And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said,
Blessed be you poor: for yours is the kingdom of God.
Read Chapter 6
Ambrose of Milan
Purify yourself with your tears. Wash yourselves with mourning. If you weep for yourself, another will not weep for you…. One who is a sinner weeps for himself and rebukes himself, that he may become righteous, for just people accuse themselves of sin. Let us pursue order, because it is written, “Set in order love in me.” I have laid down sin. I have tempered my conduct. I have wept for my transgressions. I begin to hunger. I hunger for righteousness. The sick, when he is seriously ill, does not hunger, because the pain of the illness excludes hunger. What is the hunger for righteousness? What is the bread of which it is said, “I have been young and am old, and I have not seen the righteous man forsaken, nor his seed begging bread”? Surely one who is hungry seeks increase of strength. What greater increase of virtue is there than the rule of righteousness? Exposition of the Gospel of Luke–.
Although there are many charms of delights in riches, yet there are more incentives to practice virtues. Although virtue does not require assistance and the contribution of the poor person is more commended than the generosity of the rich, yet with the authority of the heavenly saying, he condemns not those who have riches but those who do not know how to use them. The pauper is more praiseworthy who gives with eager compassion and is not restrained by the bolts of looming scarcity. He thinks that he who has enough for nature does not lack. So the rich person is the more guilty who does not give thanks to God for what he has received, but vainly hides wealth given for the common use and conceals it in buried treasures. Then the offense consists not in the wealth but in the attitude.
“Blessed,” it says, “are the poor.” Not all the poor are blessed, for poverty is neutral. The poor can be either good or evil, unless, perhaps, the blessed pauper is to be understood as he whom the prophet described, saying, “A righteous poor man is better than a rich liar.” Blessed is the poor man who cried and whom the Lord heard. Blessed is the man poor in offense. Blessed is the man poor in vices. Blessed is the poor man in whom the prince of this world finds nothing. Blessed is the poor man who is like that poor Man who, although he was rich, became poor for our sake. Matthew fully revealed this when he said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” One poor in spirit is not puffed up, is not exalted in the mind of his own flesh. This beatitude is first, when I have laid aside every sin, and I have taken off all malice, and I am content with simplicity, destitute of evils. All that remains is that I regulate my conduct. For what good does it do me to lack worldly goods, unless I am meek ...
Let us see how St. Luke encompassed the eight blessings in the four. We know that there are four cardinal virtues: temperance, justice, prudence and fortitude. One who is poor in spirit is not greedy. One who weeps is not proud but is submissive and tranquil. One who mourns is humble. One who is just does not deny what he knows is given jointly to all for us. One who is merciful gives away his own goods. One who bestows his own goods does not seek another’s, nor does he contrive a trap for his neighbor. These virtues are interwoven and interlinked, so that one who has one may be seen to have several, and a single virtue befits the saints. Where virtue abounds, the reward too abounds…. Thus temperance has purity of heart and spirit, justice has compassion, patience has peace, and endurance has gentleness. –,
But being about to utter His divine oracles, He begins to rise higher; although He stood in a low place, yet as it is said, He lifted up his eyes. What is lifting up the eyes, butto disclose a more hidden light? .
Now Luke mentions only four blessings, but Matthew eight; but in those eight are contained these four, and in these four those eight. Forthe one has embraced as it were the four cardinal virtues, the other has revealed in those eightthe mystical number. For as the eighth is the accomplishment of our hope, so is the eighth also the completion of the virtues. But each Evangelist has placed the blessings of poverty first, for it is the first in order, and the purest, as it were, of the virtues; for he who has despised the world shall reap an eternal reward. Now can any one obtain the reward of the heavenly kingdom who, overcome by the desires of the world, has no power of escape from them? Hence it follows, He said, Blessed are the poor.
For the Jews persecuted the prophets even...
If you propose a choice between these two things, which is better, to laugh or to cry? Is there anybody who wouldn’t prefer to laugh? Because repentance involves a beneficial sorrow, the Lord presented tears as a requirement and laughter as the resulting benefit. How? When he says in the Gospel, “Blessed are those who cry, because they shall laugh.” So crying is a requirement, laughter the reward, of wisdom. He wrote laughter to mean joy. He did not mean howling with laughter but jumping for joy.
But not every one oppressed with poverty is blessed, but he who has preferred the commandment of Christ to worldly riches. For many are poor in their possessions, yet most covetous in their disposition; these poverty does not save, but their affections condemn. For nothing involuntary deserves a blessing, because all virtue is characterized by the freedom of the will. Blessed then is the poor man as being the disciple of Christ, Who endured poverty for us. For the Lord Himself has fulfilled every work which leads to happiness, leaving Himself an example for us to follow.
