This third Sunday of Advent is familiarly known as Gaudete Sunday – a Latin word that means “rejoice” – the first word of the Entrance Antiphon (at Mass): “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice. Indeed, the Lord is near.” As you know, we mark Gaudete Sunday by lighting a pink candle (in the Advent wreath) and the celebrant at Mass wears rose colored vestments. I wonder why “rose”? Yes, it’s a “happy” color but I wonder if it might be because when you dilute the ‘blue-ness” with the red that makes purple, the red shades are left lightly tinged with blue which creates more of a rose color. The church rejoices because we are halfway to Christmas. The Promised One is nearer at hand. And, we are called to live as people of joy.
But in everyday life I get the impression that “joy” is on the decline. Often what is the response when someone asks: “How was your day?” My sense is that the theme of joy is something of a rare commodity. I hear responses such as “It was OK” or “Could have been better.” Or “I’m just so tired of so and so doing such and such.” Or, “I’m exhausted. Or “Don’t ask.” To have joy or – or as they would say in slang – to do joy – is to have a deep sense of delight. The Greek origins of the word literally means “for the heart, in its deepest place of passion and feelings, to be well.” That’s what it’s like to have joy.
So why is joy so rare? Well, it occurs to me (and not me alone), that for the experience of joy in one’s life, four qualities must also be found. First, joy takes time. Joy comes of living a “savored” life…of having time and taking time to smell the roses, to observe the pace of a Sandhill Crane as it crosses the street, to glory in a sunset. Joy needs time. There is this old monastic saying about living a joy-filled life. If you are sipping tea or watering a plant, or gazing at an icon, to do just that. We call this “being there” or being “in the moment.” We know – and more than that, we believe, that each moment is pregnant with God’s real presence and promise and providential care. Look for it; wait for it; savor it. Don’t just visit life; life needs time to be lived abundantly.
Secondly, to know joy requires acceptance – a “yes” to life – to the life we’ve been given. We may have discovered at some point that the script we’ve been handed in the play of life is not the part we thought we were trying out for. Joy requires a deep willingness to accept we are God’s creatures and that God is at work according to God’s good pleasure. Joyful persons accept the good gifts of life that actually are there. They do not live in a state of resentment for what might have been or what “used to be.” In God’s plan, there is a reason why today is not tomorrow. We need all of today to prepare us to receive the promise of tomorrow.
So, to be joyful takes time and acceptance. Third, it also requires desire. We have to want joy. Joy is a gift, a gift of the Spirit. If you want the gift of joy, ask God for the gift with your heart open and hands to accept the gift.
And, fourth to be joyful we need stability, patience and endurance. Maybe that’s why Jesus says: “Truly I tell you… you will have sorrow… but your sorrow will turn into joy.
Life for most people is not picture perfect, but there is so much joy to be found If we simply LOOK for JOY. Be on the lookout – SEE and REFLECT on the JOY right before your eyes. The more we dwell on everyday blessings, the more they seem to multiply. And by experiencing more joy in my own life, I have more JOY to give away. JOY is a beautiful gift to embrace, celebrate and give away at Christmastime. And, in doing so, increase our own joy.
The truth is that the Christmas season is unabashed about the purpose of the Christian life. “I am bringing you good news of great joy,” the angel says to the shepherds on the hillside outside of Bethlehem about the birth of a baby in a stable there (Luke 2:10). Good news of great joy, we learn at the beginning of the liturgical year, is what searching for the baby is all about. It’s how and where we’re searching that matters.
“Happiness is a choice that requires effort at times,” the Greek playwright Aeschylus wrote. But that’s wrong. Happiness does not require choice some of the time. Happiness requires choice all the time. It requires learning to choose between what is real and what is fleeting, what is worthless and what is worthwhile. But that does not make the effort either impossible or unacceptable. It simply requires discrimination.
It is discrimination, the ability to choose between one good in life over another, that the liturgical year parades before our eyes over and over again, year after year, until we finally develop enough maturity of soul to tell what lasts from what pales, to discern what’s worth having from what isn’t, to know what happiness is rather than what satiety is.
Meaning, we discover, has nothing to do with what is outside of us. It has to do with what we have come to see within our souls. It has to do with the vision that is within us rather than with the things we are heaping up around us as indicators of our success, our power, our status. Joy is not about what happens to us, the manger indicates. It is the meaning we give to what we do that determines the nature, the quality of the lives we live.
—from The Liturgical Year by Joan ChittisterContinue Reading