Old Testament Commandments (Law)
vs.
New Testament Beatitudes (Love)


Moses receives the Ten Commandments from Yahweh -
by ROSSELLI, Cosimo -
from Cappella Sistina, Vatican
(Click Image to Enlarge)


In the Ten Commandments it was Moses the Prophet who received the Decalogue from Yahweh. Remember the Thunder, the Lightening, the Celestial Phenomena put on by God to impress the Jewish people of what was happening on the Mountain between Moses and Yahweh.


Jesus delivers the Eight Beatitudes (Sermon on the Mount) -
by ROSSELLI, Cosimo -
from Cappella Sistina, Vatican
(Click Image to Enlarge)


The Beatitudes however were given by no Prophet. They were given by God Himself Who became Man. There was no human person as intermediary. It was God Himself Who gave us the Beatitudes. The Beatitudes were given to the Human Race which was about to be Redeemed by the Passion and Death of Christ.

 

Keep in mind that Jesus insisted that He had not come to abolish the Law of the Prophets, on the contrary, He came to fulfill. We ask ourselves how are the Beatitudes the fulfillment of the Ten Commandments? Both the Commandments and the Beatitudes were given to us by God, therefore they are not constructs of Human Reason. They are Divinely Revealed Manifestations of the Will of God.

 

Old Testament Commandments (Law)
vs.
New Testament Beatitudes (Love)


by Father John A. Hardon, S.J.

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Beatitudes: The New Testament 'Decalogue'

In the history of Christian Spirituality the Eight (8) Beatitudes have been regularly associated with the Ten (10) Commandments. Saints and Scholars have analyzed the Commandments in contrast with the Beatitudes. By now there are many learned and useful writings on the subject -- Volumes in fact.

To be noted is that Christ gave the Beatitudes to His Own Disciples selectively. They in turn having received the Beatitudes, were to teach them to others. This is exactly what Yahweh did on Mount Sinai. He chose Moses, the Leader of the Chosen People, who in-turn was to give the Tablets of the Law to the Jews.

 

Similarity Between the Commandments and the Beatitudes

First I would like to have us reflect on the Similarity between the Commandments and the Beatitudes. As we know over the Centuries, indeed, from the Dawn of Human History, God has given what we call Revelation to the Human Race. There are Two (2) Reasons -- to reveal to us Who He is, and to reveal to us What He Wants (Wills). Both the Commandments and the Beatitudes are Divine Revelations of what God Wants (Wills).

Secondly both the Commandments and the Beatitudes are Enunciated, indeed Enumerated. God is the Great Mathematician. God counts things; all the number-of-Numbers revealed in the Bible. Three (3) of this, Seven (7) of that, Forty (40) of something else, and Twelve (12) of something still else. And here, Ten (10) of One and Eight (8) of the Other -- in other words, both the Commandments and the Beatitudes have a Specific Number of Directives. That is crucial. Numbering things distinguishes one-thing from another and the essence of clarity is distinctiveness. God wanted to be clear, very-clear when He gave Moses the Decalogue. Christ wanted to be very clear, and in fact so clear that He began each Beatitude with well, with only One (1) Correct Translation (Blessed are they who).

Third both the Commandments and the Beatitudes are Specific. They are not Generic Directives like do good and avoid evil. Thanks Lord. What Good should I do - what Evil must I avoid? God is never Generic.

Fourth both the Commandments and the Beatitudes were given to the Chosen People. The Jews of the Old Testament and the Christians in the New Testament. Needless to say neither all the Jews of the Old Testament, nor all the Christians of the New Testament, appreciate God's Will, selectively choosing certain people. Thanks Lord, Thanks!

Fifth, both the Commandments and the Beatitudes Synthesize the Essential Expectations by God of the Two (2) Chosen People. And finally both the Commandments and the Beatitudes are Imperatives. They are not Ten (10) Suggestions or even Ten (10) Options. They are Ten (10) Commandments. No doubt we commonly speak of the Decalogue as the Ten (10) Commandments and call the Eight (8) Promises of Happiness the Beatitudes. But the Beatitudes, no-less-than the Commandments, are Preceptive. On whom? On the People-of-God, before Christ, and on the People-of-God, after Christ. So much for the Similarity.