But He promises laughing to those who weep; not indeed the noise of laughter from the mouth, but agladness pure and unmixed with aught of sorrow.
Again, great has sometimes a positive signification, as the heaven is great, and the earth is great; but sometimes it has relation to something else, as a great ox or great horse, on comparing two things of like nature. I think then that great reward will be laid up for those...
And although He speaks in a general way to all, yet more especially He lifts up His eyes on His disciples; for it follows, on his disciples, that to those who receive the word listening attentively with the heart, He might reveal more fully the light of its deep meaning.
That is, blessed are you who chasten your body and subject it to bondage, who in hunger and thirst give heed to the word, for then shall you receive the fullness of heavenly joys.
Plainly instructing us, that we ought never to account ourselves sufficiently righteous, but always desire a daily increase in righteousness, to the perfect fullness of which the Psalmist shows us that we can not arrive in this world, but in the world to come. I shall be satisfied when your glory shall be made manifest. Hence it follows, For you shall be filled.
He then who on account of the riches of the inheritance of Christ, for the bread of eternal life, for the hope of heavenly joys, desires to suffer weeping, hunger, and poverty, is ble...
Blessed are ye poor . . . in spirit (See S. Matthew 5:3), for poorness of spirit is a rich and precious virtue. Therefore S. Ambrose rightly concludes that poverty, privations, and sorrow, which the world counts evil, not only are no hindrances, but on the contrary have been declared by Him who could neither deceive nor be deceived, to be of great assistance towards the attainment of a holy and a happy life.
The same writer goes on to give the reason why S. Luke has reduced the number of the beatitudes to four. He was content that they should include the four cardinal virtues. Justice, which, coveting not the possessions of others, rejoices in holy poverty; temperance, which had rather suffer want than be full; prudence, which chooses to sorrow here, in hope of the joy which shall be revealed; and Fortitude, which for sake of Christ and His Gospel, endures persecution and so triumphs over every enemy. Hence we read that the poor, the temperate, those who hunger and thirst after right...
The Lord mentioned persecution already, even before the apostles had been sent on their mission. The Gospel anticipated what would happen. So he forewarns them for their benefit, that even the assault of things grievous to bear will bring its reward and advantage to them. They shall scold you, he says, as deceivers do, and try to mislead you. They shall separate you from them, even from their friendship and society. Let none of these things trouble you, he says. What harm will their intemperate tongue do a wellestablished mind? The patient suffering of these things will not be without fruit, he says, to those who know how to endure piously. It is the pledge of the highest happiness. Besides, he points out for their benefit, nothing strange will happen to them, even when suffering these things. On the contrary, they will resemble those who before their time were the bearers to the Israelites of the words that came from God above. These prophets were persecuted. They were sawn in two. Th...
In the Gospel according to St. Matthew it is said, Blessed are the poor in spirit, that we should understand the poor in spirit to be one of a modest and somewhat depressed mind. Hence our Savior says, Learn from me, for I am meek and lowly of heart. But Luke says, Blessed are the poor, without the addition of spirit, calling those poor who despise riches. Forit became those who were to preach the doctrines of the saving Gospel to have no covetousness, but their affections set upon higher things.
After having commanded them to embrace poverty, He then crowns with honor those things which follow from poverty. It is the lot of those who embrace poverty to be in want of the necessaries of life, and scarcely to be able to get food. He does not then permit His disciples to be fainthearted on this account, but says, Blessed are you who hunger now.
But poverty is followed not only by a wantof those things which bring delight, but also by a dejected look, because of sorrow. Hence it follows, B...
But when the celestial kingdom is considered in the many gradations of its blessings, the first step in the scale belongs to those who by divine instinct embrace poverty. Such did He make those who first became His disciples; therefore He says in their person, For yours is the kingdom of heaven, as pointedly addressing Himself to those present, upon whom also He lifted up His eyes.
He then fortifies His disciples against the attacks of their adversaries, which they were about to suffer as they preached through the whole world; adding, For in like manner did their fathers to the prophets.
