Contemplata aliis Tradere

A meagre contribution to the mission and work of the Order of Preachers: my reflections, thoughts, ideas and the occasional rant on matters mainly theological, philosophical and ecclesiastical, drawn primarily from my reading and experience of life and the world. Striving to be always Catholic, firmly Christian and essentially Dominican, flavoured with dashes of Von Balthasar.

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Location: Oxford, United Kingdom

A son of the English Province of the Order of Friars Preachers (Dominicans); born in Malaysia but have lived in the USA, Singapore, the UK & the Philippines for varying durations. A pilgrim and way-farer, a searcher for Truth on the journey of Life... "Wherever the Catholic sun doth shine, There’s always laughter and good red wine. At least I’ve always found it so. Benedicamus Domino!" - Hilaire Belloc

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

The Noblest Human Act

"Joy is the noblest human act". This axiom attributed to St Thomas Aquinas has been pasted in the refectory of the Dominican convent here, as a reminder to all who eat there of the importance of joy!

It is vital that we do not confuse joy with mere happiness. The attainment of a million dollars or one's heart's desire may bring us euphoria, fleeting happiness and glee but it will not necessarily (and often does not) bring us joy. Joy is something more fundamental and deep-seated. It is founded on God and His bright promise of salvation and eternal beatitude, the goal of human existence in St Thomas's modality.

In praying the Breviary, these lines from the Canticle of Habakkuk often strike me as characteristic of religious and authentic Joy:

"For even though the fig tree does not blossom, nor fruit grow on our
vines, even though the olive crop fail and fields produce no harvest, even
though flocks vanish from the folds and stalls stand empty of cattle, yet I will
rejoice in the Lord and exult in God my saviour."

Those words of the prophet remind us that true joy is not predicate with material attainment. This strikes me as obvious and true here in the Philippines. The people exude a joie de vivre in spite of innumerable problems. One may read in the international press of political unrest in Manila but this is hardly felt at the grassroots level. The people are not agitated, angry or troubled. Instead, there is a real joy - people smile, sing, and laugh as they go about their daily tasks. It's a definite contrast to what we see in the most prosperous nations where people are simple unsmiling and seemingly devoid of joy.

This is not a naive nor idealistic view which I wish to present. I realise that the happy-go-lucky attitude one sees here can be problematic in the long-term and that joy is not necessarily expressed in smiles etc. Nonetheless, I am confident that anyone who has lived here and learnt to be open to the Filipino people, as they are, will wonder at their seemingly innate joy and envy their happiness and resilience. Somehow, it would appear, that all this joy is built on a solid foundation of faith and child-like trust in God. Thus, like a Joy-filled child, they are full of song, trust and hope. This is truly something noble in the human spirit and itself a joy to behold... I am enriched by this witness of joy.

"Wherever the Catholic sun doth shine, There’s always laughter and good red wine. At least I’ve always found it so. Benedicamus Domino!" - Hilaire Belloc


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