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Joy

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#21 M.C. Steenberg

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Posted 12 May 2008 - 01:42 PM

Dear all,

My many thanks for this first round of comments. It is nice to see this 'project' off to a good start!

In his post above, Fr David, included something very telling from Archbishop Nathaniel:

Christ says the following about joy: "… that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full." He also indicates where this joy comes from: "If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my father’s commandments, and abide in his love" (John 15: 10 – 11). Here we have the answer to the age-old question. True happiness, true joy, is God’s love, and being with Him.


This seems to go right to the heart of the matter, very well indeed. 'Joy' is abiding in the love of God. It is God's love itself, made accessible to man. Joy is the experience of the love of God, which is a part of human communion in God, as well as a means of furthering it. So while God is always love, and always active in his love, joy comes in the engagement with this love. This seems to resonate well with Effie's quotation of Psalm 100, so well known from Matins:

"For the Lord is good;
his steadfast love endures for ever,
and his faithfulness to all generations."

But the joy of creation comes in its communion in this love. As such, joy is something relational; and as it is something relational, it involves our own actions, together with God's. While God's love 'endures forever' and is 'steadfast', our response is not. Our engagement is not. Our receptivity is not.

It is this, it seems to me, that connects joy so squarely to asceticism, and to 'grief'. To quote again the passage from St John:

"When I consider the actual nature of compunction, I am amazed at how that which is called mourning and grief should contain joy and gladness interwoven with it, like honey in the comb." (St John of the Ladder, The Ladder of Paradise, 7.49)

Because joy is the fruit of communion with God, of receiving and being drawn up in God's love, all that separates us from God at one and the same time separates us from joy. And so the pathway to joy is not satisfaction, but honesty: honesty in the assessment of ourselves, and our relationship to God whose image we bear. And such honesty is often the source of compunction and grief. It is part of the very mystery of repentance that the sorrow, the grief of a truly repentent heart, is its very entry into the joy of communion with God. This was brought out in Mary's post:

But could it be the fact that I find two seemingly opposite reactions present in my heart at the same time? I see how totally pathetic and empty I am, and yet... I'm excited. Not sure what I'm excited about, but that excitement, seems to be able to energize me to do what I need to do, it even helps me to be patient, and truly listen, when the kids are talking non-stop. The misery that I feel, causes me to quickly ask for forgiveness, whenever I've failed to be as patient as I should.


INXC, Dcn Matthew

#22 Matthew Panchisin

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Posted 13 May 2008 - 03:29 PM

Dear Alex Haig,

I was thinking about what you had mentioned quoted below.

The grief is suffering in a Christ-like way, it is the Cross: "For behold, through the cross joy has come to all the world" (Sunday Matins). It comes to those who are poor in spirit and mourn, who are meek and hunger and thirst for righteousness, who are merciful and pure in heart, who are peacemakers and are persecuted for righteousness sake (cf. Matt 6).

With love in the Risen Christ

Alex


While I think it is certainly true that the nature of the grief that leads to joy goes well beyond surviving ones own soul, I'm convinced that there are many distinctions between Christ's sufferings and ours as you indicated saying "in a Christ-like way". Father Deacon Matthew has mention in the past that he is fond of Saint Gregory's words, "The Lamb crucified before the foundation of the world." As such I think there are important distinctions and I'll try to explain what I mean. I could be wrong and misunderstanding much and hope that others will chime in then.

Saint Dismas came to the good knowledge that his cross was different than Christs' it wasn't a Christ-like way, yet he had good grief he was a wise thief. We can recall Saint Dismas mentioning to the other thief, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” Saint Dismas wasn't being persecuted for righteousness sake according to him. Yet in fuller context he was a peacemaker not with the other thief it seems, perhaps he wanted it to be so hence his rebuke. But the other thief wouldn't allow it to be so. So I think you are correct in saying "For behold, through the cross joy has come to all the world" Our response is key.

He also is wise because he turned to Christ as Christ conquered death by death, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” The Lord replied, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” Christ and His Church bestows life to those in the tombs and our response is indeed he is risen, so that our joy may be complete.

I think Alex in what you have written you may very well be very correct in terms of things being relational, as Father Deacon Matthew has mentioned. We can read of God's good providence in Mark's gospel:

Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Him, saying, “Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask.” And He said to them, “What do you want Me to do for you?” They said to Him, “Grant us that we may sit, one on Your right hand and the other on Your left, in Your glory.” But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you ask. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” They said to Him, “We are able.” So Jesus said to them, “You will indeed drink the cup that I drink, and with the baptism I am baptized with you will be baptized; but to sit on My right hand and on My left is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it is prepared.”

