Sunday, November 15, 2015

Blessed are They

Fort Tryon Park, New York City
We've occasionally published posts about the Beatitudes, including a great reflection from Pastor Steve Garnaas-Holmes, an interesting perspective from Rev. Aimee Moiso, an insightful interpretation from Franciscan scholar Ben Baran and a picture of the words of Matthew 5:3-12 at Catedral de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción in Cuernavaca, Mexico.

Rabbi Daniel Polish,  author of the book Bringing the Psalms to Life, refers to the Beatitudes in a reflection in the Jesuit publication America magazine on the topic of finding happiness in the Psalms. The piece, which quotes the writings of English poet John Donne, is the first of a four-part series published by America on the Book of Psalms

Here are some excerpts:
"The first word of Psalm 1—and thus of the entire Book of Psalms—is ashrei, probably the same word that Jesus used in the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-12 and Luke 6:20-22). The translation Donne read renders this word as “blessed.” And thus Donne writes in his sermon:

How plentifully, how abundantly is the word Beatus, Blessed, multiplied in the Booke of Psalmes? Blessed, and Blessed in every Psalme, in every Verse; The Booke seems to be made out of that word Blessed, And the foundation raysed upon that word, Blessed, for it is the first word of the Booke.

Trust in God and happiness seem closely aligned in many of the Psalms. This is the thread Donne might have us find running through the entire book. Indeed we read of ashrei from the beginning of the book to the end: “Happy are all they that take refuge in Him” (Psalm 2:12). And “Happy is the one that hath made the Lord his trust” (Psalm 40:4).

Donne argues that the very character of the book as a whole is suggested in the very first word. And he might well be right. But interestingly, the correct meaning of that first word is really not “blessed” at all, with all of its theological connotations. Today most translators would render ashrei as “happy.”

Read full article by Rabbi Polish

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