Marriage and the Fifth & Sixth Beatitudes

Arc-of-the-Covenant

The fifth Beatitude is “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.”Mercy has fallen on hard times. It seems to be synonymous with being a pushover, weak, or timid. A definition of mercy rooted in the Old Testament helps to remedy this deficient understanding. “Mercy, eleois is used most often in the Greek Old Testament to translate hesed. Hesed means that mercy proceeds from identification with the other, either because of blood relationship or covenant. It can be translated as loyal love.”[1] It is an aspiration of the will to see as the beloved.

This definition of mercy is fitting for marriage. Fr. Montague sets mercy within a covenant motivated by the desire to identify with the other. Again various communication strategies can be helpful to identify with the other and enable those expressions, but the underlying hope to see as the beloved does is because of the covenant entered into by the couple, and with God’s help He will supply the necessary grace.

Post-lapsarian, all are sinners, endowed with a clouded intellect and weakened will. Without God’s grace, flowing in a superabundant way from the sacrament, man’s efforts fall short. Instead of listening empathetically, from a sincere heart, suspicion and utility of the other person rules the dialogue. To have this loyal love, mercy, Jesus is the answer. He modeled this act and He gives the sustaining help. Blessed is the couple that avails themselves of His help to have loyal love.

The sixth Beatitude is, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” A pure heart is created when the person has “attuned their intellects and wills to the demands of God’s holiness.”[2] To know the demands of God’s holiness requires catechesis. How easy it is to go off on pet ideologies supposing our opinions are the truth of God. St. Augustine rightly pointed out the vital role catechesis plays in obtaining a pure heart. He states, “ The faithful must believe the articles of the Creed “so that by believing they may obey, by obeying may live well, by living well may purify their hearts, and with pure hearts may understand what they believe.” [3]

Within our marriage preparation program, my husband and I always included a brief overview of Salvation History and the need for ongoing Catechesis. Without some primitive understanding of covenants, God’s plan through history, the gift of the Church through the Al ha-bayit of Peter, how could a couple enter into the sacrament with intentionality? Additionally, this formation happened within a faith community. Many times we saw couples, committed to contraception and opposition to an institutional religion change when presented with the contents of the faith after a period of genuine friendship within a community of believers? Purity of heart led to the couple being able to experience God more clearly.

“Seeing God” can be understood to “experience God”. This is in part due to the allusion of Psalm 24. Noted biblical scholar Dale Allison notes, “Mat 5:8 has often been understood to allude to Ps 24:3-6 and then find in this a reason for taking Mat 5.8b to mean “will experience God”.[4] Experiencing God will surely happen in its full sense in the eschatological paradise when our fallen nature is fully restored. However, as Gregory of Nyssa states, “ The ability to see God in the restored human being happens in the here and now when the saints gain purity of heart.”[5] [my emphasis added] Purity of heart removes the covetous desires for the other. Instead a pure heart sees as God sees. It is a blessed thing when a spouse is able to see their beloved with the eyes of the Lord. Only a pure heart divorced from lust and utilitarianism allows this vision. But when a couple strives to learn the Faith, and set out on the way to living it, how blest is that home. Others most assuredly see the resultant peace of God present.

To be continued…

            [1] Montague, 59

            [2] CCC §2518

            [3] St. Augustine, Defide et symbolo 10, 25: PL 40, 196

                  [4] Dale Allison, Jr., Studies in Matthew, Interpretation Past and Present (Baker Academics: Grand Rapids, MI) 59

            [5] Ibid, 58

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