We can see that these things are possible as a result of the love of God. Indeed what you have written Alex is beautiful and particularly bright if we turn our gaze to the Holy Martyrs. Martyrs like Polycarp who shared in the cross and cup. We can see and realize God's steadfast love for all, as all of us can respond and sing in the choir joyfully, indeed He is risen, joy for us even when we are struggling to love, obey Christ's commandments etc. When we hear our Bishops, Priests and Deacons pray and try to pay attention we can see a gathering being gathered in the Church. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God the Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with all of you.

The prayers of the Church convey an inclusive sense of Christocentric existence. "Let us lift up our hearts, "We lift them up to the Lord, One is Holy One is Lord Jesus Christ to the Glory of God the Father." Our hearts our spirits are lifted up because of God's love and Christ being lifted up. This is so even when our relational grief is not suffering in a Christ-like way, again and again it is because of God's love and his Church the prayers from the heart. There is so much grace in the Church that even when we are not doing as well as we could and should be we can still sing "Save us who sing to thee, Alleluia" or find joy in hearing "As many as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ, Alleluia."


Dear Mary,

But could it be the fact that I find two seemingly opposite reactions present in my heart at the same time?


I think so, there must be a reason why we so often can hear about forgiveness within the liturgical realities of the Church.

“Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. 42 But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.”

The misery that I feel, causes me to quickly ask for forgiveness, whenever I've failed to be as patient as I should.


Blessed grief or misery.

In Christ,

Matthew Panchisin

Edited by Matthew Panchisin, 14 May 2008 - 02:34 AM.
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#23 M.C. Steenberg

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Posted 14 May 2008 - 05:29 PM

Following on from Matthew P.'s comments, and indeed earlier quotations and comments in this thread, Augustine of Hippo has this to say on joy. It is a rather dense and complicated passage, but rewards careful reading:

You have just heard, beloved, the Lord saying to His disciples, These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might be in you, and that your joy might be full. And what else is Christ's joy in us, save that He is pleased to rejoice over us? And what is this joy of ours which He says is to be made full, but our having fellowship with Him? On this account He had said to the blessed Peter, If I wash you not, you shall have no part with me. His joy, therefore, in us is the grace He has bestowed upon us: and that is also our joy. But over it He rejoiced even from eternity, when He chose us before the foundation of the world (cf. Ephesians 1.4). Nor can we rightly say that His joy was not full; for God's joy was never at any time imperfect. But that joy of His was not in us: for we, in whom it could be, had as yet no existence; and even when our existence commenced, it began not to be in Him. But in Him it always was, who in the infallible truth of His own foreknowledge rejoiced that we should yet be His own. Accordingly, He had a joy over us that was already full, when He rejoiced in foreknowing and foreordaining us: and as little could there be any fear intermingling in that joy of His, lest there should be any possible failure in what He foreknew would be done by Himself. Nor, when He began to do what He foreknew that He would do, was there any increase to His joy as the expression of His blessedness; otherwise His making of us must have added to His blessedness. Be such a supposition, brethren, far from our thoughts! For the blessedness of God was neither less without us, nor became greater because of us. His joy, therefore, over our salvation, which was always in Him, when He foreknew and foreordained us, began to be in us when He called us; and this joy we properly call our own, as by it we, too, shall yet be blessed: but this joy, as it is ours, increases and advances, and presses onward perseveringly to its own completion. Accordingly, it has its beginning in the faith of the regenerate, and its completion in the reward when they rise again. Such is my opinion of the purport of the words, These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might be in you, and that your joy might be made full: that mine might be in you; that yours might be made full. For mine was always full, even before ye were called, when you were foreknown as those whom I was afterwards to call; but it finds its place in you also, when you are transformed into that which I have foreknown regarding you. And that yours may be full: for you shall be blessed, what you are not as yet; just as you are now created, who had no existence before. (Tractate 83, on John 15.2-12).

This reflects very much the comments of others earlier in this thread, on the nature of joy as the communion in God of man, which Augustine here notes was the eternal joy God intended for creation, from before its very beginnings. So in the attainment of this joy, man fulfils his role in creation.

There is something quite wonderful in this.

XB, Dcn Matthew

#24 M.C. Steenberg

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Posted 15 May 2008 - 07:44 PM

Dear Effie and others,

Above, you provided several quotations on joy that I found very welcome. You quoted:

When the Spirit of God comes down to man and overshadows him with the fullness of His inspiration, then the human soul overflows with unspeakable joy, for the Spirit of God fills with joy whatever He touches. - St. Seraphim of Sarov


I'm particularly grateful of this quotation. Connecting joy to communion in God we've now seen many times, in divers ways; but here St Seraphim connects it directly -- as we might expect of him -- to the Holy Spirit. It is the Spirit, St Seraphim indicates, who 'fills with joy' what he touches; not because 'joy' is something granted by the Spirit, but because the Spirit is joy, inasmuch as the Spirit is the fruition of man's communion with God.

