Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven... (Mt. 5:3-10)
How often we Orthodox sing these eight verses during Divine Liturgy during the first procession, when the Gospel book is carried out of the sanctuary into the nave and then back into the sanctuary to be placed on the altar. And why? They are beautiful verses; and yes, the Church undoubtedly hopes they will sink deeply into our hearts; but again, why these particular verses? Why so frequently? And why during this procession? They are preceded by the familiar words of the thief who was crucified with the Lord, "Remember us, O Lord, when Thou comest in Thy kingdom..." We recall that Jesus is not only our destination in the house of the Father, but that He is also our way of getting there. Another liturgical procession will follow shortly, when we, with all our concerns and all of creation symbolized in loaves of bread, will follow the same path to the same altar as the Church shows us what life is like for us, what it is about.
There are eight beatitudes--or perhaps only one revealed in eight aspects--telling what it means to live in the kingdom of God and how to do it. Forest presents it as a spiritual ladder that we ascend in order, rung by rung--a series of steps we make, none skipped--in company with the Holy Spirit: in a word, our deification. It is a preparation and a process that we must do. Without God, it would be impossible. In this teaching, Jesus shows us what to expect in the world--a true reality check. And He not only tells us how to deal with it, but how to be blessed--indeed, refashioned--by it. The Lord teaches in an economy of words how to live dynamically with Him so that we do not simply endure passively whatever happens to and around us, but that we join ourselves to His co-suffering love now--here and now--in concert with all the events of our lives, and thus prepare ourselves for God's eternal kingdom. We are on a journey, and, in a sense, we are mystically already there.
In an extended look at these eight verses, Forest brings a wide and delightful variety of stories, wisdom from the saints, and scripture to focus on the way our new humanity is fashioned by means of our collaboration (co-laboring) with God in this challenging ascent.