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Joy in Christ

The Sure Indicator of Our Spiritual Condition

"Rejoice evermore" (I Thessalonians 5:16)

"Rejoice in the Lord alway, and again I say, Rejoice" (1 Thessalonians 5:16; Philippians 4:4)

It is, unfortunately, not an uncommon phenomenon for us to see pious Faithful in whose faces joy, good cheer, and the light of Grace do not blossom forth. 

There are many excuses for this: family troubles, difficulties at work, various mishaps, economic misfortunes, health problems, unpleasant developments in national and political life, etc.

Can it be that all of these things constitute substantial obstacles, such that a Christian is thereby deprived of the peace of the Holy Spirit and the Grace of Christ? 

Certainly not; for, the joy of the pious Faithful derives not from the absence of lifes tribulations and afflictions, but from the presence of our Savior in their hearts.

When a Christian has a humble attitude and laments for his sins; when his pursuit is "always that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men"; [1] when he strives to keep God's commandments; when he continually partakes of the Spotless Mysteries; when he unceasingly reflects with gratitude on the love of God—then, he is alive in the Lord and has the Giver of joy and peace in his heart.

The believer who is God-Bearing and Christ-Bearing "rejoices evermore," [2] and his presence in the world is a testimony to the Resurrection and to Pentecost; it is a revelation of the Kingdom of Heaven and the bliss of the Age to come, of which he already has a foretaste. 

To those who would object that it is impossible for one to rejoice at all times, St. Basil the Great wrote a marvelous homily, entitled, "Concerning Thanksgiving," [3] in which he confronts those who dare "to accuse St. Paul of laying down things that are impossible for us."

The blessed joy of Christians is the indicator of their spiritual condition: a lack of joy—and indeed, of unceasing joy—betokens a deficiency in communion with Christ, and also with our brother.

It is especially when there is no love for our neighbor in our hearts, when we malign and hurt him, when we belittle and despise him, and when we cause him distress and upset, that the Lord is missing from our hearts and we have no communion with Him.

The Apostle Paul urges us to "follow that which is good," [4] by which he means: "Be intensely and exceedingly eager to do good to each other, that is, to your Christian fellow-believers and to all; that is, [even] to the unbelieving and the godless." [5]

The opposite—that is, arrogance and vengeance, coldness and apathy, hatred for our brother and ruthlessness—will make us to resemble the bee, as St. John Chrysostomos strikingly notes: "Do you not see how the bee dies as soon as it has injured someone with its sting? By that animal, God instructs us not to grieve our neighbors, because it is we who thereby first greet death. For, in striking at them, we may perhaps pain them temporarily; but we ourselves shall not live any longer, just as this animal does not." [6]

The most blessed Theotokos is the "joy of all generations," [7] and in the Parakleseis (Services of Supplication) to her, we chant the very beautiful hymn: "Fill my heart with joy, O Virgin, who didst receive the fullness of joy and didst cause the sorrow of sin to disappear." [8]

Let us repeat this joyful Troparion frequently and sincerely, praying to our All-Holy Mother that she count us worthy to rejoice in the Lord evermore, in the joy of the Resurrection and the Kingdom. Amen!

Endnotes

1. I Thessalonians 5:15.

2. I Thessalonians 5:16.

3. Patrologia Græca, Vol. XXXI, cols. 217-237.

4. I Thessalonians 5:15.

5. St. Nicodemos the Hagiorite, Interpretation of the Epistles [in Greek], Vol. III, p. 85.

6. Patrologia Græca, Vol. LXII, col. 457 ("On I Thessalonians," Homily 10).

7. Salutations, Oikos 10.

8. Small Paraklesis, Ode 9.

From Orthodox Tradition, Vol. XVI, Nos. 3 & 4 (1999), pp. 4-5. Translated from the Greek periodical Hagios Kyprianos, No. 285 (July-August 1998), pp. 81-82.