Sometimes my fellow Scripture scholars get a bit carried away with the description of where Jesus spoke the beatitudes. Was it a mountain? Was is a field? My question is this: why can’t you have a field on a mountain? Those who know anything about the mountains know that there are very often fields on mountains. Perhaps they are consummate city slickers! Pictured is the traditional site of the beatitudes, both a field and a mountain: Just look how high you are up in perspecitve in this picture. Rather breathtaking, isn’t it?
In Greek, the word we translate as blessed refers to a transcendent happiness, a spiritual joy, nothing ephemeral or transient about this blessedness. It is enduring, through thick and thin, right through death, from our turbulent lives on this earth right to eternal rejoicing in heaven in the next life.
In the first part of this sentence, in Greek, the main clause, there is no verb, or rather we have an understood verb in the present tense. “Blessed are the poor in spirit…”
The dependent clause — “for theirs is the kingdom of the heavens” — is also in the present tense.
The plural “heavens” is a way of speaking of the singular heaven with, however, all of its various aspects. There are millennia of tradition behind this. Saint Paul also speaks of various levels of heaven, being caught up in them.
The word used for “poor” in Greek refers to a poverty which is total, utter desitution, in which one is entirely dependent on others. Of oneself, one is worthless, powerless, nothing.
Just stare at all that for a while.
First of all, how can anyone who is so poor, especially in spirit (how terribly, horrifically ghastly and dark!) be presently experiencing transcendent joy?
Second of all, isn’t heaven in like… you know… heaven? How is it that the eternal joy of heaven, the whole kingdom of heaven, mind you, which is most rich as opposed to poor, be available to those upon this earth, to us who are in the viator, or wayfarer state? Are not things different in heaven than on earth? Isn’t our hope that things in heaven are different than they are here on earth?
Knowing who we are before God, how dependent we are on Him because of the consequences of original and personal sin, is not a bad thing. Rather, it opens us up to the vast, eternal treasures of the mercy and love of God for us, who takes us to Himself if we follow up with His grace, also by His grace, to be in a state of humble thanksgiving before Him. This humble thanksgiving is the state of those who are in heaven. Of course, they are without the weaknesses we justly bear on this earth because of original and personal sin (this being our cross Jesus commanded us to carry, so as to look to Him all the more honestly). Sharing in this eternal joy already on this earth is surely one of the levels, if you will, of heaven, that we can already participate in here on earth.
The way to do this? The best way is regular confession. Do you want transcendent joy that no one can take from you, no matter what? Go to confession regularly. Blessed are you if you do. Truly. Jesus truly is good. Jesus truly is kind.