I am working on a book that will be listed only in a library of non-existent volumes -- like Borges' Library of Babel.
My book will be a genially corrective response to Robert Schuller's snappy exposition of the Sermon on the Mount: the infamous The Be Happy Attitudes.
I imagine that I will devote a chapter to each one of the Beatitudes. I rather think that most of them will involve some experience of unhappiness -- at least, the inversion of some of the values espoused from the crystal cathedral ambo.
The Beatitudes are modernly ill used.
I mention this only because cross-bearing seems to be the pre-requisite for experiencing the blessedness inherent in each of the particular "gift exchanges" described by the Lord. When you mourn, in the sacrifice of ego for forgiveness, or for the sake of prayer for your neighbor who's been beaten by existential bandits -- then in solidarity with the Orthodox Christ, you will be comforted.
That is only one example. I plan to go on and on and on.
The volume will be dyspeptic and interminably discursive, tangential. Almost as disorderly extended (distended?) as The Infinite Jest (which I happen to like). It will be, despite its non-availability, the very first post-modern fundamentalistic commentary on the Sermon on the Mount.
But take, for another example, the exchange entitled: "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness."
It seems that "righteousness" must mean more than the apparent (i.e., external) avoidance of certain infamous sins. Righteousness must mean more than not being a scroffulous drunkard tottering about in the infestuaries of forgettable urban zones. It must mean more than not being salaciously wayward in the exercise of sexual or gastronomic eccentricities. It must mean more than having succeeded at the Leave It to Beaver soteriology. It must mean more than the Bob Jones chic ethic of "do not smoke, drink, chew or go with girls who do."
"Let me disclose the gifts reserved for age" said the familiar spirit, in the dark grey morning of Little Gidding. Growing older brings with it an unavoidable confrontation with the meanings of all Holy Writ, and the Sermon on the Mount (i.e., the neo-Moses on the latter-day Sinai) in particular, and the Beautitudes in fine.
One must simply deal with it ... or one must practice some sort of self-medication to innoculate himself from its prophylactic stress.
Righteousness has become a melancholic business for me -- usually, these days, growing less than younger. The self-awareness has dug through the old lineoleum of my primary Sunday School class, and has descended into the default existentialism of the decrepit root cellar.
And this is not a happy business, this existential and post-modern wrestling with the idea of Righteousness. The pseudo-comfort of the old categories of Christendom, and even modernism, are stripped away and one is obliged to face the Moment, and its abysmal exigencies, rather head-on.
Law is the terrifying, but beautiful, demand of Nature.
Righteousness is the owning up to it.
It is obviously a larger business, by now, than the simplicities of a cosmified courtroom. God is not the Judge. Jesus is not the Defense Attorney. Nor is He a Ransom paid to the Devil. Nor the balance-restorer in a pagan sacrifice. Not even a negotiated Peace Child.
He is, rather, the only Human left. Body and Soul. The only Righteous One -- the only One Who owned up to the Law, fulfilled the existential task of Nature.
And it's a Good thing that He is also God Who -- in our instance -- is the inimitable Death-Destroyer.
The Beatitudes are all, as a whole, eminently Christological -- and that is what is missing in most of the expositions on Matthew and Luke. And this is most obviously true of the one that deals with Righteousness.
Righteousness is, for old people, something to be hungered for. You can, if you want, shut your eyes to the increasing aspect of Righteousness and opt for one flavor of a commercial array of moral dementias. There are many of these, indeed.
Or, one can hunger and thirst for righteousness. One can own up to the fact that he wakes up in the morning and find that affairs in the world are unsettling, that things are not right. One can look in his own heart and find even deeper, more complex symptoms of Jeremiah's dx that "the heart is desperately wicked, and who can understand it?" One can experience the urgencies of relationships and quickly conclude that there is no figuring out of them, and can only pray for the best. One can witness, unwillingly, the abuse of another young woman and her child, and grieve, while fighting, the oppressions that expanded geometrically from the Original Sin. One can throw beer cans at the TV screen, which just showed the blastings of mountain-top removals. One can watch the flowing of a racist tide of hatred for the poor. One can become utterly embarassed by the stuff he must bring to Confession, but still must be brave enough to bend the stubborn neck. One can read regrettable blogs and ecclesial but very disordered missives and witness the tantrums of more and more adults who've forgotten their catechism and demand the old world languages if only to hide from the sound of Jesus walking in Eden because of the unmitigating exposures of the vernacular:
... and all in all become either despondent ...
... or want something better, something from the Transfiguration, the Good End, the Second Eden.
... and to be blessed in such a want, such a peckishness, such a parchedness?
Only in Christ, only, wherein all things are possible. Indeed.