Now the Differences.

 

Differences Between the Commandments and the Beatitudes

In the Ten (10) Commandments it was Moses, the Prophet, who received the Decalogue from Yahweh and remember the Thunder, the Lightening, the Celestial Phenomena put-on by God to impress the Jewish People of what was happening on the Mountain between Moses and Yahweh. The Beatitudes however were given by no Prophet. They were given by God Himself Who became Man. There was no Human Person as Intermediary. It was God Himself Who gave us the Beatitudes. As Saint Paul says in the opening verses of his Letter to the Hebrews. God in certain times and in diverse manners spoke in times past to the Fathers by the Prophets. Last of all, in these days, He has spoken to us by His Son.

What a Difference, Christ Himself, the Incarnation of the Beatitudes. He personally gave us the Beatitudes and remember through those who in-turn, Believing and Living the Beatitudes, would pass Them on to others. Get those Two (2) words believing in and living the Beatitudes. Nobody else is able to do it. You might believe and you must put your Faith into practice and then Ten-Thousand ears can be opened to listen to what you are saying, but not a Single (1) Heart will be opened to live what you are telling them unless you yourself believe and live what you are preaching to others. And nobody cheats here.

We go on, remember, reflecting on the Differences. Moreover Christ lived the Beatitudes. Unlike the precepts of the Old Testament which were directed to Human Beings who could Sin, we can-not-say, we dare-not-say that God Himself lived the Ten (10) Commandments. It doesn't make sense. God can not Sin. God became Man, then He gave us the Beatitudes. It was what He Himself was living, He Who could not Sin. There is a profound sense in which we can say the Beatitudes build-on the Commandments, the Beatitudes presume the observance-of the Commandments.

We go on again, contrasting the Beatitudes with the Decalogue. The Beatitudes were given to the Human Race which was about-to-be Redeemed by the Passion and Death of Christ. The Commandments were given Centuries before the actual Redemption. Thus the Beatitudes built and build-on the Treasury of Graces, which Christ had to win for the Human Family by His Own Death on Calvary. If I were to distinguish between what we call Theologically, Evangelical Precepts and Evangelical Councils, I would say Evangelical Precepts are the Ten (10) Commandments elevated indeed and Sublimated by Christ Himself. But They are still the Ten (10) Commandments binding under Pain of Sin. Whereas the Beatitudes belong Theologically speaking, to the Evangelical Councils. One of the great statements of the Second Vatican Council was to define Religious Life as a lifetime commitment to living the Beatitudes. We need that. In other words a Lifetime self-commitment under the impulse of Divine Grace to go beyond what we are Commanded under Pain of Sin where the motive is no longer as it should be, the Fear of God's Punishments, but rather a Deep Love for the God Who became Man out of Love for me; Who lived the Beatitudes and dare I say, and Died, because He practiced the Beatitudes.

We continue. Remember we are reflecting on the Differences. The Beatitudes therefore are Expectations that Christ could make to those Promises if you wish, who believe in Him, for which the Human Race was not prepared when Moses first received the Decalogue on Mount Sinai.

God is not unjust; and neither places Demands nor makes Expectations of people unless, and should I add, until they have the means for living-up-to God's Demands and Expectations. In the Old Testament at the time of Moses, the then Chosen People did not have the means of living-up-to, but Centuries later God had to become Man to provide the means of living-up-to what we now casually call the Beatitudes.

We're still on the Differences. The Beatitudes are specific Covenants, as you may call them, between Christ and His Followers. He promises Happiness on Eight (8) different Conditions; provided we fulfill these Conditions, our Happiness is assured. Christianity is all about Happiness. That's the New Covenant. Christ promises Happiness, but not on these Worldly Terms. Thus we are comparing the Commandments with the Beatitudes. The Happiness promised in the Beatitudes is Supernatural in Five (5) Ways. It's Happiness all right, but it is Supernatural Happiness, Super Earthly Happiness, Superhuman Happiness, Superhumanly Possible Happiness.

