Beatus is the Latin rendering of the Hebrew “ashri” and the Greek “makarios.” The English “blessed” is similar to the Hebrew “barak” and the Greek “eulogetus” and therefore not suited for the use in the Beatitudes. Both, “barak” and “eulogetus” are a worshipful praise to God. The “ashiri” and “makarios” are Jesus’ commendation to those that endure hardships in this world (Mt.5: 1-12).
What do the Beatitudes mean to us? For the Western people that have enjoyed prosperity, the words “Happy” or “Joy” have become acceptable in Biblical translations. Those translators that recognize that the content of the Beatitudes does not entirely warrant happiness have stuck with “Blessed.” But the word “Blessed” invokes a state of mind that is contrary to the content in what Jesus was telling to a people that were poor, outcasts, lost and condemned by the leaders. Also, the term “blessed” suggests that God imposed these undue hardships on man. How could a Heavenly Father impose such things on his children?
For my family and I the “Beatus” were not a blessing or happiness but a comfort during the most difficult time in our life. On the day World War II began, father had to report to the army, we were persecuted, lost loved ones, were driven from our home and country and forced to find food and refuge among people that hated us. We were neither blessed nor happy but we were thankful for being alive. The words of Jesus gave us the assurance that our lot was temporary. There are going to be better days ahead. We were being commended for enduring and overcoming our circumstances created by our fellow human beings. The message of the Beatitudes is to the victims of this world that triumph in spite of the adversities.