What is envy? St Basil teaches us that “envy is distress caused by your neighbor’s prosperity. The jealous person is never free from anguish, never free from despair.” Is your neighbor successful? Does he drive a nice car, live in a nice house, have an attractive wife and precious children? Is he happy? Is he healthy? Is he wealthy? “All these things feed the illness and increase the pain of the jealous person.” […]
We must be one of the peacemakers. What is peace? Peace is a “loving disposition towards our neighbor.” What is the opposite of this love? The enemy of peace is “hate and wrath, anger and envy, harboring resentment as well as hypocrisy and the calamity of war.”
We are reminded that the Beatitudes in the Sermon on the Plain directly reminds us that not only are the poor in spirit blessed, but also the poor and down and out, and in case we do not comprehend, Jesus in Luke warns us, “woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.” So what is common between to these two Beatitudes and the words of Jesus on the Day of Judgement? St Gregory of Nyssa teaches us, “they all converge on the same goal,” they all show how the Love of God shines in our lives and in how we live our lives, and the love we show to our neighbor. […]
These sermons by St Gregory of Nyssa are cited twice in the Catholic Catechism in its discussion of the Commandment, DO NOT COVET, DO NOT ENVY. St Gregory of Nyssa mentions envy in this Beatitude: “Some people covet glory, or wealth, or prominence. Others lap up envy like some noxious food, and there are others (more holy) who desire things whose nature is good.” He continues, “the Word calls blessed those who hunger not without qualification, but those whose desire is directed toward true justice.”
Those who hunger and thirst for justice need never be filled, the possession of virtue “always offers its disciples the fulness of its delights. Therefore, God the Word promises to those who hunger for these things that they shall be filled, and in being filled their desire for virtue will not be dulled but rather kindled anew.” […]
St Gregory of Nyssa teaches, “Blessed are those who are not easily turned towards the passionate movements of the soul, but who are steadied by reason.” “To boast of riches or to be proud of one’s family, to have regard to fame and to think oneself above one’s neighbor, all these human honors destroy and shame the honor of the soul. No righteous man would thus defile the purity of his soul. When humility is well established, wrath will find no entrance into the soul. If there is no wrath, our life will be in a settled state of peace. This is true meekness.” […]
St Gregory of Nyssa’s collection of sermons on the Beatitudes is quoted twice in the Catholic Catechism’s discussion on the commandment, DO NOT ENVY. At first blush that seems odd, the Beatitudes do not directly mention envy, but when you think of the Beatitudes as positive commands, as encouragements to Love God and our neighbor more deeply, promising blessings to those whose hearts are humble, we realize that the connection between the Beatitudes is quite natural and not odd at all, for the commandment DO NOT envy is also a positive command to see our neighbor in the best light possible, to see our neighbor’s good fortune as our good fortune, to truly love our neighbor as ourselves. […]
The Beatitudes and St Nyssa’s sermons on the Beatitudes are both poetry of the soul. St Nyssa asks us, “Who among us is a disciple of the Word, seeking to ascend with our Lord from the low ground, from superficial and ignoble thoughts to the spiritual mountain of sublime concentration? This mountain leaves behind all shadows cast by the rising hills of wickedness, this mountain is lit up on all sides by the rays of true light, from the summit of this mountain everything that is invisible to those imprisoned in the CAVE may be seen the pure air of truth.” […]
So, the Iliad begins with an enemy camp meeting that went badly, but ends with an enemy camp meeting that went well, reconciling Achilles both to Priam and the death of his best friend Patroclus. But in the middle there is an aborted enemy camp meeting that should have taken place but never did, sealing forever the fate of doomed Troy.
These warrior stories are captivating because they are stories about breaking conventions, when conventions are broken to increase virtue, fate unfolds favorably, but then conventions are broken and virtue decreases, fate takes a tragic turn.
Even in our modern culture we never totally escape the warrior ethos. That is why the Iliad is timeless. Men are not allowed to have problems, especially at work. When men look weak, they are toast. None of us want to walk and talk like Bernard Goetz on a New York subway; we don’t want to walk like a wimp, we don’t want to be thug bait, we strive to never show fear, and if we succeed we can conclude that the big city is really a safe place as we arrive home safe once more. We would rather be dirty Harry; me, Smith, and Wesson. […]