Thursday, June 21, 2012

Not simply happy, but blessed

Anthony Esolen, in "Rejoice, I Say Rejoice!" on the error of confusing happiness with blessedness and joy:
“The word happiness does not occur in the Gospels,” writes Dorothy L. Sayers in The Whimsical Christian. “The word joy, on the other hand, occurs frequently — and so do the name and the image of hell. The command is to rejoice, not to display a placid contentment or a stoic fortitude.”

If we are commanded to rejoice, as we are commanded to love, then neither joy nor love is reducible to a feeling, since feelings are not at our beck and call. They are acts of the will. But since our wills are frail and prone to sin, we do not always love whom we should or rejoice when we should. ....

.... “Happiness is a gift of the heathen gods,” says Sayers, “whereas joy is a Christian duty.” Our English happy, like German gluecklich, and Latin fortunatus or felix, suggests that we have been blessed with good happenstance or fortune; although now in both English and German the sense of luck has been almost entirely folded into feelings.

Jesus uses stronger language when he describes what it means to be truly blessed. Baruch attah, Adonai Elohenu, said the Jews in prayer: “Blessed art thou, O Lord our God.” Not simply happy, but blessed, holy. The evangelists translate that word baruch as Greek makarios: “blessed,” a word used properly only of the gods, and by extension of men most fortunate, most blessed. .... [more]
Rejoice, I Say Rejoice!