. . . then there was JOY

Source: danielalaporte.com

In a world currently stripped of happiness and laughter, speaking of joy seems rather alien. Life as we once knew it is gradually disappearing, now that a deadly virus has penetrated deep into our society. Yet, I recently found myself singing the Carey Landry hymn, “The joy of the Lord is my strength.” (Nehemiah 8:10).

As I sang the words over and over again, gradually the Lord’s joy started to fill me. In this biblical passage, we learn that Ezra told the remnant of Israel who had returned to Judah, to rebuild the city and the temple. It was a time of restoration. He encouraged them to rejoice and celebrate.

We are unfortunately nowhere near a time of celebration, as the coronavirus has forced us to self isolate. However, we have entered the Easter season. This Paschal time should fill us with joy as we greet all, with the ancient Christian greeting, “Christ has risen. He has risen indeed.”

The passion of our Lord has now erupted in songs of jubilation. Leonard Cohen’s haunting Hallelujah music echoes in my soul, and I am rejuvenated. The resurrected Christ is truly in our midst.

Joy surprises me as it arrives on my doorstep, and I am momentarily transported to Ein Karem in Israel, where Mary met her cousin Elizabeth, and sang a song of joy – the Magnificat. I am keenly aware that we are as St. Augustine says, “an Easter people, and Alleluia is our song.”

But where do we find joy? Bishop Robert Barron repeatedly tells us that joy is not found in power, prestige, honour, and money. It is found rather in a relationship with Jesus.

St. Therese of Liseux clearly states, “Joy isn’t found in the material objects surrounding us, but in the inner recesses of the soul.” She goes on to say, “One can possess joy in a prison cell as well as in a palace.”

Which brings me to Nelson Mandela. How did he survive being imprisoned for 27 years? Most of that time, he was on Robben Island off the coast of Cape Town, South Africa. When I walked around that prison and saw his cell, I wondered if he experienced any joy while being incarcerated. His letters reveal a person in agony, but with a strong, patient spirit. In the midst of his pain, could there have been a few moments of joy?!

Joy, I have discovered, is an inside job. Richard Rohr OFM says, “It is God within us that loves God, so seek joy in God and peace within.” Undoubtedly, true joy is more difficult to access, and even more difficult to hold onto.

In his last discourse, Jesus tells his disciples, “I have spoken these things to you, so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.” (John 15:11) The saints were attentive to the risen Christ in their lives and so experienced joy.

St. Benedict knew that joy when doing Lectio Divina, meditating on the Scriptures. St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Jean Vianney, the Cure of Ars experienced joy through encountering Jesus in the Eucharist, as did St. Padre Pio.

When have I encountered the Lord that has brought me joy? Many instances flood my mind, like at a spiritually uplifting liturgy, family gatherings, ministering to seniors through music, travelling around the world…… Gratitude makes us joyful, for it is in giving that we receive.

Moments of joy that I remember well, were on a trip to the Grand Canyon during the 2002 March break. Arizona we thought would be warm and inviting. To our dismay, Flagstaff was colder than Toronto. That did not deter us from visiting the canyon, and exclaiming at this natural phenomenon, 277 miles long, 18 miles wide, and a mile deep. The Colorado river looked like a ribbon of water meandering below, while the rock formation reminded me of a colourful layered cake.

Our God is a God of surprises, because one evening we were lead to the Chapel of the Holy Cross in Sedona. We discovered a simple chapel built in the red rocks that looked like it was wedged in there. As we walked into the cool interior, I was handed a candle and introduced to my first Lenten Taize prayer service. Between the Scripture readings, the repetitive music, and the glow of the candles, I was transported into a spiritual world.

Sadly, we could not linger, because the service was over, and the sun was setting. If I was full of joy in the chapel, when I swung around to see the sunset, the shades of orange, red and yellow mesmerized me. The sun and clouds seemed to be dancing over the rock formations, and a smile lit my face, a clear sign of joy, a fruit of the Spirit.

Today, the risen Christ is inviting me to move from the fears of our present situation to the joy of transformation. I pray for the grace to be transformed by God as I journey towards the new Jerusalem. I sing joyfully “Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say rejoice,” (Phil 4:4) as I mull over the fact that, as Richard Rohr says, “the joy that the world cannot give, always comes as a gift to those who wait for it, expect it, and make room for it inside themselves.”