St Seraphim is 'summing up' so much of the teaching of the fathers in this small comment. The connection of Joy to the presence and activity of the Spirit goes back at least as far as the scriptures, where St Paul writes that joy is a fruit of the Spirit (see Gal 5.22); and perhaps most potently in the Gospels themselves, where the account of the Annunciation connects the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the Mother of God with the charge to be joyful: 'Rejoice, thou who art full of grace...' (Luke 1.28). It is when the virgin receives the Spirit, by whom the Lord is incarnate in her womb, that this human creature discovers the fullness of joy -- and here there is an explicit trinitarian dimension to the joy that comes of communion with God. It is the Father who sends the Spirit to make the Son incarnate in the womb of the Theotokos. It is the Spirit, as St Seraphim indicates, who makes present in each human heart the communion of the Son that draws man into the joyful adoption of the Father.

This joy found in true trinitarian union is that spoken of by Christ himself: 'I have told you this so that my joy might be in you, and your joy might be complete' (see John 15.11). The disciples find authentic joy in participating in the life of Christ, which is his union with the Father; and this is promised to them, this abiding presence, through the sending of the Holy Spirit. Through this presence, Jesus vows that he and the Father will be 'made a home' in the faithful heart: 'Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word; and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him' (John 14.23). And so, in the communion of the Spirit, the full Trinity dwells in man; and in this full communion the prophetic word of the psalm finds its fulfilment: 'In thy presence is fullness of joy' (Psalm 16.11).

XB, Dcn Matthew

#25 Effie Ganatsios

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Posted 16 May 2008 - 09:00 AM

Some thoughts :

I have always been saddened by the way some people interpret the scriptures and tell us that we are not "entitled" to joy, whereas this word is mentioned so frequently in the bible that we can assume that our joy might not be of the kind that bubbles over into laughter every single minute (even though, as I already mentioned, our modern holy men and women did and do enjoy every moment of their lives), but it is nevertheless a deep joy that is the result of our decision to allow God into our lives.

The fruits of the Holy Spirit are the following :

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control." (Galatians 5:22)

Joy is listed after love.


Those who believe that joy has no part in our lives are continuing an old Greek custom, attributing our own character faults to the Gods. A lady I know refused to attend her niece's wedding because she believed that joy/happiness was wrong.

I haven't been able to find Elder Paisios' exact words but I do remember him saying that grief exists as long as man is unrepentent. Joy and peace follows repentence. Our sins separate us from the joy of God/Christ/Holy Spirit, but once we acknowledge our sins and repent, we are once again united with Him and joy follows.

A favourite hymn :

The Angel cried to the Lady full of grace
Rejoice! Rejoice! O pure Virgin!
Again, I say rejoice!
Thy son is risen from His three days in the tomb!
With Himself He has raised all the dead.
Rejoice, rejoice, O ye people!
Shine! Shine! Shine, O new Jerusalem!
The glory of the Lord has shown on thee.
Exult now, exult and be glad, O Sion.
Be radiant, O pure Theotokos,
In the Resurrection, the Resurrection of thy Son

Effie

#26 M.C. Steenberg

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Posted 16 May 2008 - 10:13 AM

Dear Effie, you wrote:

I have always been saddened by the way some people interpret the scriptures and tell us that we are not "entitled" to joy, whereas this word is mentioned so frequently in the bible that we can assume that our joy might not be of the kind that bubbles over into laughter every single minute (even though, as I already mentioned, our modern holy men and women did and do enjoy every moment of their lives), but it is nevertheless a deep joy that is the result of our decision to allow God into our lives.



This helpful observation reminded me of a famous apothegm of St Seraphim, who has already been quoted in this thread, in which he says,

"Cheerfulness is not a sin. It drives away weariness, for from weariness there is sometimes dejection, and there is nothing worse than that."

St Seraphim stands out among modern elders by his insistence on the joy of the heart illumined in the Spirit. His common greeting to all, at every time of year, was the proclamation of Paschal joy, 'Christ is risen!'; and he continually referred to his visitors as 'My joy', as is evident in various accounts.

Your comments also resonate with his testimony. You wrote:

Those who believe that joy has no part in our lives are continuing an old Greek custom, attributing our own character faults to the Gods. A lady I know refused to attend her niece's wedding because she believed that joy/happiness was wrong.


This is far from only a Greek custom! Here we touch on the balance between joy and grief, that has come out above in the thread. Joy that is 'forced' through worldly happiness, is far from true joy and is to be avoided; where joy that comes through true union, often the fruit of grief over sin, is to be embraced. When this grief-born joy fills the heart, though, St Seraphim's testimony is clear that it is to be embraced as precisely that which shuns off false grief. He says, in another apothegm:

"In order to keep spiritual peace, it is necessary to chase dejection away from oneself, and to try to have a joyful spirit, according to the words of the most wise Sirach: 'Sorrow has killed many, but there is no good in it' (Sir. 30:25)."

