“Beatitudes for Orthodox Christian Living ”
By Phyllis Meshel Onest, M.Div.
As a “Catechist” - Teacher of the Faith - for thirty years, I have taught people of all ages. Sometimes I have witnessed a child, a teen, or an adult having an “A-HA moment.” At that moment in time, something “clicks” and “it all makes sense.” Suddenly s/he senses the love of God in a new way or for the first time or Liturgical worship makes an impact as never before or why Orthodox Christians do what we do.
One day while thinking about “A-HA moments,” these “Beatitudes” began to flow from my pen onto the paper. Each one involves an aspect of an Orthodox Lifestyle. They help bring us to the “A-HA Moments.”
The more “A-HA’s” we have, brings on a desire to know Christ, to feel His presence and to learn more about His life and His Church. Our lives are never the same again, but Christ came to give us life, “life in abundance.”
Select one Beatitude for Orthodox Christian Living. Focus on it for a pre-determined period of time (6-8 weeks). Each week record how this spiritual effort affected your life. When that period ends, ask yourself if this spiritual effort made a difference in your daily life. Discuss it with your parish priest or Spiritual Father. Continue and consider adding another Beatitude.
Although this is for one’s personal spiritual life, it provides an opportunity for parents to develop an Orthodox Christian lifestyle with their children. A child’s Christian formation begins and is reinforced in the home.
Whether one is single, married, widowed or divorced these traditional spiritual efforts are for all of us. Consider inviting a family member(s) or friend(s) to join you in some of these. You can encourage one another.
1) Blessed are those who Follow God’s Commandments, for their lives will be peaceful.
In the Old Testament, God gave us 10 Commandments, not suggestions, not options, not even “for our consideration.”
In the New Testament Jesus summed up the 10 into 2 Commandments. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind” and “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Mt 22:37-39
If we use the 2 commandments as our guide we will keep the 10 and experience the peace of God.
2) Blessed are those who Live the Faith, for they walk in the path of the Lord.
We are to be Christians more than just on Sunday mornings. The test is to be a Christian on Monday-Saturday.
That’s what the Apostles, Martyrs and the Saints struggled to do. That’s what a Christian struggled to do.
Union with God – theosis – is a journey. Journeys have bumpy roads, rest stops, detours, and friends along the way.
3) Blessed are those who Sing the Liturgy, for they praise God with the Choir of Angels.
From Old Testament times those who worshipped God sang the responses. This carried over into New Testament times and the Early Church.
The Liturgy developed into sets of prayers, requests and the blessing of the bread and wine, with the Priest leading the People of God, who sang the responses.
When we worship we offer our voices in song along with the angels. Just listen to the words of the Liturgy.
Scriptures reveal that in Heaven angels surround God’s throne and praise Him in song. Our hymns declare that we are like the Cherubim singing to the Trinity, so we need to sing from the pews, the sanctuary, the choir loft, from wherever we are!
Parents, this is another teaching area for the children. They need to learn the hymns of the Liturgy and the special feast days so they can worship the rest of their lives. (+See below)
4) Blessed are those who Read the Bible, for they will grow closer to our Lord.
God has revealed Himself in the Scriptures and through His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. The more we read, the more we know about Jesus and what He did.
5) Blessed are they who Study the Faith, for their lives will be enriched beyond their expectations.
The Orthodox Faith is not learned by osmosis. Sunday Church School is foundational and is to be built upon and lived out daily with the guidance of parents in the home
Learning and growing in Faith begins when we are born and ends when we are laid to rest, waiting to hear the Lord say, “Welcome good & faithful servant.”
6) Blessed are those who Fast, for they will eat at the Great Feast in the Kingdom.
It seems that whenever Orthodox Christians come together to study the Faith, several questions are asked: “Why do we fast?” “From what do we fast?” and “Isn’t fasting for monks?”
Fasting is part of Orthodox Practice [Orthopraxia] for all Orthodox Christians. It is part of our preparation for a Feast Day here on earth and for the Kingdom of God, which Christ refers to as a “Great Feast.”
7) Blessed are those who avail themselves of the Sacrament of Confession, for their sins will be erased from their List of Deeds.
If one claims he has no sin, Proverbs 26:26 states, “He who trusts in his own mind is a fool…”
Even if one lives alone, it is impossible to live without sinning, Just go back to the two commandments that Jesus gave us.
When we stand before “the dread judgment seat of Christ” - listen for it in the Liturgy - we will be reminded of all that we have done or failed to do.
When we humble ourselves in Confession, our sins can be forgiven and erased. We have the choice to face our sins now, when we can make a change or wait.
8) Blessed are those who Pray Often, for they may hear the Voice of God.
God “speaks” to us in many ways – through Scriptures, People, Worship and Prayer. Prayer requires us to “be quiet.”
Our society - filled with sounds of voices, media, traffic, and more - challenges us to “be quiet” or even find a “quiet site.”
We are not alone in our prayers, though. Orthodox Christians on all continents, in all time zones, in many languages pray for each other and us daily.
9) Blessed are those who frequent the Eucharist, for they experience aspects of the Kingdom of God now.
In the Kingdom of God we will unite with God in an unknown way.
At each Liturgy we enter the Kingdom of God on earth when the priest intones, “Blessed is the Kingdom of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit.”
Receiving the Eucharist, Holy Communion, unites us with Christ, the Son of God and one another, now.
10) Rejoice and be glad, for God is Merciful and Forgiving.
Jesus said “be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect” Mt 5:43.
The best we can do is focus on Christ and seek to live as He taught. Life in this imperfect world is a struggle.
God loves us. He sent His Son to become one of us, to heal our humanity, and finally to die and be resurrected so we could join Him in the Kingdom!
With that love comes great mercy and forgiveness.