In continuing reflection on the wonderful mystery of “Holy Sorrow” (again with the help of Dietrich von Hildebrand’s Transformation in Christ), Christ tells us “Blessed are they who mourn…” even though we are commanded to “Rejoice always!”
This means that the aspect of our lives in this world which makes it a valley of tears is truly valid, even though not the final truth, “for they shall be comforted:”
To all those who have to suffer on earth—the oppressed and disinherited, the sick and the poor, the lonely, the downcast, the afflicted—this word reveals that the valley of tears is not reality ultimate and definitive. It implies that they are to come into their own in that final home where “God wipes away all tears.”
So we have here a ray of light and hope for those who are deeply touched and affected by the limitations and the evils of this world. Mourning then implies that we ought not to be satisfied with or content with our earthly reality—it is simply not enough for us:
Blessed are, indeed, those who yearn for redemption: who, roused from the slumber of self-contained earthliness, are aware of the disharmony of a fallen world and experience the vestiges of original sin as a heavy burden. Blessed are they whom no earthly happiness can deceive about the essential inadequacy of the present world, whose thirst cannot be quelled by terrestrial goods. They shall be comforted because they long for what only eternal community with God can give them—whereas those who set their hearts on earthly treasures and seek for happiness in an unredeemed world are the truly and ultimately miserable ones.
Mourning is “blessed” because it implies a yearning for union with God and an acknowledgement of our need for Him, our potential for Him, our capacity for Him. This is evidence of the tremendous dignity of each human person, that each individual has this capacity. As Chesterton once remarked, “Man is never taller than when he is on his knees.”
Even for the faithful, for the redeemed, the fact that we are still on the way and not in full possession of our Love is still a source of pain. So St. Paul speaks of “having a desire to be dissolved and to be with Christ.” (Phil. 1:23) For those who love God, such separation—the fact that the fulfillment of our love is still an object of hope—implies suffering, expressed in a painful longing. Yet that very longing is a sign of our love of God and thus has positive significance.
Von Hildebrand concludes that “for one more reason is sorrow a mark of the elect of God…the fact that ‘Love is loved so little.’” Thus, out of love of God, we mourn over our failures and consequent sufferings and over the sufferings of Christ for us in the Redemption. The positive result here is an increasing readiness to bear our cross with Christ—ultimately uniting us to Him and thus leading us toward joy.
Nor must this holy joy over the incarnation of God and our redemption—this bliss which finds its highest expression in the Exsultet of Holy Saturday but pervades the entire Liturgy in unnumerable variations—ever leave us. For the many things that evoke in us a justified sorrow, taken all together, are nothing if contrasted with this blissful reality.
The tissue of the Christian’s life must be interwoven with threads of true joy and the threads of true sorrow alike, because we have not yet arrived at the point “where God shall wipe away all tears.” But it is joy that must have the primacy….