Blessed are the poor in spirit – Isaac of Stella

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Everyone, without exception, wants happiness, blessedness. However they all have different ideas about it: one thinks it lies in the delight of the senses and an easy life; another, in virtue; another, in knowledge of the truth. Hence he who teaches us all… begins by correcting those who stray, guiding those who are on the way, and welcoming those who are knocking at the door… So he who is “the Way, the Truth and the Life” (Jn 14,6) both corrects and guides and welcomes, and he begins with these words: “Blessed are the poor in spirit”.

The false wisdom of this world, which is really foolishness (1Cor 3,19), gives its opinions without understanding what it is saying. It pronounces blessed “aliens, whose mouths swear false promises while their right hands are filled with perjury” because “their garners are full, affording every kind of store, their sheep increase to myriads, their oxen are fat,” (cf. Ps 144[143]. 7-13). Yet all their wealth is unstable and their peace is no peace (Jer 6,14), their satisfaction is unthinking. To the contrary, the Wisdom of God, Son by nature, the Father’s right hand, mouth that speaks the truth, declares that it is the poor who are blessed, destined to become kings, kings of the eternal Kingdom. It is as if he said: “You are searching for blessedness but it is not to be found where you are looking for it; you run, but off the track. This is the way that leads to happiness: voluntary poverty for my sake, such is the way. The Kingdom of heaven in me: this is blessedness. You are running hard but running badly; the faster you go, the farther you distance yourself from the goal…”

Don’t let us be afraid, my brothers. We are poor; let us listen to the Poor One recommend poverty to the poor. We can put our faith in his experience. Born poor, he lived poor and died poor. He had no wish to enrich himself; yes, he accepted to die. So let us believe in the Truth who shows us the way to life. It is hard but short, whereas blessedness is eternal. The road is constricted but it leads to life (Mt 7,14).

Isaac of Stella (?-c.1171), Cistercian monk
Sermon 1 for All Saints (cf. SC 130, p.93f.)

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