This past week at Vespers, there was a poet who spoke about happiness, or makarios, which is usually translated blessed. I didn’t catch the name of the speaker, although I tried hard to figure out who he was, as I was fascinated by his approach and view of scripture. He began with the reading of the Beatitudes, which uses ‘makarios’ in Greek, but instead reading it as “Happy are the poor in spirit…” and on and on. This paints a different picture, because we have baptized and indoctrinated the word ‘blessed’. When I hear or use that word, I specifically think of something being holy, or at least divinely approved.
A couple of weeks ago, I told a friend that I haven’t been able to read scripture. It makes me angry. I want to read it. Even though I really think that despite the validity of God or the Bible, Jesus showed a better way to live, and I want to read about him in the same way I do other people who offered an above average path to life. I cannot read the scriptures without reading the dogmas that have been so ingrained in my head, and those dogmas make me shut down; so I’m having an internal battle with my old self.
Approaching the scriptures the way this poet did allow my mind to be open long enough for me to absorb, connect, and alter my previous assumptions about scripture. I need this space and this approach. Here’s how the Beatitudes go using ‘happy’, and maybe it was just my desire to read scriptures different than normal, or the fact that poets are fantastic at ensuing a response from their audience, but once again, I am dumbstruck at the amazing path that Jesus offered:
Happy are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Happy are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Happy are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
Happy are those who hunger and theirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
Happy are the merciful, for they shall recieve mercy.
Happy are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Happy are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
Happy are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Happy are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.
At Vespers, there are typically quotes dealing with the topic of the evening on the screen, this night it was happiness. The speaker chose to discuss happiness as Jesus offered it up, not how we can achieve happiness for ourselves in our world today, but simply how the great teacher tried to teach the disciples what happiness can be. Several of the quotes that went along with the theme were from Josef Pieper, a Catholic philosopher from Germany, here are two of my favorites:
Everything has become utterly simple—this is the cry of a happy person.
One who is happy steps away from the parceling up of time and into a reposeful Now, in which everything is simultaneous.
A reposeful Now. This is what I have entered into: a reposeful Now. I have stepped away from the ‘parceling up of time’, and happily entered into my Now. Which, I believe, is why happiness has come my way; that and thinking of others and their peace first. For the most part, I no longer need to define my life in chucks on time with neat labels that describe every aspect of my life…instead I accept where I am and feel no regret for the path I’ve been on. I am happy for the religious upbringing that I had, I’m happy that I went to a Christian college and had experiences there which simply don’t exist in the real world, I’m happy that I had my agnostic/atheist phase. I’m happy that I can now read a section of scripture for the first time in almost two years without getting angry. I’m blessed that I am that who I am.
Everything is simultaneous, wonderful and reposeful. Everything is Now, and it is beautiful.