Blessed are those who mourn,
for they shall be comforted.
Mourning is a process of diminishment, a weakening of purpose, the reflexive ache of the human heart traumatised by loss. The death of someone whose life is entwined with ours in friendship, loving commitment or long years of shared experience creates an abyss of loss at the edge of which we tremble.
But there are other deaths - the dying of a loving relationship that is now suffering from a sclerosis of those channels of trust and communication that are the oxygen of of love. The loss of work, when a hoped for career doesn't work out, when redundancy means more than the technical word for being paid off, but takes on a note of fixedness that defines a human being as being superfluous to economic requirements. Illness and the loss of health, the recognition that the human body is so made that it naturally slows down, grows old and gradually loses its powers. The loss of place, when home no longer feels that secure, familiar retreat where welcome, renewal and belonging simply happen because that's what home is.
Comfort is more than the emotional security invested in a 'comfort' blanket. The word is about strength, fortification, en-couragement. But what strengthens and fortifies is the presence of the one who stands alongside, the one who is there for us. There is something to be said for holding on to the now obsolete name of the Paraclete. And even if it needs recovered significance, refreshed meaning, semantic repristination, there are few words that say better what it is that the mourner needs. A Paraclete, someone who is there for us.
The Matthean text uses the divine passive - comofort isn't available on demand from our own resources. It is that which is given, the gift of presence, the accompaniment of one who understands us, and stands under us, upholding with a strength that supplements our own weakness, and with a persitence and constancy that remains despite the changes that loss has made inevitable.
Mourning is the slow process of sorrow adjusting to loss, of reduced vitality and struggling hopes; comfort is the presence of one who is there for us, looks out for us, who enourages us towards a future still possible.The marble relief below is a moving image of the two poles of this beatitude - mourning and comfort, loss and presence, the reality of sorrow and the alternatiuve reality of hope.