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Sister Doreen’s Reflections

Come! Wait with me! Joy for our world is coming! God calls us out of darkness to walk in the light.

“And the angel said to the Shepherds, ‘don’t be afraid. I’m here to announce a great and joyful event that is meant for everybody, worldwide’ … and they ran to see for themselves what God through the angels had revealed to them … then they returned, shouting for joy, glorifying and praising God for everything they had heard and seen.” (paraphrase from Luke 2:8-18)

We light the third candle of Joy and it is sometimes called the Shepherd’s candle. Laughter and shouts of joy are signs of coming restoration, so says the Psalmist. It is an important reminder in the Advent season of preparation, of the joy that is ours in knowing the power of love in our lives. Joy can seem in short supply in our world today. “Joy does not simply happen to us. We have to choose joy and keep choosing it every day.” (Henri Nouwen) 

Some time ago, Sister Wilma gave me a card that said “Today I choose joy”. This has become a daily mantra, a whisper in my ear, that comes each morning!  It reminds me to choose joy! There are times in life when the only proper response to the dreary and the difficult is to ignore them, and it is then that the person of hope, the person who knows that God is in the daily, knows joy. Choose joy – to choose joy where at first it seems there is none is to become co-creator with the God of life. As this candle is lit, it is a reminder to me to relax, release, and enjoy the wonder of the present moment.

Jesus before his death, I believe, tried to help the disciples understand that joy and sorrow were like sisters or brothers, they live in the same house. Jesus said: “You’re going to be in deep sadness, very sad, but your sadness will develop into gladness. When a woman gives birth, she has a hard time.  But when the baby is born, there is joy in the birth.  This new life in the world wipes out memory of the pain. The sadness you have right now is similar to that pain, but the coming joy is also similar. When I see you again, you’ll be full of joy, and it will be a joy no one can take away from you.” (John 16:20 – 23)

Happiness is elusive and fleeting, it can easily slip away on us, yet underneath each moment of happiness – deep down – there is a joy that is too deep to be blown away by every little wind of change and circumstance. It is the knowledge of the presence and power of God within us. There is a deep joy that is part of the hallowed ground of our being, that mystery of bondedness, of being so intimately part of God’s love and God’s life, God’s ‘at-home-ness’.  But we need to do the hard work of taking time to be present to our joys! 

Macrina Wiederkehr wrote: “Jesus, deep within my heart lives a creature of joy – a little thing with wings that wants to sing through all my sorrow. It is sorrow’s sister, Joy.” Joy can never be made to happen, by actively pursuing it. It has to find us in our ordinary, sometimes worried and pressured lives. C.S. Lewis said that Joy has to surprise us.

And when it finds us, when it comes we cannot hang onto it, we need to kiss it as it passes by! We really only ever ‘get’ joy by giving it away! That is the great paradox at the centre of all spirituality – joy will come to us if we set about actively trying to gift it for others. In a very real sense, joy is not about what happens to us, it is the meaning we give to what we do that determines the nature, the quality of the lives we live.

“It’s a gift to joyfully recognize and accept our own smallness and ordinariness. Then you are free with nothing to live up to, nothing to prove, and nothing to protect. Such freedom is my best description of Christian maturity, because once you know that your “I” is great and one with God, you can ironically be quite content with a small and ordinary “I.” No grandstanding is necessary. Any question of your own importance or dignity has already been resolved once and for all and forever.” (Richard Rohr)

The fullness of joy is to behold God in everything.
— Julian of Norwich 

The great mystic, John of the Cross, ends one of his most famous instructions with this poem:

To reach satisfaction in all desire its possession in nothing.
To come to possess all desire the possession of nothing.
To arrive at being all desire to be nothing.
To come to the knowledge of all desire the knowledge of nothing.
To come to the pleasure you have not you must go by the way in which you enjoy not.
To come to the possession you have not you must go by a way in which you possess not.
To come to be what you are not you must go by a way in which you are not.

And I believe that that alone is a recipe for joy.          

Let us pray:

My life flows on in endless song, about earth’s lamentation.
I hear the clear, though far off hymn that hails a new creation.

Refrain: No storm can shake my inmost calm while to that Rock I’m clinging.
Since Love is lord of heaven and earth, how can I keep from singing.

Through all the tumult and the strife, I hear that music ringing.
It sounds and echoes in my soul; how can I keep from singing? (Refrain)

The peace of Christ makes fresh my heart, a fountain ever springing!
All things are mine since I am Christs’; how can I keep from singing? (Refrain)

Advent calls us to joy in the promise that God is calling us to greater things and will be with us as we live them.