Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Andrew M. Greenwell, Esq.

6/17/2013 (1 year ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

What is Christian joy?  In its essence, Christian joy is supernatural in origin, which is to say it is something beyond our natural powers.  Christian joy is anchored in Jesus Christ.  "Christian joy," wrote Pope Paul VI in his encyclical on joy, Gaudete in Domino, "is the spiritual sharing in the unfathomable joy, both divine and human, which is in the heart of Jesus Christ glorified."

Highlights

By Andrew M. Greenwell, Esq.

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

6/17/2013 (1 year ago)

Published in Living Faith

Keywords: Jesus, Christian joy, St. Thomas Aquinas, Joseph Ratzinger, Pope Francis, St. Bernard


CORPUS CHRISTI, TX (Catholic Online) - "Christianity is, by its very nature, joy--ability to be joyful," wrote the theologian Joseph Ratzinger.  "A Christian," said Pope Francis more concretely in a recent sermon, "is a man and a woman of joy . . . . The Christian sings with joy, and walks, and carries this joy."

Joy is a central theme in the Scriptures.  Indeed, the Gospel, which is to say the very inception of Christian sacred history, virtually begins with the announcement of joy:  "Rejoice!" was the first work spoken to Mary by the angel Gabriel to the Good News that the Word was to become flesh. (Luke 1:28)

Jesus' teachings are intended to cause us joy.  "These things I have spoken to you," said Jesus to his apostles, "that my joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full."  (John 15:11)  "Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete." (John 16:4)

Joy is a fruit of the Spirit, that Holy Spirit of Truth (John 16:13), the Spirit of Love, against which there is no law.  (Cf. Gal. 5:22-23)

Perhaps the most famous is St. Paul's commandment to rejoice: "Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice."  (Phil. 4:4)

What is this Christian joy?  In its essence, Christian joy is supernatural in origin, which is to say it is something beyond our natural powers.  Christian joy is anchored in Jesus Christ.  "Christian joy," wrote Pope Paul VI in his apostolic exhortation on joy Gaudete in Domino, "is the spiritual sharing in the unfathomable joy, both divine and human, which is in the heart of Jesus Christ glorified."

Christian joy is therefore, a grace, a gift of God.  "Joy is a gift from God," "a grace we must seek," observed Pope Francis in his sermon.  Like the heart of Jesus in which it is found, like the Holy Spirit from which it comes, like sanctifying grace which justifies us, it "fills us from within."  It is the product of our adoption as sons of God, of our divinization and at the same time our true humanization.  Anima naturaliter Christiana.

Christian joy is tied to truth, the truth about the Lord Jesus, and so also tied to faith.  Christian joy is tied to hope in God's promises in Christ.  Christian joy is tied to love, the love of God in Christ.  There is no Christian joy without the theological virtues.  There can be no joy without it being grounded in love of God, in the truth of God and belief in him, and in our hopeful confidence in his promises.  Joy is, in the final analysis, a gift of God himself, the God who is Love (1 John 4:8) and Truth (John 14:6), the God of Hope (Rom. 15:13), the God who has revealed himself in fullness in the God-Man Jesus.

Joy is intrinsically tied to truth, in particular the truths of our faith.  As Joseph Ratzinger observed, "only when love and truth are in harmony can man know joy."  In his apostolic exhortation on joy, Pope Paul VI was equally insistent that joy and truth are travel companions: "God disposes the mind and heart of His creature to meet joy, at the same time as truth." 

In his Confessions, St. Augustine used a famous expression--the "joy of truth," gaudium de veritate.  Through this expression, St. Augustine links joy to truth as if they were man and wife, to show their intrinsic and ineradicable connection.  [Conf. X, 23, 33] 

In the apostolic constitution Ex corde ecclesiae Blessed John Paul II defined St. Augustine's expression gaudium de veritate as "that joy of searching for, discovering, and communicating truth," in particular the truth about God's revelation in Jesus.  This joy is a precursor to the joy in heaven which is beatitude.  "And this is the blessed life," wrote St. Augustine about the Holy Spirit of truth promised us by Our Lord (John 16:13), "to rejoice in you, about you, and because of you (gaudere ad te, de te, propter te)."

Joy is inextricably tied to the truths of the faith, the foundations of which--the Word of God who does not deceive and cannot deceive--gives rise to "the certainty" of the lovely truth and truthful love "that Jesus is with us and with the Father," as Pope Francis put it.

Not only is joy intimately linked with the truths of our faith in Jesus, it is also inextricably bound up in the love of Christ.

In his Summa Theologiae, St. Thomas Aquinas ties joy and love together, love being the engine of joy.  He therefore discusses Christian joy with the context of the theological virtue of charity, the love of God in Christ.

St. Thomas Aquinas divides joy into two kinds: natural joy and supernatural joy.  Our experience of natural joy allows us to understand supernatural joy. 

