Christians have the duty to rejoice, to express their joy to the world. Great thinkers like St. Augustine explain to us that joy is love which possesses its object. When we have what we most desire, we are able to enjoy and rest in what we love. We also know that many things we desire, even when we attain them, do not provide a joy that lasts. Most things we desire are too small to occupy our hearts for long, at least in a way that fulfills us. St. Augustine teaches that what we desire determines the weight of our soul. If we desire earthly things, such things will weigh us down. But if we desire heavenly things, our hearts will rise up to what is above. Obviously, we cannot rejoice very long if our hearts are weighed down by lesser desires all the time. The command to rejoice in the Lord implies that we renounce desires that clutter our lives with things that weigh us down, that prevent us from raising our hearts.
The Christian sense of rejoicing, however, goes beyond the renunciation of earthly things. This is because of what Christ offers us by faith. When we believe in Him, when we reach out to him in prayer, when we lift up our hearts and offer them to the Lord, He shares with us something splendid and glorious, something so beautiful that our hearts will never tire of it as long as we cleave to Him by faith.
What does it mean to rejoice in the Lord? It means to attend to Him who is coming to us, to offer Him our hearts. This allows Him to pick them up with his own hands and to join them to His own. In this moment, our hearts are transformed, a new creation begins to unfold. A new holy communion, forged by the Cross, is laid open to us. In this moment of grace which no natural light can see, the Father looks on us with His beatifying love just as He gazes on his own Son. For a moment open to eternity, Christ’s joy becomes our joy. Filled with this life, light, and love, can we remain silent or indulgent or anxious? No. Such love is too big to be kept inside and left unexpressed. It is a driving passion that consumes every fiber of our being. Such love, such joy needs to be expressed to those whom we most love, to those who most need it, to those we do not know and even to those whom we do not yet know how to love.
Editor’s Note: For more of Anthony’s insights on prayer, don’t miss his book, Hidden Mountain Secret Garden, an experience like no other. Anthony has an unusually profound understanding of mystical theology and lives a life of deep prayer. Among his many accomplishments and responsibilities, Dr. Lilles now teaches theology for the Avila Institute.
Art: Saint Augustine, Philippe de Champaigne, between circa 1645 and circa 1650, PD-US author’s life plus 100 years or less; Detail of a stained glass window of the Holy Family, depicting Madonna and child (right part of the window), AFBorchert/Photo |Location=Church of the Immaculate Conception, Ballymote, County Sligo, Ireland 2010-09-23, Refe; both Wikimedia Commons.