Today, let’s continue on the theme presented by Saint John Paul to open Chapter Four, joy.
Joy is more than a Sunday thing. A leisure thing. Something we do when there’s no reason to frown:
57. Therefore, if we wish to rediscover the full meaning of Sunday, we must rediscover this aspect of the life of faith. Certainly, Christian joy must mark the whole of life, and not just one day of the week. But in virtue of its significance as the day of the Risen Lord, celebrating God’s work of creation and “new creation”, Sunday is the day of joy in a very special way, indeed the day most suitable for learning how to rejoice and to rediscover the true nature and deep roots of joy.
A caution: that Sunday is not just a surface thing. One of the Doctors of the Church gives witness:
This joy should never be confused with shallow feelings of satisfaction and pleasure, which inebriate the senses and emotions for a brief moment, but then leave the heart unfulfilled and perhaps even embittered. In the Christian view, joy is much more enduring and consoling; as the saints attest, it can hold firm even in the dark night of suffering. (Cf. Saint Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face, Derniers entretiens, 5-6 July 1897, in: Oeuvres complètes, Cerf – Desclée de Brouwer, Paris, 1992, pp. 1024-1025) It is, in a certain sense, a “virtue” to be nurtured.
Then again, Christian joy is not some esoteric thing, some high theological state of mind. It is something entirely compatible with human happiness and everyday life.
58. Yet there is no conflict whatever between Christian joy and true human joys, which in fact are exalted and find their ultimate foundation precisely in the joy of the glorified Christ, the perfect image and revelation of man as God intended. As my revered predecessor Paul VI wrote in his Exhortation on Christian joy: “In essence, Christian joy is a sharing in the unfathomable joy, at once divine and human, found in the heart of the glorified Christ”. (Apostolic Exhortation, Gaudete in Domino (9 May 1975), II: AAS 67 (1975), 295)
And more from Pope Paul, a direction for pastors in the leadership of their people: Sunday Mass should express joy. And there are obvious reasons for doing so:
Pope Paul concluded his Exhortation by asking that, on the Lord’s Day, the Church should witness powerfully to the joy experienced by the Apostles when they saw the Lord on the evening of Easter. To this end, he urged pastors to insist “upon the need for the baptized to celebrate the Sunday Eucharist in joy. How could they neglect this encounter, this banquet which Christ prepares for us in his love? May our sharing in it be most worthy and joyful! It is Christ, crucified and glorified, who comes among his disciples, to lead them all together into the newness of his Resurrection. This is the climax, here below, of the covenant of love between God and his people: the sign and source of Christian joy, a stage on the way to the eternal feast”. (Apostolic Exhortation, Gaudete in Domino (9 May 1975), VII: AAS 67 (1975), 322) This vision of faith shows the Christian Sunday to be a true “time for celebration”, a day given by God to men and women for their full human and spiritual growth.