Joy, St. Thomas says, proceeds from love, is "caused by love," either because the thing loved is present or the thing loved flourishes.  Joy is the opposite of sorrow, which arises from the absence of the thing loved, or when the beloved is deprived of its good and is afflicted by some evil.  (S.T. IIaIIae, q. 28, art. 1, c.

Pope Paul VI gives a litany of these natural joys, those "many human joys that the Creator places in our path," most of them based on natural virtues and obedience to the natural moral law, including: "the elating joy of existence and of life; the joy of chaste and sanctified love; the peaceful joy of nature and silence; the sometimes austere joy of work well done; the joy and satisfaction of duty performed; the transparent joy of purity, service and sharing; the demanding joy of sacrifice."

Christian joy, however, is something more than mere natural joy.  It is spiritual and supernatural in origin.  Christian joy does not disdain natural joys, but presupposes them and purifies, completes, and sublimates them, notes Pope Paul VI.  And yet it is also something wholly other than natural joy and its sublimation.

In the case of supernatural joy, the beloved is God.  If we love God as he has revealed himself in Christ, then His presence in our lives brings forth Christian joy.  "Therefore spiritual joy, which is about God, is caused by charity" or love of God, concludes St. Thomas.  (S. T. IIaIIae, q. 28, art. 1, c.)

This spiritual joy in God is two-fold continues St. Thomas.  The more excellent supernatural joy is to "rejoice in the Divine good considered in itself."  This supernatural joy is perfect, and is "incompatible with an admixture of sorrow."

The other supernatural joy rejoices "in the Divine good as participated by us."  The presence of God in our lives, or in the lives of our neighbor, "can be hindered by anything contrary to it," and so this joy "is compatible with an admixture of sorrow," it may be bittersweet in that we may grieve the sin in our life or in the life of our neighbor.

The joy we have in God, the "perfect joy incompatible with an admixture of sorrow," helps overcome the sorrow that would ordinarily be met with in suffering without our hope in the promises of Jesus Christ.  The reality of joy founded in Christian hope allows us to overcome the sorrow in suffering. 

As Hans Urs von Balthasar linked hope and joy in his book Theo-Drama: "This concrete co-inherence [of joy in suffering that ought to be found in the Christian] is expressed most beautifully in the long 'as if' sequence in 2 Corinthians 6:4-10: 'We are treated 'as if' impostors, and yet are true. . . 'as if' dying, and behold we live; 'as if' punished, and yet not killed; 'as if' sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; 'as if' poor, yet making many rich; 'as if' having nothing, and yet possessing everything." 

Citing to St. Augustine's Commentary on the Psalms, von Balthasar continues: "Augustine says on this passage [2 Cor. 6:4-10] that 'we can say 'as if' in connection with our sorrowing, but not in connection with our joy, for it is secure in hope." 

"In a dream everything is 'as if', but on awaking the 'as if' vanishes.  'For the Apostle does not say 'as if rejoicing, but always sorrowful', or 'as if both sorrowful and rejoicing'; rather, he says 'as if sorrowing, yet always rejoicing." 

In short, what von Balthasar and St. Augustine are saying is that the greater reality is not our suffering, but "the God of hope" who transforms our suffering and thereby fills us "with all joy."  (Rom. 15:13)  Christian joy defeats suffering. This is the gaudium crucis, the joy of the cross.

It is joy's reality that allows St. Paul to tell the Colossians: "Now I rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up those things that are wanting of the sufferings of Christ, in my flesh, for his body, which is the Church."  (Col. 1:24)

We must abide, then in faith, hope, and love of God, for joy to be a part of our life and to defeat the sorrows that suffering would otherwise bring.  For this reason, Pope Francis suggested that joy is "a pilgrim virtue," a "gift that walks, walks on the path of life, that walks with Jesus, preaching, proclaiming Jesus, proclaiming joy." 

Joy is contagious, cannot be suppressed; it is "magnanimous"--the thing that makes a soul great--in the words of Pope Francis: it overflows into everything a Christian does bountifully, refusing limits, irrepressible, and, like a playful energetic puppy, "cannot be held at heel."

The author Robert Burton wrote a famous though ponderous book, The Anatomy of Melancholy.  The term "melancholy Christians" is, to Pope Francis, an oxymoron.  In a homey image, Pope Francis says that Christians without joy "have more in common with pickled peppers than the joy of having a beautiful life."

What is needed, as part of the New Evangelization, is an Anatomy of Christian Joy, whose three sections are faith, hope, and love, but whose contents, contrary to Burton's thick tome, can all be boiled down to one Word: the Word of God made Flesh, Jesus.

St. Bernard of Clairvaux put the anatomy of Christian joy in four short words in the hymn often attributed to him, Jesu dulcis memoria:

Sis, Jesu, nostrum gaudium!


Be, Jesus, our joy!

