The Beatitudes: Generosity and Happiness Gracefully Attainable In Our Time


This second side of our Christian responsibility is synthesized in the Beatitudes, which our Savior gave us. There are certain classic passages in Christ’s teaching that remain the cornerstones of our lives. Such, for example, is the Lord’s Prayer; such is Christ’s discourse in the sixth chapter of John when He promised the Eucharist; such is His long homily at the Last Supper before He died; such are the Beatitudes.

There are two versions of the Beatitudes in the Gospels; one of four and the other of eight. Over the centuries, Christian wisdom has speculated on how the four are really the eight, and how the eight can be synthesized into four. We shall concentrate on the eight Beatitudes by first looking briefly at their significance in themselves, and how what we call the Beatitudes are in many ways the Magna Carta of Christian perfection. So much so that the Second Vatican Council, which spoke more than all the other councils put together on the religious life, describes religious life as a “lifetime commitment to practicing the Beatitudes.”

Why are they significant? Because they are uniquely Christian principles of human conduct. Winston Churchill, on one occasion (you know he was capable of summarizing a lot in a few words), observed sagely how the British Empire could not survive for one week if it were based on the Beatitudes. Right he was! Secular society is not expected to, nor does it, operate on the Beatitudes.

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