Joy made Flesh...
The antiphon for Gaudete Sunday makes explicit the keynote of joy that underlies the anticipation of Advent. It is a rejoicing in Emmanuel, God-with-us. It is unfortunate that for many Advent is such a busy and even stressful time that any bonhomie one may be inclined to have is swamped. Indeed, there is even a stressfulness in wanting to make Christmas a time of joy, unity, peace etc. But of course, such things cannot be manufactured and the more one tries to force it into existence ex nihilo, the more the artifice of a commercialized Christmas is exposed. Living in a religious community these past months have made plain to me just how much true joy is characteristic of the Christian life, the community of the Redeemed. As such, I wish to share the following paragraphs from fr Timothy Radcliffe's (photo above) latest book, 'What is the Point of Being a Christian?':
"Meister Eckhart, the fourteenth-century German Dominican, said, 'The Father laughs at the Son and the Son laughs at the Father, and the laughter brings forth pleasure, and the pleasure brings forth joy, and the joy brings forth love'. He describes God's joy as like the exuberance of a horse that gallops around the field, kicking its heels in the air. The gospel is the story of how we travel towards our home in that joy.
This joy is not an emotion of God, a sunny, divine feeling. It is God's being... Thomas Aquinas maintained that happiness was one of God's names... So to be touched by God's joy is to be inhabited by something that is beyond definition. G.K. Chesterton called it Christianity's gigantic secret... This joy could not be described by Jesus, only embodied. He was the joy made flesh... Likewise we cannot speak adequately of the joy who is God, but it may become embodied in our lives, incarnate in our faces.
Maybe one reason why so many young people believe but have no desire to belong is because they do not find a shared rejoicing at the heart of our Christian celebrations. Or when they do find it, then so often it is forced, hollow and rather embarassing. This joy cannot be just some interior or mental sensation. It must out, even for the English. Raymund Llul, a thirteenth-century Catalan mystic, wrote, 'Lord, since you have put so much joy in my heart, extend it, I beg you, into my whole body, so that my face and my heart and my mouth and my hands - all of my members feel your joy. The sea is not so full of water as I am of joy.' "
St Paul calls us to this and indeed Holy Mother Church in her Liturgy calls us to this. Jesus, the "joy made flesh" is with us and comes to us daily. Let his smiling countenance and his laughter suffuse and transfigure us that we too may be joy-filled and build communities of joy... and such joy "brings forth love." And as Von Balthasar puts it: "Love alone is credible"!
"I rejoice heartily in the Lord, in my God is the joy of my soul..." (Isaiah 61:10)