This Sunday is known as Guadate Sunday because the Entrance Antiphon of the Mass in Latin is “Gaudate in Domino semper: iterum disco, gaudate.” The translation is “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice.” This is one of my favourite quotes from St Paul’s letter to the Philippians. On this Sunday the priest has the option of wearing rose coloured vestments and the third candle on the Advent Wreath we light is Rose or Pink. Joining in the King’s School’s Carol Service last week and watching St Thomas Primary School’s lovely Nativity performance were, for me, opportunities to reflect on the momentous event of the birth of Jesus and how it has changed the world. The blessing at the end of the service given by the Bishop of Dover at the Carol Service included the words “May the joy of the angels be yours this Christmas.” How much joy is there in my life? Sometimes circumstance and events can make us sad or despairing and it is hard to be joyful. What does it mean to live a joyful life? To live a joyful life doesn’t mean that you have to seek happiness all the time. To be joyful is to live our life full of hope. G.K.Chesterton wrote: “Joy is the gigantic secret of the Christian.” Joy is knowing that we are loved by God and we live in God.
I came across recently a book of the writings of Sister Mary David entitles “The Joy of God”. She was born in Philadelphia of Palestinian parents. After university in the States and post graduate work in Oxford she entered the Benedictine monastery of St Cecilia’s on the Isle of Wight in 1985. She was diagnosed with inoperable cancer in 2012. Her attitude was acceptance with joy. “That joy did not simply drop from heaven. It was the conquest of a lifetime’s identity. The battle could be costly. Shortly before the end, she admitted: “It is a very difficult passage, in a way, to make, one that’s full of joy at going towards something you have longed for your whole life, but at the same time pain at leaving so many precious people, precious things.” Much of the material in the book was written for the novices at the monastery.
Sister Mary David saw joy not as an emotion, rather “it is a choosing to place one’s happiness where it properly belongs, holding to what is true and real whether we feel it or not…. It is something to be chosen, a choice God calls to us. In calling us to himself, he calls us to joy, for he is our joy. This is why we can always “rejoice in the Lord,” even when we have a thousand reasons to be sad or upset.” The Joy of God. Sister Mary David. Bloomsbury Continuum 2019