an effort to remedy them. Therefore, "Blessed are they that do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled." Notice the condition, "that hunger and thirst." Wonderful simile, implying emptiness or lack, a desire to receive. We cannot yet desire to be perfect, which means our own voluntary act. We have not yet arrived at that stage when we know that in us is the power to make ourselves good. We are still in the Purgatorial condition that sees goodness or sin as more or less external to us. "I have fallen into sin." If, then, sin is external, by the same reasoning goodness also may be. It is a perfectly valid and necessary state of mind. It is right that we should see our ideal outside ourselves before we can recognize it as a principle in us to be worked out. To my mind the whole world is in just this vital stage of thought. We aspire to something higher than ourselves, which in time we may make our own, but just so long as we fail to make our ideal actual, just so long is it something external to us.

This, then, is the psychological condition that Christ knew when He blessed it. We must desire with all our heart that goodness may come to us, and fill us, before we can know that we can make it actual in us. We must hunger and thirst to receive. "Fill me with Thyself." It is the attitude of mind (this yearning to receive) that voices itself in Prayer. It is the consciousness that formulated, "Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven." In short, the Christian consciousness. "And they shall be filled." No honest wish goes unfulfilled, no earnest prayer unanswered. Did He not say, "l will not leave you comfortless?" What was Pentecost but the answer to the Disciples in lightning glory?" "They were filled with the Holy Ghost." The insight that this God fulfilling brought to those in that small chamber, was the aspiration to realize in themselves the bounty and blessedness of that Divine Gift. To be the perfection that they hitherto had known only as a Divinity outside, "Ye are become a Law unto yourselves." It was a revelation that in us is a generative power for good and evil. And again, Christ knew what the only result could be, "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy." The comfort we received was mercy, for was it not forgiveness of sins? If we realize this, what can we do in our dealings with our fellowmen, but extend to them in fullest measure what we so bountifully have received. To be Divine, by extending to those below, the divine attribute of mercy, and by pardoning those failings in others, which are but ours of other days—by lending help to those who need it, even as we need it—shall we not be blessed in attaining "that perfect pardon, which is perfect peace" that He has promised? "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive them that trespass against us."

"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." It is at last the God in us, not outside us. A living principle actuating our deeds and will. A radiance from above illuminating our path of life, the light of our goal, towards which we press.

God in us is Light in us. Light is purity. It is Godlikeness, and whoever possesses the light of Truth, to him God will not deny the eternal Vision of Himself, therefore "they shall see God."

"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God." Oneness with God is peace; harmony is not discord. Strife and war is estrangement from the spiritual union on which the happiness of mankind is conditioned. Union with the Divine is our ultimate goal. Any effort, therefore, that makes towards communion of Spirits, and strengthens the bond of brotherly love, is the effort to do the "Will of the Father," and to bring that "peace on earth, good-will toward men," that was the mission of the Christ in His human pilgrimage. Brought through the successive stages of despondency, humbleness, hunger for God, desire to pass to others the blessings we obtained, aspiration to be Godlike, we cannot deny that Heaven is our goal, and God our Father.

"O Zion, that bringest good tidings, get thee up into the high mountain; O Jerusalem, that bringest good tidings, lift up thy voice with strength; lift it up, be not afraid, say unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God!" "For they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint."

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Elizabeth Wignall

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