The Persecuted for Righteousness

“Blessed are they who have been persecuted on account of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of the heavens.  [Mt. 5:10]

Saint Chrysostom: “‘On account of righteousness,’ that means, on account of virtue, for protection given to others, and for piety. For it is always His custom to speak of righteousness as the entire philosophy of the soul, that is the true philosophy of the spiritual life of virtue, discipline, and doctrine.” [Ib., P.G. 57:190 (cols. 228).]
     

Saint Gregory of Nyssa: “Here is the goal of the battles fought for God, here the reward of the labors, the prize of our sweat, which is to be held worthy of the kingdom of the heavens….Now earth is a place of variation and flux,…but by saying the ‘kingdom of the heavens,’ He shows the absolute immutability of the gift that is held out to our expectation. Now what does poverty have to do with persecution, since the first beatitude and the eighth have the same prize, ‘the kingdom of the heavens’? How do we explain this? It all hangs together, for they all converge on precisely the same goal….
      “The man who has truly received the faith…looks not to the things he has left behind, but to those that come hereafter. He does not turn back his eyes to the pleasures that are past. He is not pained by the loss of earthly things, but gladdened by the gain of heavenly ones. Therefore he will readily accept every form of torture as a means that will help him to attain to the joy before him: the fire, as a purification from matter; the sword, as disrupting the union of the mind with what is material and carnal. Every device for inflicting pain he will receive eagerly as an antidote against the dangerous poison of pleasure. For a man who suffers cannot enjoy pleasure. Hence, as sin entered through pleasure, it is exterminated by the opposite. So if men persecute others for confessing the Lord and invent the most intolerable tortures, they bring, through these sufferings, a remedy to souls, for by applying pain they heal the disease caused by pleasure.” [Ib., Sermon 8, 18:167, 168, 171, 172.]

(The Orthodox New Testament, Volume 1, Holy Apostles Convent, Buena Vista, Colorado)

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