The Sermon on the Mount

During the month of December, the spiritual evening from “The Gospel Image of the Christian” series presented the Sermon on the Mount, which is a fulfillment of the Law of Moses: “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill” (Matthew 5:17).

After reciting the Beatitudes, the Lord continues: “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men” (Matthew 5:13); and “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16). When the Lord speaks of salt and light, He refers to His grace, which He came to bring to earth, and of which He wants us to partake. Whoever has the grace of God both has salt and is light. And each of us has met such Christians in our lives, in whom we saw the light, or rather, in their light we saw God, according to the word of the Lord.

Then, in verse 17, the Lord makes the transition to the fulfillment of the law: “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.” That is, to perfect it. The Lord is lenient and gentle but wants us to fulfill the commandments with great seriousness. 

The commandments the Lord says are only five in number, essentially, and the rest only are reinforcements of these. The Lord includes here the essentials that we must follow. 

“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder’… But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment.” Saint Maximus the Confessor explains: “We have chosen material things over the commandment of love and by worrying about them, we wage battle with people. It is fitting, therefore, to put the love of every man above the things seen and the body itself.” And to this commandment, the Lord also provides an example: “If you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.”

“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” That is, not only through deed, but neither with desire/feeling/heart, nor with eyes, nor with thoughts, etc. And He provides us an example, “If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell.” This example shows us with how much “hatred” we must resist the sin of fornication, and “the cutting of the limbs” shows the evil that fornication does in man, it is a mortal sin, that is, a sin that kills the soul. Abba Dorotheus comments, “The Lord has given us commandments that cleanse us from our very passions, from the evil inclinations of our inner man.”

“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform your oaths to the Lord. But I say to you, do not swear at all…” The Lord wants us to be true. He wants us to keep our word so that there is no need for oaths. For He adds, “But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one.” The word is very valuable to God, as He later tells us: “But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment” (Matthew 12:36).

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I tell you not to resist an evil person.” And he gives us some examples: “But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you, do not turn away.” In this spirit, Saint Porphyrios of Kafsokalyvia tells us: “Do not battle with the temptation but raise your hands to God.” Saint Theophylact of Bulgaria comments: “The ‘evil one’ here means the devil, who works through man. We ought not, then, to resist the devil? Yes, we should, but not by striking back at our neighbor, but through patient endurance. For fire is not extinguished by fire but by water. Do not think that the Lord is speaking only of a blow on the cheek, but of any and every other kind of affliction.” 

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven… For you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.” Saint Maximus the Confessor comments: “This is what God commanded to free you from hatred, sorrow, anger and remembrance of evil and to make you worthy of the greatest treasure which is perfect love. For it is impossible for one who does not love all people the same to acquire this.” 

All the Lord’s commandments can be fulfilled if we first want this. Elder Aimilianos of Simonopetra beautifully says, “Whatever man proposes, in that he succeeds!” And Father Zacharias Zacharou urges us, “Let us make the Gospel the law of our being, the law of our life.” Because through fulfilling the commandments, we arrive at what Saint Sophrony Sakharov names to be “the greatest miracle” or the “union of the spirit of Christ with the soul of the man.”