ProceduresThe Beatitudes are the evangelic message’s heart, they are commandments to the ones who wish to follow and love Jesus, they are the procedures that the ones who wish to be happy cannot but follow. Mankind will never know any happiness, peace, health, wellbeing, prosperity and true wealth unless it will know and practice the Beatitudes. Wishing to be happy and live in peace on this earth, without knowing and realizing Jesus’ Beatitudes, would be as silly and useless as wanting to cross the ocean with a sailing boat not knowing anything about sailing and navigation. The Beatitudes are the happiness and full joy’s procedures. In the text, the Beatitudes are articulated and introduced by the sound and the meaning of the word makàrios, “happy, blessed”, word that tune each sentence on joy and beatitude. Each of the Beatitude then closes, as between two most bright wings, with chàirete and agalliàsthe, “rejoice and exult”.
Makàrios, “blessed”, is a word that comes from the ancient Greek literature: makarìa was the gods’ own happiness, gods that were represented as being beyond any human worry – work, pains, labours and death itself –, rarely that happiness was attributed to very special human beings. Man, indeed, used another word to describe their own happiness: òlbia. Etymologically, makàrios comes from the root mak – linked to màkros, “long”, and mègas, “wide” – and from the noun chàris, “favour, gift, loving care”, which is in turn connected to the Akkadian base magaru, “grant favours”. Makàrioi therefore means “happy, lucky, favoured because cared by God’s care”.
The biblical man can be blessed/happy only according to one expressive modality: the Hebrew ashrè is the only word used and it is repeated forty five times in the Masoretic Text, meaning both the inner state of the ones who live in integrity, since they are guided by God’s commandments and do not trespass them, avoiding getting angry with God, and the state of the one who is looking for an intimate and loving relationship with Wisdom, which is at the foundation of the divine justice revealed in the Torah. Most of the Beatitudes are present in the Psalms, and when they do not refer to a condition, to circumstances, but to a wish for a future situation, they have the value of a blessing. In the Psalm 128 the difference between beatitude and blessing is explained: the first is a consequence of the second. In The Septuagint – the Greek translation of the Old Testament – the word makàrios is used sixty eight times and it indicates full and surpassing happiness, a state of shalòm, integrity. In the gospel, “blessed” appears fifty times. The etymology of ashrè – the plural construct of èsher, “beatitudes”, meaning wellbeing’s utter fullness – is particularly meaningful because it indicates “moving, walking, towards, move, stand up” – root ’shr, “walking” –, so happiness, beatitudes and movement identify and support each other. In John 13:14-17 beatitude is the washing of the feet: If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another's feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do. Amen, amen, I say to you, no slave is greater than his master nor any messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you understand this, blessed are you if you do it.
Chàirete and agalliàsthe – in the imperative form that signifies necessity, the almost indispensable duty to live those states of mind– express two complementary meanings of joy. The root of chàirein is char, with the exact value of “desiring, loving, having pleasure”, term that in the New Testament is repeated seventy five times.
Agalliào/agàllomai means instead “being full of joy, being happy, exulting, jubilation, rejoicing”, but also “enjoying, posing as a king, a prince, etymologically made up by the combination of àgan, “a lot”, and the verb àllestai, “jumping”. This verb refers to a delighted pride, a joy so full and noble that the person who is living it needs to actually jump so not to explode because of the emotional charge. In the New Testament the verb is present eight times in the middle/passive form and two times in the active form.
It is amazing to imagine, even only for a second, how here Jesus’ word is saying that living according to the Beatitudes guarantees man such a full and powerful joy that it forces him to jump for joy otherwise he would explode for the emotion.
The gospel is the joyful news, it is the book of joy and, if it does not manage to make us jump for joy, it surely means that we are reading it upside down. If, even in pain and in the dark days of persecution, Jesus foresaw, in an imperative way, full and utter joy and jubilation for the ones who believed in Him, what kind of joy should be filling our life, a life that comes from God’s hands into our hands, in this very moment? According to the gospel, according to Jesus, being joyful, being happy, to use a strong image, is a duty, it is the only, true, real duty in life.
There is no doubt: Jesus talks about beatitude, joy, exultation as man’s natural state, as the substance itself of which man is made. The way Jesus proposes the Beatitudes to mankind makes it evident that He does not think they are a proposal, a suggestion, an advice, a guideline, but the essence itself of life. In the Beatitude Jesus confirms what already is, He reveals what has already been established, He shows how the way everything works has been arranged, revealing how everything has already been determined and defined in its very essence.
From the way in which Jesus reveals the Beatitudes mankind clearly guesses that He, in that moment, was not only listing, enumerating some truths, but also revealing what He was radiantly contemplating in His heart and inner eye. Jesus’ inner eye, Jesus’ very heart, is constantly set on the Beatitudes, because the Beatitudes are the way God loves, they are part of God’s heart, they are the way God’s love is realized. Jesus, defining Himself, uses the Beatitudes’ words: learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart (Matthew 11:29).
When he saw the crowds, he went up the mountain, and after he had sat down, his disciples came to him, and He started revealing the Beatitudes, He gave voice and sound to what His heart and His inner eye were contemplating in His Father’s peace and love. In the Beatitudes Jesus reveals that God’s power gives birth, establishes, plans and supports everything in joy and for the sake of joy. He reveals that God is nothing but joy, and that where God is, joy is there, and where there is joy, there God is.
Euangèlion, gospel, means joyful news, joy’s message, certainly because it contains the procedures for man’s joy, reason why it was revealed and announced to humanity, but also because joy is its very essence and the Beatitudes are its beating heart.