From Grief to Blessing

Scripture: Matthew 5: 1-12

This Sunday is All Saint’s Day, a time in the life of the church in which we remember those beloved who have died in the past year.  In my current church, we read the names of members who have died, toll a bell, and light a candle.  As the musical bars of “Blessed are They” begin to ring out through the sanctuary, sniffles and coughs get blended in as the congregation both grieves their loss, and acknowledges their hope.

In such a context, the line from the scripture  in Matthew 5: 4 “blest are they who mourn, for they will be comforted” seems apropos. All Saints Day provides a sacred and holy time to acknowledge grief and to offer comfort.

Yet, I also wonder if our communion of saints might also teach us something about life–about the life of blessing expressed in the rest of Matthew 5:1-12–the text known as the Beatitudes.  I wonder if in the situation of privilege that many of us dwell within, it is most often in situations of terminal illness and death that we realize we are not in control, that we can lose power, that we can be more like the poor, because we can’t take the accoutrements of life with us into death.  Our sainted dead teach us this, and point us to the blessing, which is what the word Beatitude means. The saints reveal the significance of a life of mercy, or peace, of being pure in heart, of righteousness.

The Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-12) comprise nine blessings.  In the context of the imperial cultural of Rome that prized power, wealth, and status, these blessings instead reveal God’s favor is found among the poor, the powerless without resources or options. God declares blessing upon behaviors that manifest God’s empire–meekness, peace, purity, righteousness.

As we do this practice, I will encourage students to light a candle in memory of a saint who has taught them about humility, or peace, or purity, or righteousness.  We will dedicate the practice to them, and seek to be inspired by the blessing they lived in their life.  By so doing, we will move from mourning to comfort, from grief to blessing.

Yoga

This practice is dedicated to the saints who teach about how to live lives into the blessings of humility, righteousness, peace, and purity of heart. We will do a asana that helps us to embody each of these blessings.

For “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth” we will practice pigeon, a humble pose of prostration on the ground.  Instruction for the pose is taken from Yoga Journal.

Step 1

Begin on all fours, with your knees directly below your hips, and your hands slightly ahead of your shoulders. Slide your right knee forward to the back of your right wrist; at the same time angle your right shin under your torso and bring your right foot to the front of your left knee. The outside of your right shin will now rest on the floor. Slowly slide your left leg back, straightening the knee and descending the front of the thigh to the floor. Lower the outside of your right buttock to the floor. Position the right heel just in front of the left hip.

Step 2

The right knee can angle slightly to the right, outside the line of the hip. Look back at your left leg. It should extend straight out of the hip (and not be angled off to the left), and rotated slightly inwardly, so its midline presses against the floor. Exhale and lay your torso down on the inner right thigh for a few breaths. Stretch your arms forward.

Repeat step 1 and 2 on the left side.

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