A false grief, a false sorrow, itself becomes the means, not of communion with God (the fruit of authentic, joy-bearing grief), but of dejection and separation from God's presence.

True joy is the fruit of true communion; and this communion becomes something shared, as Christians are called to be lights in the world. So St Seraphim once again:

"You cannot be too gentle, too kind. Shun even to appear harsh in your treatment of each other. Joy, radiant joy, streams from the face of one who gives, and kindles joy in the heart of one who receives."

This brings the true nature of joy full circle: it is the fruit of genuine communion with the Trinity, and by that communion it radiates God's love from one illumined heart to another. God's presence is true joy, and a joy that overflows. I was reminded of this in your 'favourite hymn':

The Angel cried to the Lady full of grace
Rejoice! Rejoice! O pure Virgin!
Again, I say rejoice!
Thy son is risen from His three days in the tomb!
With Himself He has raised all the dead.
Rejoice, rejoice, O ye people!
Shine! Shine! Shine, O new Jerusalem!
The glory of the Lord has shown on thee.
Exult now, exult and be glad, O Sion.
Be radiant, O pure Theotokos,
In the Resurrection, the Resurrection of thy Son


The joy that came to the Mother of God at the Annunciation was just exactly what I had in mind in my previous post. This moment of incarnation is a chief example of the authentic nature of joy.

Many thanks for your thoughtful and thought-provoking post.

XB, Dcn Matthew

#27 M.C. Steenberg

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Posted 19 May 2008 - 04:40 PM

Someone has PM'ed me, asking about the quotation by St John found in the banner for this month's theme. The quotation is as follows:

"On high, the armies of the angels are giving praise. Here below, in the Church, the human choir takes up after them the same doxology. Above us, angels of fire make the thrice-holy hymn, resounding magnificently. Here below is raised the echo of their hymn. The festival of heaven's citizens is united with that of the inhabitants of earth in a single thanksgiving, a single upsurge of happiness, a single chorus of joy.

"Just as the head and the body constitute a single human being, so Christ and the Church constitute a single whole [...]. This union is effected through the food that he has given us in his desire to show the love he has for us. For this reason he united himself intimately with us; he blended his body with ours like leaven, so that we should become one single entity, as the body is joined to the head.

"Do you wish to honour the body of the Saviour? Do not despise it when it is naked. Do not honour it in church with silk vestments while outside you are leaving it numb with cold and naked. He who said, 'This is my body', and made it so by his word, is the same that said, 'You saw me hungry and you gave me no food. As you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me.' Honour him then by sharing your property with the poor. For what God needs are not golden chalices but golden souls." (St John Chrysostom)

I regret that I have this down only in notes, unaccompanied by a proper source citation - so I don't have to hand details on the precise text from which this quotation comes.

This is clearly a Eucharistic text: St John speaks of joy coming from the unified hymning of God that takes place in the Divine Liturgy.

XB, Dcn Matthew

#28 Br Tom Forde OFM Cap

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Posted 19 May 2008 - 09:44 PM

"When I consider the actual nature of compunction, I am amazed at how that which is called mourning and grief should contain joy and gladness interwoven with it, like honey in the comb." (St John of the Ladder, The Ladder of Paradise, 7.49)

I should like to 'open the discussion' with this quotation by St John, who was much read during the Great Fast, on the interrelationship of 'grief' and 'joy'. Like many of the fathers, before and after, St John identifies true joy as 'contained' within authentic spiritual grief, so that genuine grief becomes the doorway to joy.

Which raises the question, what is the nature of grief that leads to such a joy? And how is 'joy' to be understood as the 'honey' contained within the honeycomb of grief?

INXC, Dcn Matthew


Dear Deacon Matthew,

I know this isn't patristic and perhaps off the point but your question (and this thread is a wonderful idea) reminded me of a story from my own Franciscan tradition that goes back to St. Francis himself. He and brother Leo were returning from a town to a friary when Leo began to talk about how the order was growing so fast. Francis said that this was not perfect joy, that even if the all the scholars in all the universities and all the kings and the bishops were to become friars this would not be perfect joy. Eventually Leo, becoming exasperated, asked him 'what then is perfect joy'. Francis replied by proposing a situation where they were going to a friary late, in Winter after heavy snow, barefoot as usual, tired, hungry and very cold. They knock at the door and knock and knock until they eventually get a less than charitable reply. They identify themselves but are not believed. They persist until the friar opens the door but only to beat them up and drive them into the night. If in all this, Francis said, we do no sin, turning instead the other cheek, bearing all humbly for the sake of Christ then that is perfect joy.

