Ah the joys and the challenges of being from the American South! One of the greatest benefits is the versatile, catch all, phrase “Bless his heart.” When you hear this from a Southerner, your work isn’t done. It isn’t enough to hear this phrase, you must parse it correctly. Said in a certain context, it is a genuine prayer. Other times, it is used to “baptize” gossip. Miss the context and you just may walk away misunderstanding what you’ve just heard!
Frankly, we use the word “bless” so much I’m convinced many of us simply have lost it’s true meaning! What does it mean to “bless” and “be blessed?”
I’ll offer a definition by telling a story. When I was in seminary in Boston, we were honored to have two precious monks from Greece taking classes with us. One day, one of the monks came to me and asked if I could take him and his fellow monk to the Boston Airport, and I eagerly agreed, thrilled I could serve these dear friends in this way. I took the monks to the airport, and, while I was helping one monk get his bags out of the car, the other monk was putting a $20 bill on my driver’s seat. I said my goodbyes to my friends, I walked back to my car and saw the money. I was immediately ashamed to receive from these men who had shared so much spiritual treasures with me, so I grabbed the bill and ran after them, begging them, with tears, to take it back. One of the monks looked at me and took me by the shoulders and repeatedly said “Evlogite, Evlogite!” It means “It is a blessing!” He told me in no uncertain terms that I was to receive this as a blessing! Indeed!
Look at Luke 6:17-23:
At that time, Jesus stood on a level place, with a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea and Jerusalem and the seacoast of Tyre and Sidon, who came to hear him and to be healed of their diseases; and those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured. And all the crowd sought to touch him, for power came forth from him and healed them all. And he lifted up his eyes on His disciples, and said: “Blessed are you poor, for yours is the Kingdom of God. Blessed are you that hunger now, for you shall be satisfied. Blessed are you that weep now, for you shall laugh. Blessed are you when men hate you, and when they exclude you and revile you, and cast out your name as evil, on account of the Son of man! Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven.”
The Lord’s constant compassion for the crowds around Him reveals the true meaning of “being blessed.” The crowd is desperate, hurting, suffering, and they all press in to touch Him. Why? Because “power” comes from Him. That’s why. And what does that power do? It heals. It cures. It makes whole! But then the Lord turns all this suffering on it’s head by saying that the Poor are blessed. The Hungry are blessed. The Weeping are blessed. The Hated are blessed. And the reason for this state of blessedness? These situations are temporary! But these very situations drew you to the only One Who could change these sad circumstances into “blessedness!” Your pain drew you to Him! That is a blessing!
Today, are you focused on your pain, your fear, or your circumstances? If you are, I bet you don’t consider yourself blessed. But, if your circumstances are drawing you to Christ, to His Church, then even your pain is a blessing, because when you are with Him, you can clearly see the weakness and temporariness of your difficulties. With that blessed perspective, you will know what it means to be Orthodox on Purpose!
P.S. Did you miss our conversation last night on Faith Encouraged LIVE? What an honor to have one of my favorite professors from seminary, Dr. Kyriaki Fitzgerald, as my special guest to help us understand the wonderful Orthodox theology of Theosis! Go to AncientFaith.com and you can hear the show recorded!