My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ Our Only True Lord, God, and Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE.
“Let those also who love Thy Name be joyful in Thee” [Psalm 5].
Orthodox Christians incorporate in their daily prayers the divine psalms such as psalm 5 which is used in morning prayers, “My King and my God, for to Thee I will pray. My voice Thou shall hear in the morning, O Lord; in the morning, I will direct it to Thee, and I will look up…” (vs. 2-3]. Psalm is used as one of the fixed psalms of the First Hour. In ancient Israel, this was the prayer of the priest preparing to offer the sacrifice. For that reason, in Orthodox Christian use, v. 7 is often prayed by the priest when he enters the Church prior to his vesting for the Divine Liturgy.
How do we as Orthodox Christians understand the word joy in our Holy Tradition? In his holy epistle to the Galatians 5:22-23 the holy Apostle Paul writes: “But the fruit of the Spirit is LOVE, JOY, PEACE, LONGSUFFERING, KINDNESS, GOODNESS, FAITHFULNESS, GENTLENESS, [and] SELF-CONTROL. Against such there is no law.” Therefore, the Orthodox Christian understanding based in the Holy Scripture, “joy” is the “fruit of the Holy Spirit.” The secular world defines the word “joy” as “a condition or feeling of high pleasure or delight” (The American Heritage Dictionary).
True joy which all seek and desire by all, is it seems, to be elusive and unattainable. And if by chance one acquires it is fleeting and temporary. True joy is a Divine gift that can only be bestowed by God the Holy Spirit. It is more than just a feeling or emotion. It is the grace of God dwelling within the heart of man or woman. We feel an overabundance of joy when our hearts become truly the dwelling place of God. This joy can never be diminished or diluted except when one falls willingly into sin and rebellion against God. In other words, when one is disgraced for his or her lack of faith and lack of obedience to God the Creator and Savior.
The above biblical passage according to Saint Paul defines what an Orthodox Christian must implement in his/her life in Christ. Our aim should be the “acquisition of the Holy Spirit” and His Divine “fruits”. In our hymns we state, “Thou hast ascended in glory, O Christ Our God, granting joy to Thy Disciples by the promise of the Holy Spirit.” In one of the hymns of the Resurrection the Deacon chants: “Come all ye faithful, let us venerate Christ’s Resurrection! For, behold, THROUGH THE CROSS JOY HAS COME INTO ALL THE WORLD.” And at the end of the Divine Liturgy (The Dismissal) the priest says, “O Lord, Who blesses those that bless Thee, and sanctifies those that put their trust in Thee…FOR EVERY BENEFIT AND EVERY PERFECT GIFT IS FROM ABOVE AND COMETH DOWN FROM THEE, THE FATHER OF LIGHTS…” it is a reminder to the Orthodox Christians who are now leaving the church that we depend on God to blesses us with all “perfect (good) gifts that “come down from Him”.
If we are seeking heavenly gifts, they can only come from Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. All earthly or worldly things that humans make, no matter how delightful they are, the pleasure that they offer is short lived. Mankind looks always for instant gratification and pleasure, something that makes him or her feel good now. Nothing that he/she experiences in life that is devoid of God has any substance or meaning. It is because of this that man continues unceasingly of trying to find happiness and joy but cannot. Man continues, without God, to fail in his attempts to acquire divine gifts that will give meaning and satisfaction in his life. True faith is essential and necessary for one to possess God’s gifts.
It is most appropriate at this holy season, dedicated to the holy Dormition of the Theotokos, Our Heavenly and All-Holy Mother, to bring to your attention to the Gospel reading that is offered at the Paraklesis (Supplicatory Canon) according to Saint Luke where, She, (Mary) exalts in God and Saint Elisabeth who says: “For indeed as soon as the voice of Your greeting sounded in my ears, THE BABE LEAPED IN MY WOMB FOR JOY” (Luke 1:44). Of course, the baby is none other than Saint John the Forerunner and Baptist, who even in his mother’s womb acknowledged by “leaping for joy” the Ever-Blessed Mother. “the Mother of my Lord” confessed by his mother Elisabeth, of the anticipated Messiah Jesus Christ. We need to pause here a little and think of all the millions of abortions taking place throughout the world of children as young as Saint John and Christ. The “babe”, Saint John the Baptist, IN HIS SIXTH MONTH OF GESTATION. A six-month old baby who “leaped in her womb” as a joyous response to the PRESENCE OF GOD, THE LORD JESUS CHRIST, IN MARY’S WOMB. in the U.S.A. and in other countries the killing of babies, children, continue as a “right of the mother” to kill her child, no matter of the month of gestation, the baby is in, at birth, or after birth. And to do it legally under the law. And yet, if one was to kill or torment an animal it would be called animal cruelty and the person would be prosecuted. Why would a mother murder her child and then rejoice over his death?
Christian joy is directly connected to God’s love. Love is the fountain of true joy. When we feel God’s love for us we rejoice. When we love one another we rejoice. When we help others we rejoice. When we bring peace among people we rejoice. When we reconcile with God we rejoice. Jesus says, “Likewise, I say to you, THERE IS JOY in the presence of the Angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15:10). We see here that Jesus connects REPENTANCE WITH JOY, NOT SADNESS. JOY IN HEAVEN for the repentance of each sinner is the MAIN THEME of Chapter 15 in the Gospel of Saint Luke.
“Glory Be To GOD
– Saint John Chrysostomos
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With sincere agape in His Divine and Glorious Diakonia (Ministry),
The sinner and unworthy servant of God