“Beatitude is a possession of all things held to be good,
from which nothing is absent that a good desire may want.
Perhaps the meaning of beatitude may become clearer to us
if it is compared with its opposite. Now the opposite of beatitude is misery.
Misery means being afflicted unwillingly with painful sufferings.” – St. Gregory of Nyssa
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” – Marianne Williamson
The Beatitudes were an ancient Jewish poem constructed with portions from Isaiah, Psalms, Deuteronomy. The OT verses were written to the Jewish audience. The Beatitudes were essentially attempting to make sense of their struggle and pain. And through Jesus the author says that God will make sense of their struggles.
The Beatitudes are an example of what all humans try to do, to make sense of their pain.
In the movie ‘Youth In Revolt’ the main character played by actor Michael Cera tries to find ways to get a girl he likes to like him in return, but he is so unsure of himself that he is convinced he must create an alter-ego. Someone else to be him, but not him.
In this moment, his reality is fractured.
This is what the Beatitudes do, they fracture reality. They peer into the situation at hand and see a better world. An idealised version of itself. This is what happens to the character in the movie, he creates the ultimate ideal to achieve what he thinks he needs to to make himself happy.
The Beatitudes inherently assume that the world we live in could be less self-referential, less ego-driven, and that society could be the antithesis to oppressive behaviour. They seem to assert a new reality where beliefs take a back seat to relationship ethics. It seems the Rabbi who might have spoke such words was defending the possibility of a new kind of world that occur now, not one-day when. To do so, this old era must end of living for ourselves must end.
An End Times must happen in that moment.
The second we make a decision to change the way we treat one another is the second that we deny that the relationships prior to that moment should have happened. The Beatitudes are the belief in something beyond belief. Are the belief in humanity. If I were to use the words of another to help better encapsulate the message of the Beatitudes I would borrow the whole of Marianne Williamson’s quote above which seems to be nothing more than a modernised version of the spirit of the Beatitudes.
The act of creating an alter ego is the inability to confess that the real life person doesn’t have what it takes. Most of our lives we live in a world full of alter-ego’s, we spend our energy projecting ourselves as the world thinks we should be. Our society encourages us that reality is never better than the dream state. Movies with happy endings. Erotically-charged romance novels. All the while in the midst of falsely empowering ourselves we are denying our own existence.
By not being who we are, we displace our very being.
Jesus steps in on the scene and offers a space for everyone to be themselves. In the middle of a narrative infused by Roman oppression, the Jewish people are imparted with a message of existential hope. In the midst of their national angst, the beatitudes become a moment of identification. In these words are the hope that all their pain would one day make sense.
In the midst of their national frustration, Jesus offers a new way to see each other, and doesn’t necessarily deal with all of their struggles head on, but challenges them to relinquish their alter-ego’s. To give up the idea that they need to be someone else. That the way society was wasn’t who they really were; that there was a better society inside of them all waiting to get out, and it was hidden in these words. It’s something more than a collection of poems, in this moment, when these words enter into the Jewish narrative, they become a theme song for a Jewish people who have known oppression first-hand.
The Beatitudes are about accepting the outsider as an insider. Accepting those that religion have marginalized and bring them to the center; the gay; the ethnic minority; the woman;the poor; the child; Its becoming racist to all of those things that create racism. Its becoming divisive towards the very thing that create division. Its become the very antithesis of a society that looks out for itself under the guise of holy rhetoric. The beatitudes are a manifesto on how to live in a society that accepts all people, no matter who they are as equals.
The word for blessed in Hebrew is Asheri. “Now, let’s examine the other word for “blessed”-asheri. This is a word a person would never use to bestow upon YHWH. It’s a word by humans for humans
only. One person can issue an asheri blessing upon another person. You can receive the asheri blessing from another person. It’s one human being blessing another. Other times, I say, “The LORD bless you.” When I say this I can mean only barak-something I cannot nor ever be able to do for you. I cannot give you a barak blessing. Only God does this.”
The Beatitudes are an incredibly powerful opus, they are the belief that humanity has been given the ability to live better.
That hierarchy doesn’t have the last word. That empire will never last. That poverty can disappear. That answers aren’t the last response to our ontological development.
The Beatitudes in and of themselves speak directly to every aspect of the human condition. To hunger. To need. To emotions. To society. Most importantly, to each other. The beatitudes are the belief that we can be better humans if we want to be.