I think joy cannot be described, no intellectual exercise can define it but it must be experienced to be understood and perfect joy lies in doing the will of God. The 'joyful sorrow' or 'sorrowing joy' that i have come across in some Orthodox texts fascinates me. It is related to the concept of Penthos is it not? This is the joy that comes from returning to God's will and away from sin. We can know this joy only by entering on the narrow way and this is the grief the Fathers speak of - the grief of dying to ourselves, of killing the old man so that the new man, Christ, can be born in us. If I may add another story this one from our own times. There is an old man in Italy , in San Giovanni Rotondo, who has been blind from birth. Throughout his life he knew the Italian priest-friar St. Pio ( a friar of my own Order). He was tormented by the thought that here was a miracle-worker whom he met everyday and yet he himself remained blind. One day St. Pio stopped and laid his hand on him. Immediately joy filled him so intense that he felt he was about to die of joy. He had to pull his head away in order not to die. ST. Pio said to him That's a little taste of heaven. You can have your sight and risk losing it or remain blind and be guaranteed it'. The man stayed blind. I know a woman who met him (and St. Pio) and said he is a very holy and joyful man. To die of joy!

Yours in Christ,
Br. Tom Forde OFM Cap

Edited by M.C. Steenberg, 20 May 2008 - 08:32 AM.
Added blank lines between paragraphs


#29 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 20 May 2008 - 02:59 PM

One important issue to address here is the different way in which we pursue joy as compared to the other virtues.

In our life in Christ we try to be patient, to be humble, forgiving, etc. In this there is something direct towards which we aim even if we do not yet understand the goal nor can find a direct way towards it.

But to try to be joyful in such a direct manner is something we rarely hear of or are counseled towards- except perhaps to avoid despondency; but which does not necessarily equate with joy. So the way towards joy is more indirect it seems than the other virtues.

Why then is there this difference in how we approach joy and in how we try to attain the other virtues?

In Christ- Fr Raphael

#30 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 20 May 2008 - 04:05 PM

Forgive me for presuming to answer you, Fr Raphael, but from the previous posts (which are all wonderful), the thought occurs that perhaps joy is not a virtue and whereas we work towards the virtues, joy is a gift of the Spirit, the feeling of grace which unexpectedly comes upon us when we have shown love for Christ by trying to keep His commandments. Grace which makes us feel joy is always given in measure out of proportion to our efforts to love and obey Christ. If we turn from our sins to love and obey God, if we 'arise' and go to our Father, He sees us from a great way off, runs towards us and gives us the kiss of grace and there is joy.

#31 M.C. Steenberg

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Posted 20 May 2008 - 08:55 PM

Dear Fr Raphael, Andreas, and others,

I've very much enjoyed the recent contributions to this discussion. Two points have come out in the most recent posts: namely, the question of joy in relationship to the virtues, and the counsels given in the patristic texts towards the attainment of joy.

On the question of joy and the virtues, the following two comments help to frame things in:

One important issue to address here is the different way in which we pursue joy as compared to the other virtues. [...] Why then is there this difference in how we approach joy and in how we try to attain the other virtues?


from the previous posts (which are all wonderful), the thought occurs that perhaps joy is not a virtue and whereas we work towards the virtues, joy is a gift of the Spirit, the feeling of grace which unexpectedly comes upon us when we have shown love for Christ by trying to keep His commandments.


This is a very interesting distinction. It is telling to note that joy is not normally listed in various patristic catalogues of the virtues; but rather, it is listed as among the 'gifts of the Spirit' (see Galatians 5.22-23) towards which the virtues lead. I'm reminded of a verse by Alexander Pope:

"What nothing earthly gives or can destroy,
The soul's calm sunshine and the heartfelt joy,
Is Virtue's prize. A better would you fix?"

I'm also reminded of our reading group on St Innocent of Alaska's text, The Way Into the Kingdom of Heaven, in which we addressed his comments on 'blessedness' and 'happiness' (not quite the same as 'joy', but not unrelated), as the gifts of the Spirit in response to toil (see especially posts #78 and onward in that thread).

Elder Porphyrios sees joy as the fulfilment of the love imparted in the human heart by God, that is made manifest through struggling after that love:

"Christ is joy, the true light, happiness. Christ is our hope. Our relation to Christ is love, eros, passion, enthusiasm, longing for the divine. Christ is everything. He is our love. He is the object of our desire. This passionate longing for Christ is a love that can not be taken away. This is where joy flows from." (Elder Porphyrios, Wounded by Love, p. 96)

This seems in line with the majority of patristic texts, which see joy as the harmony of creation in authentic communion with God, with is grace, rather than as a virtue per se -- virtues normally being those paths of action and behaviour that lead to such communion. This is, however, not hard-and-fast, and there are some passages that interpret virtue in a manner to which joy might find an entry. Yet the standard is to see joy as the fruit of a life fed by virtuous living. From St Ignatius of Antioch:

"Virtues and vices are the food of the soul, and it can feed on either one, turning to whichever it desires. If it is bent toward moral excellence, it will be fed by virtue - by righteousness, temperance, meekness, endurance. In other words, it is just as St. Paul says, 'Being nourished by the word of truth' (1 Tim. 4.6)." (St Ignatius of Antioch)

This leads into the second point, which is on the counsel given in the patristic texts towards the attainment of joy. Fr Raphael noted above:

In our life in Christ we try to be patient, to be humble, forgiving, etc. In this there is something direct towards which we aim even if we do not yet understand the goal nor can find a direct way towards it.

