Regenerations/11 - We all go through suffering and can rise again
by Luigino Bruni
published in Avvenire on 11/10/2015
“Then shall the young women rejoice in the dance,
and the young men and the old shall be merry.
I will turn their mourning into joy;
I will comfort them, and give them gladness for sorrow."
The happiness promised by the Beatitudes is not the one promoted and promised by our culture. It has little to do with pleasure, it is not the good (eu) daemon (daimon), it blooms from pain. We can also get pleasure from the things of life if the pursuit of pleasure does not become the only thing in life. Because if we confuse happiness with pleasure we end up having neither the one nor the other.
The Beatitudes are a 'way of life', they are another already. They are a concrete proposal and a judgement about our justice and injustice, about our embraces and walls, about our indifference and our consolations. Those who believe the truth of the Beatitudes enter into the very concrete world of those who can see the poor, the meek and the pure, and call them blessed. And then they want to live in their Kingdom.
The blessedness of the afflicted, the happiness of those who are crying seem the most paradoxical, that of the last day, not that of our penultimate days. What happiness can there be in tears? Crying in the Bible is not crying with tears of joy or with the false ones produced for profit on TV talk shows. They are the tears of the afflicted, the desperate cry of mourning, separations, failures, those fallen for the children who make mistakes and do not come home, those that fall when we fail to prevent a brother or a close friend to throw their lives away. Those of the wars, for the many poor crushed and oppressed, for those who lose their jobs, for betrayals. But they are also the tears of repentance and forgiveness, those of pain for our own conversion and that of others. Those of happiness are all very serious tears. In the Bible the experience of crying is often encountered. Even the patriarchs and kings shed tears, and Job, too. Jesus weeps for his friend who died, for Jerusalem, and that perhaps his final cry of abandonment was also a cry of tears. The Psalms are full of fruitful tears.
Tears are the first language of human beings. We can speak very different languages, believe in different gods, have many customs and cultures that are very distant from one another; however, all of us understand the language of tears, we all know how to decipher it immediately. Men, women, peoples always started to get to know each other through crying and during the work with migrants, when John did not understand the language of Sergey but could comfort him when he saw him cry looking at the crumpled photo of his children and wife left behind. Lapo did not understand almost anything of what Carmel was saying, but the tears of both of them were falling in the trenches and as they were conversing they understood each other perfectly.
Not all of us are persecuted for righteousness' sake, not all of us are meek, but we all cry. The beatitude of those who cry is a universal promise that reaches all human beings in their most essential, radical, vulnerable and naked form. It applies to all human beings: women and men, the elderly and the young boys and girls. Calling those who are mourn blessed, Jesus made all men and all women of human history and the earth blessed. We enter the world crying, and silent crying is often our last word before we leave. As Job teaches us, even animals, trees, the earth and the worms can cry. There are more tears than those of humans in this world. There exists a suffering of nature, a painful wait for consolation, a cry of creation. When we manage to hear some of its echo, we gain access to a deeper dimension of life, we discover a cosmic brotherhood, and we sing another Laudato Si’ together with Francis - yesterday and today. And there emerges the need to see consolation for human beings arrive, but also for the land that's been humiliated and offended, for the animals that have not been respected and were crushed, for the species that die day by day. We feel that there must be a consolation of tears in the world, that there must come a comforter, a redeemer, a Goel. We all become fully human when we begin to suffer from the non-arrival of these consolations - it is a suffering that once begun never ends and grows with us.
The blessing that lies within crying is called consolation: "They shall be comforted." The Greek word that we translate as 'consolation' is parakaleo, indicating the figure that stands close to the victim, like a lawyer, to defend them from their accuser. So this beatitude consists in having an experience of the arrival of consolation. In discovering a real presence that comforts us while we mourn. And with the arrival of consolation we stop crying, or cry in a different way. In this beatitude, unlike the others, happiness lies in changing the state that generates the beatitude. The meek, the merciful, the peacemakers, the poor, the persecuted and those who thirst for justice - they all remain in that condition when the promise is fulfilled. We do not stop being poor because we are in the Kingdom of heaven, we don't cease to be merciful when we encounter mercy, we don't stop building peace when one day we hear being called "children of God". But when in our tears and despair we reach consolation, the crying decreases, changes tone and tears start being dried up.
