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(Matthew 5:1-12)

The Beatitudes were proclaimed twice in Scriptures--once on a mountain top and the other, it seems, was in the plains. On the mountain top, Christ explained the Beatitudes extensively to those who came to Him, intent on keeping His commands. His extensive explanation was not recorded in Scriptures. On the plains, Christ explained the Beatitudes in a general manner. The mountain tops were reserved for true disciples, the plains were for the multitude. 

These two occasions show that the Beatitudes is for all; it is the conduct all Christians are to observe whether in monasteries or in the world. It is the perfect code of conduct of Christian life. But those on the mountain top attain a greater knowledge of the Beatitudes than those in the plains. 

The mountain top, Christ's favorite teaching place, like in the boat in the middle of the sea or in the desert, is the symbol of a higher ground of spiritual virtues. Both teacher and pupils must be on the mountain top when teaching the higher truths. It cannot be that one is on the mountain top while the other is in the plains or in the city. 

And Christ began: "Blessed are the poor in spirit..." The first Beatitude is the lowest degree of holiness wherewith a soul may deserve the Kingdom of Heaven. The second, third, up to the seventh are higher degrees of holiness. 

The "poor in spirit" or the humble are those who fear God...i.e., fear to displease God. A wise servant who fears to displease his master will labor to find out what pleases and what displeases his master, thus doing the former and avoiding the latter. So is the wise man who fears the Lord. As a result of this fear, the wise soul studies the commands of Christ. 

The "poor in spirit" is thus the soul who, fearing to displease God, exerts all efforts to know the commands of Christ, summarized in "Deny yourself, take up your cross and follow Me." 

"Poor in spirit" is humility, not as ordinary man shows it but as Jesus Christ, man and God, practised it. It is an act of free choice wherein a soul puts himself below all men and serves all men. It is an act that a soul does not have to do but which he has chosen to do "to please God." 


St. Thomas Aquinas




(updated 03-16-02)

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