But to try to be joyful in such a direct manner is something we rarely hear of or are counseled towards- except perhaps to avoid despondency; but which does not necessarily equate with joy. So the way towards joy is more indirect it seems than the other virtues.


This I find extremely interesting, as it is indeed rather rare to find texts that counsel directly for the direct attainment of joy (a notable exception being the writings of St Seraphim, already hinted at earlier in the thread; see the quotations I offered in my post #26). Instead, as you say, the texts tend to see joy as something attained through the work of direct attainment of the virtues. Seeking joy in-and-of itself, much less attempting to 'practice' joy in-and-of itself, tend to be discouraged as prone to delusion. Rather, what one normally sees is counsel such as the following from St John Chrysostom:

"If thou desirest joy, seek not after riches, nor bodily health, nor glory, nor power, nor luxury, nor sumptuous tables, nor vestures of silk, nor costly lands, nor houses splended and cnspicuous, nor anything else of that kind; but ursue that spiritual wisdom which is according to God, and take hold of virtue; and then nought of the things which are present, or which are expected, will be able to sadden thee."

What emerges out of seeing joy in relation to the virtues, and thus the manner in which it must be obtained (i.e. not directly, in the way that we are called directly to grapple with the virtues), is that joy, understood as the fruit of communion in God, must be attained in the same way as all communion in God: ascetically. That is, it is through the keeping of the commandments, the virtues, that communion is made real in the human heart; and all the fruits of that communion -- including joy -- are laid bear to the human person through that ascetic endeavour. Which ties back directly to St John Klimakos on joy coming through 'grief', which is for him a type of true ascesis.

I very much welcome others' thoughts and further discussion.

XB, Dcn Matthew

#32 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 21 May 2008 - 08:52 AM

It was Effie's quoting Galatians 5:22 which set my train of thought in motion. I've had a look at the preceding chapters and found that there St Paul makes clear the basis of our life in Christ. I suppose the Fathers have commented on this but I haven't read patristic commentary on Galatians. But what seems key is how Paul, correcting Peter, explains that the law cannot save, cannot put us right with God. Following the law - and for us, this can mean a legalistic approach to our own canons - does not attract grace, and I equate grace with joy which is how we feel grace. We cannot earn or merit grace. Paul indicates that if following the law were enough, there would have been no need for Christ's sacrifice. We cannot keep the law - we will always fail. Christ gave us His promise of love and forgiveness. So, we are freed from law and in faith we acquire freedom, not, as Paul says, to indulge our baser nature but freed to become slaves of God through love. Legalism makes our salvation depend on our own efforts and that cannt be so. In faith, we cast ourselves on God's mercy knowing we can do nothing ourselves. Faith and works of love attract grace from the Holy Spirit Who thereby calls, justifies and sanctifies us and in this we experience joy. Though our will to be saved be ever so weak and tiny, God is attracted then to us. Though we be weak and fail and fall daily, if we keep faith and do works of love God will still grant us grace. If we only keep alive in us the desire to be saved God will not abandon us, and the Holy Spirit will give of His fruits, He Who is the 'Treasury of good things'. Faith includes the belief that we may be forgiven our sins because if we do so believe and repent, we can commune with God and know joy.

I suppose this is trite theology to others but it's new to me.

#33 M.C. Steenberg

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Posted 21 May 2008 - 10:08 AM

Dear Andreas and others,

Your recent point is very welcome and interesting. It also raises an issue I think is worthy of some further consideration. You write:

Following the law - and for us, this can mean a legalistic approach to our own canons - does not attract grace, and I equate grace with joy which is how we feel grace.


It is the latter part of this phrase that I find particularly interesting: 'I equate grace with joy which is how we feel grace.' Surely this is in some, perhaps many (even most?) cases correct; however, it is important also to provide for the fact that grace is sometimes experienced apart from joy - or at least, without joy as it is often interpreted (which raises an interesting point for this discussion). There is a true grace in moments of remarkable loss. At times a culture that insists joy must be a sensual experience of pleasure, insists that this feeling must accompany the Christian experience of, for example, grief; but authentic grief is a moment of great grace, and the experience of such grace. But it this one and the same with an experience of 'joy'?

XB, Dcn Matthew

#34 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 21 May 2008 - 04:42 PM

There is a true grace in moments of remarkable loss. At times a culture that insists joy must be a sensual experience of pleasure, insists that this feeling must accompany the Christian experience of, for example, grief; but authentic grief is a moment of great grace, and the experience of such grace. But it this one and the same with an experience of 'joy'?

