Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Joy versus happiness: Bless you!

It is Shrove Tuesday and the sun shines, making even the grey old street look attractive. The wind is cold, and there is a certain amount of rain still spitting in the wind despite the glorious rays of light pouring through the rapidly dispersing clouds. It is as if reality itself possesses a beauty that is often hidden by the monotony of living. Of course it does! I confess that I probably had an attack of pure joy for a single moment of time.

Joy and happiness are actually very different things. The etymology of happiness contains that positivity that comes about from pure chance. The "hap" bit is the same "hap" as in "mishap" "happening", and "hapless": "hap" is luck. Joy is not. If happiness were the same as joy then we could not have eternal joy because there cannot be such a thing as eternal good fortune. So what is joy?

Well, Joy is characterised by that sense of positivity, that euphoria that arises in things as they are. We can see very clearly the presence of God in Joy, as God is the only being whose existence depends on nothing else. All things exist because they share in God's marvellous fact of being. Joy itself depends on nothing other than God's being, this is why it is a true gift of the Holy Spirit. Joy is the recognition of the presence of God in things, and thus something enjoyed by all those who are drawn up by God into Eternity.

There is nothing that is deficient in God, and this means that any desire we may have are fulfilled in Him - the presence of God must be pure joy as that is the only sensation that one can feel when all desires cease - Eternal Contentment!

We now see what blessing does. It is a prayer for that joy which underlies our day-to-day reality to burst through into our senses. A blessing is a spiritual happiness which pours forth from the rent in reality cut out by the fingers of a priest making the sign of the cross. This is one of the remarkable properties that ordination bestows upon a cleric - God gives His authority to slice through the veneer of our life to allow the flood of God's grace to pour forth into the world.

Of course, we can easily miss this. One thing that makes joy most notable is its absence. Unless we train our souls to be joyful, then we will always only glimpse it through little windows in the Veil. We obtain joy by getting rid of happiness. Once we give up allowing our "joy" to rely on fortune or chance, and start to find God in things and circumstances as they are, then we will truly obtain joy.

The sun has gone in, and the rain is starting to fall, Everything seems rather darker and less glorious. Yet, God is there: His light pours out unseen through all creation. Only eyes that will be opened by Our Lord shall rejoice. May God bless your eyes, so you may see clearly this Lent!

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