-----

Andrew M. Greenwell is an attorney licensed to practice law in Texas, practicing in Corpus Christi, Texas.  He is married with three children.  He maintains a blog entirely devoted to the natural law called Lex Christianorum.  You can contact Andrew at agreenwell@harris-greenwell.com.

---


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'


Copywriter 2015 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for May 2015
Universal:
That, rejecting the culture of indifference, we may care for our neighbours who suffer, especially the sick and the poor.
Evangelization: That Mary's intercession may help Christians in secularized cultures be ready to proclaim Jesus.


Rosaries, Crosses, Prayer Cards and more... by Catholic Shopping .com


Comments


More Living Faith

Teen delivers powerful impromptu invocation during graduation commencement's unexpected emergency Watch

Image of

By Atarah Haely (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

A high school graduate stepped up to the podium during the Clay-Chalkville High School graduation ceremony and delivered a powerful prayer, after one woman had a medical emergency. The prayer moved the audience so much that his impromptu invocation was cheered for at ... continue reading


Catholic Priest warns participants of 'Charlie Charlie' Challenge summoning a demon is no joke Watch

Image of

By Atarah Haely (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

"Charlie, Charlie" Challenge is a game now infamous on social media that encourage players to summon a demon. According to a Mirror Online, a Catholic priest has issued a letter warning about the dangers involved with doing such a ritual, and that the challenge is ... continue reading


A Baltimorean's reflections on the Baltimore riots

Image of

By Tony Magliano

"The God of peace is never glorified by human violence," wrote the famous Trappist monk Thomas Merton. Whether it's on an individual, city, national, or international level, violence always dishonors God, and makes bad situations worse. The recent Baltimore City riots ... continue reading


Pope Francis admits to giving up TV in 1990 Watch

Image of While being in the eye of the international media, Pope Francis has little time for media. He's just too busy, and pledged not to watch TV after a pledge to the Virgin Mary in 1990.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

While frequently in the media's eye, Pope Francis in fact has little time for the media. After making a promise to the Virgin Mary, the Pope claims that he has not watched TV since 1990. He did not even watch the matches of his football team San Lorenzo de ... continue reading


Pope Francis wants to be remembered as 'good guy who tried to do good' Watch

Image of

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

In his brief time as the leader of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis has done many remarkable things and has captured the world's attention. He came off as surprisingly humble in a recent interview with a fellow Argentinean journalist. Pope Francis says he ... continue reading


Catholics worldwide vow to get the word out on Pope Francis' message on climate change Watch

Image of Environmental advocates, working with bishops, religious orders, Catholic universities, and lay movements hope that there will be a transformative impact in the fight against global warming.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Pope Francis will release his anticipated teaching document on the environment and climate change in the coming weeks. Over the past several years, more faith traditions have rallied behind environmental protection. Churches have begun to press ecological ... continue reading


The Church Needs to Be Baptized Afresh in the Holy Spirit Watch

Image of Do I still believe that the gifts of the Holy Spirit are available for ordinary Christians? You bet I do! I believe that Pentecost still happens. I KNOW it still happens. We can ALL know it still happens because we can experience its effects in our own lives. We should not be afraid of the Holy Spirit! In fact, we should regularly seek to be filled with more and more of the Spirit.

By Deacon Keith Fournier

We need to pray for a New Pentecost for the Church in this hour! We need more of the Holy Spirit for the New Evangelization of the Church - so that a renewed Church can engage in the missionary task of the Third Christian Millennium. We need to be baptized afresh ... continue reading


Brotherhood of the Belt: Struggle, Trouble and Failure in the Christian Life Watch

Image of The Martyrdom of Peter

By Deacon Keith Fournier

Peter's wrong choices were not the end of the story of Gods plan for his life. Peter's denial crippled Peter emotionally and spiritually. He lost his way. That was until he encountered the Risen Christ. There, in that encounter, he allowed the belt of ... continue reading


The Purpose of Pentecost is the Birth and Ongoing Mission of the Church

Image of The purpose of Pentecost is the birth - and continued rebirth - of the Church.

By Deacon Keith Fournier

The Church was empowered by the Holy Spirit to live differently in the midst of a world awaiting the fullness of redemption, to live as a new people to lead the world back to the Father, in and through the Son. Through their experience of the Holy Spirit the early ... continue reading


Top 5 Roman Catholic colleges in the United States Watch

Image of

By Atarah Haely (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

What constitutes being the best university is oftentimes subjective and usually in adherence to one's beliefs and practices. Choosing a college is one of the biggest decisions many people are making. Some opt for those that offer the best training in the fields of ... continue reading


All Living Faith News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Sirach 42:15-25
15 Next, I shall remind you of the works of the Lord, ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 33:2-3, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9
2 Give thanks to Yahweh on the lyre, play for him on ... Read More

Gospel, Mark 10:46-52
46 They reached Jericho; and as he left Jericho with ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for May 28th, 2015 Image

Bl. Margaret Pole
May 28: Martyr of England. She was born Margaret Plantagenet, the niece ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter