Jim Forest, a convert to the Russian Orthodox Church and author of Praying with Icons, believes that the beatitudes in Jesus' Sermon on the Mount are eight facets of Christian discipleship. Describing them as "part of Jesus' inaugural address," he notes that they reveal to what it's like to be living in the Kingdom of God right now. The author draws on the teachings of the church, the lives of the saints, and the Bible to examine these ancient blessings as signs of the Holy Spirit's presence in our lives. He sees the beatitudes as a ladder-like structure beginning with poverty of spirit and ending with the acceptance of persecution.
Forest is convinced that all of these teachings accentuate the necessity of "dying to self." Being poor in spirit is the context of Christian discipleship and Mary, Christ's mother, is the epitome of this path of devotion. Those who mourn are sensitive to the pain and losses of others. The meek are aligned with God. An appetite characterized by hungering and thirsting for righteousness is a worthy goal. The merciful, the pure in heart, and the peacemakers are all on the right track. Meditating on the last and longest of the beatitudes, the author encourages us to ask ourselves, "Do I accept persecution as a blessing — or do I avoid anything that might get me into trouble?"
The fervor of Jim Forest's devotional life shines through the pages of this text and itself is a beacon to those who yearn to discover the depths of Christian discipleship.