St. Matthew (v. 3. 10.) mentions eight beatitudes, St. Luke only four; but St. Luke only gives an abridgment in this place of the discourse, which St. Matthew gives more at length. We are also to remark, that in these four the whole eight are comprised, and that both evangelists place poverty in the first place, because it is the first in rank, and, as it were, the parent of the other virtues; for he who hath forsaken earthly possessions, deserves heavenly ones. Neither can any man reasonably expect eternal life, who is not willing to forsake all in affection, and in effect also, if called upon for the love of Jesus Christ. (St. Ambrose)
Not that every one under great poverty is happy, but that the man who prefers the poverty of Christ to the riches of the world, ought certainly to be esteemed such. Many indeed are poor in worldly substance, but are avaricious in affection; to such as these poverty is no advantage. Nothing that is against the will, merits reward; therefore all virtue ...
The Christian who has advanced by means of good discipline and the gift of the Spirit to the measure of the age of reason experiences glory and pleasure and enjoyment that is greater than any human pleasure. These come to one after grace is given to him, after being hated because of Christ, being driven, and enduring every insult and shame in behalf of his faith in God. For such a person, whose entire life centers on the resurrection and future blessings, every insult and scourging and persecution and the other sufferings leading up to the cross are all pleasure and refreshment and surety of heavenly treasures. For Jesus says, “Blessed are you when men reproach you and persecute you and, speaking falsely, say all manner of evil against you; for my sake rejoice and exult because your reward is great in heaven.” .
For to those who hunger and thirst after righteousness He promises abundance of the things they desire. For none of the pleasures which are sought in this life can satisfy those who pursue them. But the pursuit of virtue alone is followed by that reward, which implants a joy in the soul that never fails.
But in a deeper sense, as they who partake of bodily food vary their appetites according to the nature of the things to be eaten; so also in the food of the soul, by some indeed that is desired which depends upon the opinion of men, by others, that which isessentially and of its own nature good. Hence, according to Matthew, men are blessed who account righteousness in the place of food and drink; by righteousness I mean not a particular but an universal virtue, which he who hungers after is said to be blessed.
“Woe to you when all people speak well of you.” Notice how by the word woe he revealed to us the extent of the punishment awaiting such people. This word woe, after all, is an exclamation of lament, so that it is as if he is lamenting their fate when he says, “Woe to you when all people speak well of you.” Notice too the precision in the expression: he didn’t simply say “people” but “all people.” You see, it is not possible for a virtuous person who travels by the straight and narrow path and follows Christ’s commands to enjoy the praise and admiration of all people— so strong is the impulse of evil and the resistance to virtue.
But godly sorrow is a great thing, and it works repentance to salvation. Hence St. Paul when he had no failings of his own to weep for, mourned for those of others. Such griefis the source of gladness, as it follows, For you shall laugh. For if we do no good to those for whom we weep, we do good to ourselves. For he who thus weeps for the sins of others, will not let his own go unwept for; but the rather he will not easily fall into sin. Let us not be ever relaxing ourselves in this short life, lest we sigh in that which is eternal. Let us not seek delights from which flow lamentation, and much sorrow, but let us be saddened with sorrow which brings forth pardon. We often find the Lord sorrowing, never laughing.
Great and little are measured by the dignity of the speaker. Let us inquire then who promised the great reward. If indeed a prophet or an apostle, little had been in his estimation great; but now it is the Lord in whose hands are eternal treasures and riches surpassing man's co...
Those things which may be measured or numbered are used definitely, but that which from a certain excellence surpasses all measure and number we call great and much indefinitely; as when we say that great is the long suffering of God.
But even now you have the Lord's sayings, as examples taking away from you all excuse. For what is it you say? "I shall be in need. "But the Lord calls the needy "happy.".
"because theirs is the kingdom of heaven.".
"Blessed are the needy, because theirs is the kingdom of heaven.".
To a Christian believer it is irksome to wed a believer inferior to herself in estate, destined as she will be to have her wealth augmented in the person of a poor husband! For if it is "the pour "not the rich, "whose are the kingdoms of the heavens"
There are two ways, one of life, and one of death. Between the two ways there is a great difference. Now, this is the way of life: “First, you must love God who made you, and second, your neighbor as yourself.” Whatever you want people to refrain from doing to you, you must not do to them. What these proverbs teach is this: “Bless those who curse you” and “pray for your enemies.” Moreover, “fast for those who persecute you.” For “what credit is it to you if you love those who love you? Is that not the way the heathen act?” But “you must love those who hate you,” and then you will make no enemies. “Abstain from physical passions.” If someone strikes you “on the right cheek, turn to him the other too, and you will be perfect.” If someone “forces you to go one mile with him, go along with him for two.” If someone robs you “of your overcoat, give him your suit as well.” If someone deprives you of “your property, do not ask for it back.” (You could not get it back anyway!) “Give to everybod...