Viola Athaide is a student in the Windows of Theology program at Regis College, Toronto. She currently teaches Scripture at her local parish church.

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14 Comments
  • Peter Monty
    Posted at 09:36h, 12 June Reply

    Viola, thank you for sharing some profound insights & experiences.

  • Tonis
    Posted at 09:46h, 12 June Reply

    Thank you Viola for sharing your thoughts, joy is where the heart is

    “Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say rejoice,”

  • Lorraine Majcen
    Posted at 10:30h, 12 June Reply

    Thank you Viola! I needed to be reminded, that joy is a fruit of gratitude, which is something we can tap into, during the changed times, that we are experiencing. It’s the simple things that can bring us great joy, if we are in tune to it. I am also reminded of St Paul singing inspite of being imprisoned. That to me, is truly the joy of the Lord. Great food for thought Viola.

  • Linda Rego
    Posted at 11:14h, 12 June Reply

    There is wisdom and JOY in these words Viola. Thank you once again for sharing your Joy!

  • Dileep Athaide
    Posted at 14:29h, 12 June Reply

    Thanks Viola! Such a rich reflection, that simply reading it filled me with Joy! In even our most casual discernments, the sensing of Joy tells us that we are on the right track, seeking the Truth and freely aligning our will with God’s will for us.

  • Shirley McLean, CLC member
    Posted at 17:48h, 12 June Reply

    Thanks Viola for the beautiful article. My husband and I visited that Chapel of Holy Cross in Sedona! We came across it by accident and decided to visit it! How gratifying it was….peaceful and playful. One of the highlights of our trip to Arizona. Blessings!

  • Rita Coutinho
    Posted at 20:39h, 12 June Reply

    Thanks for sharing your article on Joy, Viola. You have expressed beautifully many instances when you found joy in your heart. I know we don’t need external situations to bring us joy, it can be found deep in our hearts in the knowledge that we are God’s children and that He loves us in spite of our frailties. I’m reminded of a poem which states, “Stone walls do not a prison make, nor iron bars a cage”. Nelson Mandella must have realized that during the years of his incarceration in prison.

  • Peggy Spencer
    Posted at 06:19h, 13 June Reply

    A beautiful reflection on true joy. May this beautiful experience remain with you always.

  • Doreen Pinto
    Posted at 08:40h, 13 June Reply

    Thanks Viola. Words can’t express how beautifully you have expressed the JOY OF THE LORD to us all.
    God Bless

  • Lorella D'Cruz
    Posted at 10:06h, 13 June Reply

    Thank you, Viola, for illustrating how joy has the potential to overcome negativity – especially relevant in these Corona-afflicted days. May the joy of the Lord reign in our hearts in both good times and bad.

  • Sylvia Lee
    Posted at 13:43h, 13 June Reply

    Thank you for sharing your “joy”. Both joy and peace are inside job with Christ within our hearts. Wishing you joy and peace in your heart always ❣

  • Ana Maria Rodriguez
    Posted at 18:59h, 16 June Reply

    Relationship-joy -an inside unique job – a voice from the inside – HI S VOICE – in us. An intimate virtue- fruit from the spirit. Let’s make a room in our soul , for this voice to be a joy in us……
    God Bless this talent you have viola to make us form part of your reflections … thanks for sharing

  • Rosa Scarpino
    Posted at 10:08h, 17 June Reply

    Thank you Viola for the beautiful reflection and for showing us that our Joy come from the Lord, not from the world and he will show us, when we beat expect it, that he is close to us. May the Joy of the Lord that is in your heart spill over to others, as you are doing already with these beautiful words and poems. May God continue to bless you and your Family. Rosa Scarpino

  • Mike Paoli
    Posted at 19:37h, 17 June Reply

    A beautiful testimony to the virtue of joy – thank you, Viola. My morning devotions include this personal prayer inspired by the NAB language of Romans 15:30: “I ask my departed family and dear friends, and the angels that watch over me, by our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of the Spirit, to pray to God on my behalf, that, God willing, I may proceed through my day with joy and be refreshed in spirit.” Thanks again for giving us your inspiring words. God bless!

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