Blessed are they that mourn

I speak to Jason who panhandles on the sidewalk in front of Tim Hortons. He tells me his body is in pain but later he will have enough to buy street morphine and spend a peaceful night in his room, for he has a room that he is glad of and it’s only a few begging-hours away.

He has lost things. I see absences in his face. He should be mourning, but I think he is not allowed this. Our bourgeois virtues of honest work, thrift, planning, allegiance to authority, crowd him. And they are relentless. Heaped upon him even as pieces of his life slip away. And they keep him from mourning, keep him from marking those deep losses that no one really knows about.

And now these holes will be made gaping, twice as hollow by the arrival of Christmas. Loses barely endurable…made temporarily endurable.

And I want Jason to mourn, and I want us all to mourn, for we all have holes. Let the wind whistle through all our holes and abandon the attempt to fill them with virtue, product, activity.

Light a candle, mark them, draw them, write them, paint a picture of them—then in time, they will ask to be set adrift. Replaced with a riffle, a wave, perhaps a tide of comfort.

Blessed are they mourn, for they shall be comforted. Are these words perhaps the finest in all scripture? And spare us from those translations that insert happy for blessed.

Blessed are they that mourn: We need no other accreditation, certification, right standing, justification, preparation, except to mourn. Such space, such allowance to throw off all that advise to get on with it; it, being all those social dictates, God’s will etc. etc.

For they shall be comforted: not in some world to come, but sometime, when we’re together, perhaps later, perhaps sometime soon.

Should we be moralists, and aren’t we all from time to time, we would be disappointed in the Beatitudes, their talk of meekness, peace, poverty, hunger for good, but especially this permission to mourn.

As Mary Gordon said about Beatitudes, they point out not the one way, but the many ways. And mourning, that western cultural embarrassment, is elevated to a way.

So mourn, mourn our missing, our lost, mourn our violence, mourn our inability to go back and say all the things we wanted to say, all that unfinished business that will stay unfinished.

For we are blessed in mourning, blessed in the deep artful movements of the human heart, blessed beyond our weak cognition to the seat of ache and joy.

Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.


Wishing you all hope, love, peace and joy, this Christmas and always.


  1. Mourning (with tears right now, in the wake of your words) our lost, our wounds, our hunger, our violence… all those things you mentioned. Thanks for nailing it, again.

  2. So beautiful, Steve.
    Last Sunday, in a reflection on the shepherds and the angels of the Christmas story, I referred to the “Lamb looking as if it had been slain” (Rev. 5:6) who becomes the Shepherd who wipes away every tear… (Rev. 7). Precious tears.

  3. With Jason I have age related holes to mourn, and at the same time feel the pressure to keep a brave front – a youthful appearance and vigor in my step. Thanks for transporting me to the seat of ache AND joy.

  4. Stephen. I came to your blog today thinking that your writing so often blesses me, so often eases the ache, and wishing, so wishing, that you would write something about what it is that I am currently struggling with. But you would have to, I thought, be struggling with the same thing, or it wouldn’t be what I needed.
    And then in the calm aftermath of a heartbroken Sunday full of tears, I came to your blog and found exactly, word for word for word, what I needed.
    Thank you from the bottom of my breaking heart.

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