We all know the beatitudes inside tears. They are recorded in the moral DNA of human beings. The yoke of life would be unbearable if inside tears we did not find consolation, too.
A first consolation can be encountered in the experience of being able to cry. Inconsolable suffering is when one can no longer (or not yet) cry. Many instances of deep regret, for example, start with deep and uncontrollable crying. It is a different way of crying that we can only get to know when it arrives, in its typical pain and beatitude. When the time of repentance and 'returning home' arrives, the first step is almost always crying bitterly - each on their own way, all similarly and all differently. It is a blessed way of crying, the beginning of a new life. While we cry we feel that we are called blessed: "They were tears of happiness born of the moral awakening dormant in him for many years" (L. Tolstoy, Resurrection). Before 'getting up' to 'return' to his father, the prodigal son had already begun his return by a great weeping. From inside hell there opens a glimpse to paradise, and the possibility of being able to finally reach it is already paradise. The road home is already home.
These tears are all and only beatitude, regeneration. They are extremely painful and salvific, terrible and wonderful at the same time. Afflicted and blessed. This crying becomes a means of discovery and knowledge of the deeper dimensions of life. If you want to really know someone, meet them and listen to them while they cry because of repentance, forgiveness or a conversion. Great instances of forgiveness, especially between brothers and between friends, are accomplished while crying together in endless and timeless embraces: "So Joseph said to his brothers, “Come near to me, please.” And they came near. And he said, “I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt..." (...) Then he fell upon his brother Benjamin's neck and wept, and Benjamin wept upon his neck. And he kissed all his brothers and wept upon them. (Genesis 45:4-15)
There is another form of consolation-beatitude. It's the one that comes from being able to cry with someone who accompanies our pain. Co-crying, or co-suffering is a special form of happiness. Sharing in the pain and joining in the tears with a friend is the only happiness in life for many whose pain and tears are their only 'bread'. In these afflictions consolation comes with the real face of a friend who bends down to our pain. If there are too many afflictions that are not blessed it is also because they lack comforters, friends who are able to cry with us. In the instances of crying without consolation that abound around us there are too many absconding comforters. So many tears could be comforted and dried up, depressions accompanied, loneliness filled, if we could only see ourselves in the role of comforters and not in that of those who are waiting for consolation. I am the one who is missing from too much unconsoled pain of the world. Each beatitude is also an invitation directly to us, to you, to me. The first promised land is that of my house that I share with those who do not have it, the first consolation of the weeping other is my compassionate crying.
One special consolation that's also full of mystery is that of poetry, literature and art. The poet, the writer, the painter, through his or her work can reach the desperate ones of the earth, and console them by creating them. They become a neighbour, a fellow traveller, and so they make them blessed. In the greatest stories there is no need for a happy ending because despair seen and 'touched' by the artist is already happiness. Art gives us these beatitudes, too.
But there is still another consolation of the afflicted. It is that which comes as a 'angel'. Here there is no friend to comfort us. It is the Paraclete, which comes as the 'father of the poor'. It is wonderful that in the Bible the first angel comes to earth to comfort Hagar, a slave driven out into the wilderness by her mistress. The first theophany and the first annunciation both happen for her (Genesis 16). Annunciations, theophanies, the salvation of a child often happen at the height of great afflictions, when an angel comes to us where we could no longer reach, and comforts us. It is the consolation of the Spirit, the comforting Paraclete, it helps us rise again while we are dying on our cross. It is the perfect consoler, it is warms and straightens us out, it bathes us. If we are able to get up every morning when the night before we thought of not making it anymore, it is because the Paraclete is at work, and it kisses the wound of our souls while we are still asleep and dreaming, and heals them all. Not all of us know, or want, to experience God. But many, perhaps all of us have met at least once in our life this comforting spirit, or will meet it in a future instance of crying. It's a promise. "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted."
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