Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Book Review: The Eight Beatitudes by George Chevrot


The Eight Beatitudes - Reflections on the Sermon on the Mount is a title by George Chevrot originally in French (Les Beatitudes) republished here in the Philippines by Sinagtala. Ranking at Top 1 on my best reads, the book is an exposition on the blessings (beatitudines, benedictiones) that mark the opening of the Sermon on the Mount, the very first of Our Lord's sermons in the Gospel of St. Matthew (5:3-10) and of St. Luke (6:22). The book is a great material and resource for meditating and reflecting on the Beatitudes which was also described to be the very self-portrait of Jesus. With a few chapters of introduction to set the context of the exposition, the reader will find himself going over each of the beatitudes in full detail of textual meaning and criticisms.
The name beatitudes ought not to mislead. They are less a promise of happiness than the assurance of God's blessings; and the eulogy they contain cloaks a commandment, the imperative character of which is softened by God's favourable regard to those who obey it.
This is indeed the case with the Beatitudes which open the Sermon on the Mount. The listeners were impatient to know Jesus' messianic programme; the Master was therefore going to promulgate the laws of the kingdom. But instead of enumerating them in the manner of the precepts of the Decalogue, he praised those who observe them, he called on the 'blessed', the fortunate in whom God would reign and on whom he was counting to establish his kingdom on earth.
Later Jesus would enumerate his disciples' duties in detail, but before prescribing what they ought to do,  he declared what they ought to be. The beatitudes describe what would be the characteristics of Christ's disciples. If they had the qualities described by Jesus, they would be whole men and the agents of a better world.
Man's dignity is not to be measured by earthly standards. In making him bring his earthly task to perfection, Christ is helping him reach that greatness which goes beyond the human condition.

Bearing the name of the religious congregation on which became the center of my vocational discernment this past few months, the book has been a big help for me :) And true enough, as missionaries or followers of Christ, instead of asking the Lord on what we must do and what we must have to be his faithful disciple, we must seek first and ask on what we must be - and he will gladly reveal to us the teaching of being, especially of the teaching of that being led.

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