XB, Dcn Matthew


I don't think I understand this, especially the second sentence. True, our culture generally thinks joy comes from sensual pleasure, though I wonder if this is too harsh a view of our culture or delineating joy rather narrowly; does this include the pleasure people get from a view or a sunset, or a piece of music, or the joy parents may experience from their children (sometimes!)? Or perhaps I'm construing 'sensual experience of pleasure' too narrowly. I don't understand the idea that our culture expects us to find the 'sensual experience of pleasure' in grief. If anything, our culture does not have an Orthodox Christian or simple Christian attitude to grief but sees grief as the denial of joy through whatever caused the grief. From the Orthodox point of view, authentic grief can be accompanied by joy but not joy as the world understands it. In grief, one can feel the presence of the Comforter, the Spirit of Truth Who enables us to see the Christian truth in what happened that caused the grief.

But is this one and the same with an experience of 'joy'?


I think it is in that any sense of the presence of grace from the Holy Spirit causes joy, whether it be a consoling joy (to help with, say, a bereavement, or to give assurance that one's sins really are forgiven though they 'be as scarlet') or a gladsome joy as when grace visits our faith and works of love.

#35 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 21 May 2008 - 05:56 PM

Is joy a virtue or fruit of the Spirit? It seems to this simple mind that joy is not something I do, it is something I receive. It is a gift, not an action, more of a result rather than an effort in and of itself.

Or am I missing something?

#36 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 21 May 2008 - 07:23 PM

Or am I missing something?


Not missing a thing, Herman.

#37 Br Tom Forde OFM Cap

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Posted 21 May 2008 - 08:18 PM

Dear Mary, I never noticed that before! Thank you for sharing that. You (and the Lord) have given me something to think about.

Yours in Christ,
Br. Tom Forde OFM Cap

#38 M.C. Steenberg

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Posted 21 May 2008 - 09:29 PM

Dear Andreas and others,

I apologise if I wasn't clear in my last post. You wrote:

I don't think I understand this, especially the second sentence. True, our culture generally thinks joy comes from sensual pleasure, though I wonder if this is too harsh a view of our culture or delineating joy rather narrowly; does this include the pleasure people get from a view or a sunset, or a piece of music, or the joy parents may experience from their children (sometimes!)? Or perhaps I'm construing 'sensual experience of pleasure' too narrowly. I don't understand the idea that our culture expects us to find the 'sensual experience of pleasure' in grief. If anything, our culture does not have an Orthodox Christian or simple Christian attitude to grief but sees grief as the denial of joy through whatever caused the grief. From the Orthodox point of view, authentic grief can be accompanied by joy but not joy as the world understands it. In grief, one can feel the presence of the Comforter, the Spirit of Truth Who enables us to see the Christian truth in what happened that caused the grief.


I rather suspect you are saying much the same thing as I intended. For clarity's sake, here is my own explanation of my previous comments:

It is the latter part of this phrase that I find particularly interesting: 'I equate grace with joy which is how we feel grace.' Surely this is in some, perhaps many (even most?) cases correct; however, it is important also to provide for the fact that grace is sometimes experienced apart from joy - or at least, without joy as it is often interpreted (which raises an interesting point for this discussion).


This was the basic heart of my comment: namely, to question whether the experience of God's grace is always equivalent to joy. Certainly it often is, perhaps even most of the time; but there are other types of experience of God's grace, for which we might question whether 'joy' is the fruit that comes of that experience. The example I gave was this:

There is a true grace in moments of remarkable loss.


Encountering loss, grief, in a holy manner, is authentically an experience of God's grace, as many will know from personal experiences of grief, tragedy, etc. Here God's grace is encountered, yet not necessarily with the resulting fruit of 'joy'.

My comments that followed were an attempt to demonstrate that often we get confused over this issue. When we are taught (as sometimes we are) that joy is always the fruit of the experience of God's grace, and that God's grace is active in grief, the conclusion to which we are impelled is that one is to be joyful in all moments of grief -- else we demonstrate some lack of faith, etc. But this leads to two questions that I find significant: (1) Is it necessarily the case that joy always accompanies the reception of divine grace? and (2) If so, mustn't this imply a very different view of 'joy' than what we are often told 'joy' equals?

On this I wrote, perhaps rather muddledly:

At times a culture that insists joy must be a sensual experience of pleasure, insists that this feeling must accompany the Christian experience of, for example, grief; but authentic grief is a moment of great grace, and the experience of such grace. But it this one and the same with an experience of 'joy'?


Standard cultural definitions of joy are indeed sensory. Pleasure is sensual satisfaction, whether this be primarily physical, or emotional (such as in your example of a sunset). Senses bring a satisfaction of well-feeling, equated with joy. But if this is 'joy', how can it be paired with what is experienced in, for example, a moment of true grief?