 

Supernatural Happiness Promised in the Beatitudes

Human Being/Person
(A Unity (1) of Body and Soul)

Natural
Body
(Subordinate-Partner)

Natural
Soul
(Dominant Partner)

Supernatural Grace/Infused Virtues and Gifts of the Holy Spirit

The Supernatural Order is the Ensemble of Effects exceeding the Powers of the Created Universe and Gratuitously produced directly by God for the purpose of raising the Rational Creature above its Natural Sphere to a God-like Life and Destiny.

 

How First? It is Supernatural (i.e. produced-by-God) and underline Supernatural Happiness because it was revealed as Eight (8) Mysteries of our Faith. Of course the Trinity is a Mystery, of course the Incarnation is a strict Mystery. Surely the Real Presence is a Mystery. They are Mysteries for the Mind. Oh, but they are also Mysteries for the Will – the Mind believing that provided we fulfill our part of Christ's Covenant, we will receive a Happiness that surpasses all Rational Comprehension. It just does not make Aristotelian or Platonic sense to say Happy are they who mourn. It doesn’t make sense humanly speaking, I have to use the language, it's nonsense.

We go on. The Happiness that Christ promises in the Beatitudes is Supernatural because the Beatitudes require Superhuman Light and Strength to observe. We can read the Beatitudes. You can read it all and if you are a learned Theologian you can even explain them or write books about the Beatitudes.

But you will never experience the Happiness unless you have had access-to that Supernatural Light and Strength, in other words, Divine Grace. And therefore the Beatitudes are just impossible without getting the Grace in the Three (3) basic ways that we get Grace.

How do we get Grace?

By Praying for Grace,
by receiving the Sacraments,
and in many ways the hardest, by cooperating with Graces we've received.

I Pray for the Graces I need tomorrow, and I sure need them, but God is giving me Graces today and I ignore them. Sorry my dear, sorry, I was going to give you those Graces tomorrow provided you would cooperate with the Graces I gave you today.

How then is the Happiness Supernatural, promised in the Beatitudes? Because the Happiness they promise is not the Happiness that comes either from Nature or is experienced in our Nature. There is an Ocean of Theology behind that statement. We have desires, and desires from the most Sublime to the Lowest. And all happiness – my prior definition is the Satisfaction of One's Desire. But the Beatitudes do not promise the Satisfaction, to say the least, of all our Desires, indeed they do not even promise the Satisfaction of our Natural Desires, as legitimate as they can be.

In other words, the Joy assured from living the Beatitudes comes directly-from God and is to be experienced in the Soul, indeed even to the Body, but in a Person who is animated by the Grace of God.

We continue. The Happiness promised from the Beatitudes is Supernatural because it will not be Fully-Satisfied here-on-Earth, but only in Eternity.

And just-for-the-record, to live-out the Beatitudes does give us the promise of Happiness already on Earth, but that Happiness here on Earth is mainly the Happiness of Hope. The Happiness of the Confident Desire that everything God promised, He will give us. To use a very homey comparison. The joy that students, how well I know, have anticipating a Holiday. They are happy long-before the Holiday, just thinking, dreaming, about what that Holiday will give them. But this is no dream.

Finally the Happiness assured us by the Beatitudes is Supernatural because it is Conjoined with Opposition and Persecution from a World that does not accept Christ. Whatever else the Beatitudes should teach us, it is that Two (2) Words, by Divine Revelation, belong together; and they are Joy and Pain. That Pain and Joy are not incompatible. I can experience the Pain, especially say of Abandonment or Rejection or Open Opposition from those who do not believe in Christ; and-yet, and-listen, and Christ saved the hardest Beatitude for last: Blessed are you when people persecute you, calumniate you, say all manner of evil against you for My sake. And the Original Greek Version of Saint Matthew allows us to say, rejoice and dance for joy because your reward in Heaven is great.

No Pain . . . . . . No Gain
No
Guts . . . . . . No Glory
No
Cross . . . . . No
Crown

I'm not finished.

