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Reflection Title: 
A Blessed Life
Reflection Content: 

How do we usually think of a good and blessed life? Stability, loving relationships, enough of the worlds’ goods and pleasures, little pain, and plenty of opportunity to flourish and enjoy the gifts of our time and place. Seems obvious, a normal hope and aspiration. But here, in this ancient teaching, it is all turned around. What blesses life is the question, not how can I have a blessed and good life. To be “poor in spirit” without self-preoccupation, “meek” and not arrogant, to “hunger and thirst” for the repair of relationships and the restoration of empathy, to be “merciful” to those who suffer, even those who suffer from their own failings, to have a “pure heart” not divided and playing both ends to the middle, to make peace where strife rules. Doing so, the narrative tells us, often leads to persecution and having others speak falsely of our intentions. Yet we are told it is worthy and blessed to do so, for in and through such response to life, the commonwealth of all creation is called back to itself. 

Story Title: 
Blessed Are . . .
Story Content: 

When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:


“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

“Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God.

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

—Matthew 5:1–12.  

Contemporary Story Title: 
Blessed Are the Poor in Spirit
Contemporary Story Content: 

From the diary of Yevgeny Yevtushenko (born 1932), taken to Moscow when he was ten years old to witness captured German soldiers marched through Red Square:


In ’44 my mother took me back to Moscow.  There I saw the enemy for the first time. If my memory is right, nearly 20,000 German prisoners of war were to be marched in a single column through the streets of Moscow.  

The pavements swarmed with onlookers, cordoned off by soldiers and police.  

The crowd was made up mostly of women—Russian women, with hands chapped and roughened by hard work, lips untouched by lipstick, and thin hunched shoulders which had borne half the burden of the war.  Every one of them must have had a father or a husband, a brother or a son killed by the Germans.  

Full of hatred, the women gazed in the direction from which the column of prisoners was about to appear.  

At last we saw it.

The Nazi generals were marching at the head, their massive chins stuck arrogantly out, the corners of their lips scornfully turned down. Their whole demeanour was meant to show their superiority over their plebeian conquerors.

“The bastards stink of perfume,” a woman in the crowd spat with hatred.

The woman’s work-worn hands were clenched into fists. The soldiers and policemen had all they could do to hold them back. 

Then suddenly something happened to these women. The street became dead silent—the only sound was the shuffling of boots and the thumping of crutches. 

Then I saw an elderly woman in broken-down boots push herself forward and touch a policeman’s shoulder, saying: “Let me through.” There must have been something about her that made him step aside. 

She went up to the column, took from inside her coat something wrapped in a coloured handkerchief and unfolded it. It was a crust of black bread. She pushed it awkwardly into the pocket of a soldier, so exhausted that he was tottering on his feet. And now suddenly from every side women were running towards the soldiers, pushing into their hands bread, cigarettes, whatever they had. 

The soldiers were no longer enemies. 

They were people.

They saw the simple German soldiers, thin, unshaven, covered with dirty bloodstained bandages, hobbling on crutches or leaning on the shoulders of their comrades. And the soldiers walked with their heads down. 

The street became dead silent—the only sound was the shuffling of boots and the thumping of crutches.

The soldiers were no longer enemies.

They were people.

—Yevgeny Yevtushenko, (born 1932). A Precocious Autobiography.

Artwork Title: 
Blessed Gathering
Artwork Content: 

Károly Ferenczy, (1862-1917) was one of the artists who began a dramatic shift towards Modernism. In 1896, he and others founded the artists’ colony in Nagybánya (today Baia Mare, Romania). There the artists lived in the simplicity of the natural world and plumbed the gifts of a new vision we know as the Impressionist school of painting. Ferenczy’s first artwork created in Nagybánya, was Sermon on the Mountain. The title reminds us of the teaching in the Gospel narrative of what the blessed life is composed of. The canvas depicts a group of people, listening. They are surrounded by a gloomy landscape in deep green colors encircled by a dark mountain chain. The people are part of the local world and the artists’ colony, suggesting that the meaning of this narrative was also at work among them. An atmosphere of intimacy weaves the meaning of the Gospel story into the common life. It is as if the artist is telling us that the meaning of the narratives of the life of Jesus Christ are not primarily about an historical incident, but a part of our unfolding life together. Jesus Christ is depicted from the back, and his open hands foretell the crucifixion, where they will soon be pierced and nailed to the cross. 

Question Title: 
In my health is my disease?
Question Content: 


In the desert of the heart,

Let the healing fountain start . . . 

—W. H. Auden, (1907-1973) “In Memory of W.B. Yeats”

The Good Life

Have you ever listened to someone speak about what it means to live the good life? Perhaps they talked about virtue—not the goody two-shoes kind, but virtue in the old sense of the word, not as goodness, but as beauty. Imagine a virtuous clay pot, turned on a wheel a thousand years ago, now with small cracks and marks of use. Have you noticed how the virtuous object is beautiful with its wear and tear, its imperfections and broken-off bits? Such objects, for the ancients, were also called “blessed.” Their beauty included those marks of time and trouble, marks that spoke of a deep integrity. Have you met a person who shows the marks of time? A person, perhaps you, who has entered into the struggles and sorrow of life, and was made whole through the compassion it opened for the suffering of others?

Music Content: 

Tubwayhun layléyn d’khafnin w’ts-héyn [Blessed are those who hunger and thirst]

Musicologist Abraham Zvi Idelsohn (1882–1938) examined the traditional melodies of Hebrew music from Jewish centers throughout the world and found recurring motives and progressions that were not found in any other national music. He posits a common origin for these musical phrases that goes back to first-century Israel and Palestine. Using Idelsohn’s Thesaurus of Hebrew Oriental Melodies, Christopher and Covita Moroney arranged Hebrew motives in the ancient Dorian mode to set this Aramaic text from the Dead Sea Scrolls. 

“Tubwayhun layleyn d’khafnin.” Dead Sea Scrolls, text; arranged by Christopher and Covita Moroney, Ancient Echos: Music from the Time of Jesus and Jerusalem’s Second Temple, SAVAE [San Antonio Vocal Arts Ensemble], World Library Publications 2002. Track 10.


The Beatitudes

“The Beatitudes.” Arvo Pärt, Sanctuary, Choir of King’s College, Cambridge, Stephen Cleobury, conductor, Virgin Classics (1994) 1998. Track 3.


Christmas in the Trenches

This is John McCutcheon’s retelling of the outbreak of peace during World War I called the Christmas Truce of 1914.

“Christmas in the Trenches.” John McCutcheon, Winter Solstice, Rounder Records, 1984. Track 4. 

Image Theme: 
Image Thumbnail: 
Image Summary: 

The Sermon on the Mountain, 1896. Károly Ferenczy, 1862–1917. 

Story Audio: 
Contemporary Story Audio: 

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