I have been involved in many pastoral situations where this 'dilemma', as abstract as it may sound when written out in a forum, has proved extremely difficult for people to bear. There is rather repeated mention in Christian circles that experience of God's grace equals joy; and therefore, if one approaches grief faithfully, one must find joy in it, else fail to acknowledge the grace of God. Since 'joy' is defined culturally as the kind of sensory 'happiness' I've attempted to describe, many come to a kind of crisis in their experience of grief. They do not feel this joy, cannot feel it, and so doubt the grace of God, their faith, etc.

To be clear, this is not to say that common culture has any expectation of joy in grief; this is a Christian vision. But when Christians adopt -- wittingly or unwittingly -- definitions and expectations of 'joy' that arise from cultural understandings, it is the Christian expectations of joy that suddenly become difficult.

Which returns me to my original discussion question: if 'joy' is understood as the fruit of the experience of communion in God's grace, what are we to say of the experience of that grace that is not 'joyous'?

XB, Dcn Matthew

#39 Mary

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Posted 21 May 2008 - 11:58 PM

To be clear, this is not to say that common culture has any expectation of joy in grief; this is a Christian vision. But when Christians adopt -- wittingly or unwittingly -- definitions and expectations of 'joy' that arise from cultural understandings, it is the Christian expectations of joy that suddenly become difficult.


This is true... it's our faulty understanding, or our cultural understanding of Joy that gives rise to all of our false expectations of Christ's Joy. We think it means to be happy all the time or maybe, always cheerful, optimistic, able to find the silver lining in that massive black cloud; we think it means we never get sad or depressed or worried. So we think we should hold up under all the stress and we get mad at ourselves, at God and everyone else who doesn't understand our pain, when we collapse. We don't know how to handle grief, because think we're not supposed to grieve.

So, it still brings us back to one of the original questions - what is Christ's joy?


Which returns me to my original discussion question: if 'joy' is understood as the fruit of the experience of communion in God's grace, what are we to say of the experience of that grace that is not 'joyous'?

XB, Dcn Matthew


Maybe the only way to even begin to think about this is to approach it backwards...?

When there is no Joy, there is despair, there is hopelessness, there is no strength, there's a lot of complaining, tons of irritability, endless mistrust, raging anger, there's no peace, there's no gratitude... No ability to feel the goodness from others, or enjoy the fleeting delights of life - like cute things that kids say, the laughter of a little child, a flower, silly songs, a smile... There's plenty of emptiness that never gets filled up, that sucks up the life of everyone around, like a black hole. There's no ability to care about others or to help others or to even acknowledge that others are hurting too. All that topped with lavish amounts of self pity.

Well... I don't know if I described the lack of Joy or not. That was just a brief autobiography. I might've left out a few of the ingredients. Feel free to add to the mix. =)

In Christ,
Mary.

#40 Michael Stickles

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Posted 22 May 2008 - 04:14 AM

Well Mike gave me one post, and I took two. I couldn't quite resist chiming in on this. Anna

(1) Is it necessarily the case that joy always accompanies the reception of divine grace?


I would answer no to this but say rather that desire is ultimately the most basic indicator or the reception of grace.

From the quotes in the above posts and reading some of the lives of the Optina Elders I would say that joy is the fruit of a fullness of grace but that an absense of joy certainly is not equivalent to the total withdraw of grace. In many of the patristic sources I have read it talks about God withdrawing his grace to some degree and this can cause a loss of joy. But is there any evidence that this means a total absence of grace?

Elder Nektary of Optina p.342

Once the elder told me that he was miserable, that he was despondent, afflicted and had lost the ability to pray. ..."Is it possible Batiushka , for you to have a burden on your soul? I thought you were always in a state of prayer and joy of spirit." He replied to this that mistakes happen: "Sometimes you say something from yourself or resolve a question in someone else’s life incorrectly. At other times I would call someone to strict account at confession or, on the contrary would not give a penance when it ought to have been given. There are punishments for all this -- the grace of God punishes us; it steps away for a time and we suffer."



St. Theophan says in the Path to Salvation,

"Therefore, a true witness of Christian life is the fire of active zeal for pleasing God...Such zeal is produced by the action of grace."


Jesus says that no one can come to Him unless the Father draws them.

In my own life at least there has been a great deal of time I have not felt joy. In fact, I have felt awful, been bogged down in a state of unrepentance and sin and figured God surely by any rights ought to have abandoned me. What I always took comfort in was that I at least still desired to do better and please God or at the very least desired such a desire. I always figured that if God truly had totally abandoned me then I simply wouldn't care anymore. I in fact would abandon God, for who can come to Him apart from His grace calling us?

For me I see joy as desire fulfilled, but even in the withdraw of the fullness of grace that fulfills our desires, the desire for God birthed by the initial seed of grace still remains.

In Christ, Anna




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