 

Law and Love

A Law and Love. If we were to give a name to the Decalogue in One (1) Word it would be Law. If we were to give a name in One (1) Word to the Beatitudes we could say Love. However we better be sure that these Two (2), Law and Love are seen as not only not-incompatible, on the contrary, the One is an expression of the Other. What the Beatitudes do, therefore, is to bring-out what is only implied in the Ten (10) Commandments. What is it? That the Laws of God are so many Manifestations of His Love. We commonly, but I would say incorrectly, think of a Commandment as something we do not like to do, but ordered to obey under Penalty of Suffering if we Disobey. I've seen it. A mother tells her boy to do something. He stands up, "do I have to do it"? "Yes, Johnny" as I've heard more-than-once from my mother, "you have to do it".

The Beatitudes, on the other hand, are so many Divine Assurances of Happiness from a Loving God. Certainly we have to cooperate with His Will. Yes, we must submit our Selfish Desires for what we-want, to His All-Wise Demands corresponding to what we-really-need. But as Beatitudes, they are not so much Demands or Commands as Loving Invitations from I repeat, a Loving God. God gains nothing from our doing His Will, nothing. All the gain is ours. To Love someone is to share what I have with the one I claim to Love. In the Beatitudes, Christ is giving us a share in His Own Divine Happiness, both here and hereafter. All we have to do is follow His Example. Everyone wants to be happy – the universal desire of the human Heart. Yet so many people are not only Unhappy, but Sad, Discouraged, Despairing. Shall we call them Civilized countries? There are countries that now legalize Suicide. And our nation is pushing, shoving, and the one state being mainly used is Michigan, to legalize Suicide. Why? So many people are Unhappy. As the Pagan Philosopher Seneca wrote, the greatest freedom that man has is the freedom to take his own life.

Thanks Seneca, thanks.

Back to our subject. Everyone wants to be happy, yet so many people are unhappy. It cannot be because they do not want Happiness. It can only be either because they do not know how to be Truly Happy or they may know all-right, but they are unwilling to pay-the-price. There is no greater lesson we can learn ourselves or teach others, none than the lesson we have learned ourselves. The Happiness promised us by Christ in the Beatitudes is the Joy of doing the Will of God. This is the only True Joy here on Earth, as it is the only True Promise of Perfect Joy in the World to come. If I were to identify False Joy, the Joy promised us by the World, it is the happiness that comes from doing your Own-Will. And conversely true, Joy taught by Christ and enshrined in the Beatitudes comes only and in-the-measure that we are doing the Will of God.

 

Comparison Recap (Similarities and Differences)

Ten Commandments -
(Old Testament)

Eight Beatitudes -
(New Testament)

Given to the Chosen People -
(Jewish People)

Given to the Chosen People -
(You and me)

Given by God/Divine Revelation -
(Yahweh)

Given by God/Divine Revelation -
(Jesus Christ)

Characterized by Law -
(Basis of the Law of Moses and the Prophets)

Characterized by Love -
(Jesus 'lived' the Beatitudes)

Joy comes from doing the Will of God

Joy comes from doing the Will of God

Human Race was not prepared for the Beatitudes when Moses first received the Decalogue on
Mount Sinai.

Beatitudes are powered by the Treasures of Heavenly Grace Merited by the Passion and Death of Jesus Christ

Directed to Human Beings, who could Sin -
Decalogue is the bare-minimum for Salvation.

Jesus, Who could not Sin, 'lived' the Beatitudes -
Beatitudes are the Ultimate means of Salvation.

Evangelical Precepts (Demands) -
Binding under the Pain of Sin

Evangelical Councils (Expectations) -
Self-imposed under the Impulse of Divine Grace

 

As followers of Christ the Beatitudes are not an option, they are a Divinely Ordained obligation. Having received the Grace of the Supernatural Life in Baptism, we have been given the strength to live the Beatitudes and in Luke’s Gospel, quoting our Lord, Woe to us, woe to us, if we do not live the Beatitudes.

 

Prayer

Lord Jesus, you want us to have a foretaste of Heaven here on Earth.
Protect us from the folly of thinking we shall be happy in doing our own will.
Teach us to believe, really believe what You said,

'Abide in My Love. If you keep My Commandment you will abide in My Love
as I also have kept My Father's Commandments and abide in His Love.
These things I have spoken to you, that My Joy may be in you
and that your joy may be made full'.

Amen.