Blessed are those who mourn

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. ~Matthew 5:4, NRSV

One of the Lenten commitments I made to God and myself is to make praying the Daily Office a daily habit. I love the structure and rhythm of daily prayer, but like so many I find it difficult to actually build up that spiritual muscle. So this season, I broke out my copy of Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals by Shane Claiborne and the associated app (available on Google Play and Apple Store, friends!).

I’ll write another post on praying the hours in general. Today, I want to reflect on part of the midday prayer. Common Prayer offers a single midday prayer. Having one prayer repeated each day creates a rhythm and familiarity to draw one deeper into prayer. One of the responsive readings is from Matthew 5, the part we know as the Beatitudes: Blessed are you who… You know the one.

When I preached on the Beatitudes last month, I paid special attention to meekness. Meekness is not weakness, but an intentional decision to not return harm for harm. So as I pored over the text today, I was thinking of intention as my eyes danced over “Blessed are those who mourn…”

In a piece published on the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (T.A.P.S.) Web site, Alan Wolfelt calls mourning “grief gone public.” It is an outward sign of an inward suffering, to echo our language of sacrament. It is the expression of our broken hearts to a listening world, a listening God. And Jesus’ blessing here is that when we mourn, when we express our grief, we will find comfort.

We may understand mourning, then, as an act with intention, intentional grief-sharing. Yet we limit what we consider to be acceptable mourning, both in its expression and its occasion. Grief makes humanity uncomfortable, so we try so hard to close it down when it visits us as mourning. “Please don’t cry,” we say, or we offer empty platitudes. Worse, if we are the ones grieving then we guilt ourselves until we push that grief right back into a little box.

Blessed are those who mourn. God’s grace is available to each of us in our grief. The blessing lies in letting that grief meet the fresh air and the light of day. Mourning need not be restricted by occasion, time, or any other human constraint. There is plenty that causes grief in the world, and blessed are those who don’t try to hide it.

There is another blessing, and challenge, of intentional mourning. We who receive grief are empowered to offer comfort and grace–simply by offering the space for grief to flow. We need not shut down the mourner by forcing out shallow words or overly simple answers to the complex mysteries of life and the universe. We can just be. Presence is the blessing. And we, in turn, will also find comfort when we allow ourselves to mourn.

There are many sources of grief, personal and communal. I pray that we might grant one another our presence and space to mourn; and, in return, that we might encounter the grace of passing our own grief into loving hands.