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“Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven…” (Matthew 5:11) Joy is an essential element of the spiritual life, and is one of the “fruits of the Holy Spirit.” (Galatians 5:22) There is no genuine spirituality without joy. From the first pages of the Gospel, until the very end, the apostles of Christ, with Mary His mother and all of the Christians, are continually rejoicing in the salvation which Jesus has given.
By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. (John 15:8-11)… your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you… ask and you will receive that your joy may be full. (John 16:22-24)
Christian joy is not earthly happiness, pleasure or fun. It is the “joy in believing.” (Romans 15:13) It is the joy of knowing the freedom of truth in the love of God. (Cf. John 8:32) It is the joy of being made worthy to “share in Christ’s sufferings.” (I Peter 4:13)
By His great mercy we have been born anew to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and to an inheritance which is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while you may have to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold which though perishable is tested by fire, may redound to praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Without having seen Him, you love Him, though you do not now see Him you believe in Him and rejoice with unutterable and exalted joy. (I Peter 1:3-8)
Spiritual joy goes together with spiritual suffering. It is wrong to think that joy comes only at the end when the suffering is over. Joy in Christ goes together with suffering in Christ. They co-exist and are dependent on each other for their power and strength. As blessed mourning over sin is the mourning that comes with the joy of salvation, so suffering in the flesh, in this world, is consonant with – and in a real sense is even caused by – the unspeakable joy of salvation. Thus Saint James can say that Christians should “count it all joy” when they “meet various trials,” knowing that the “full effect” of their steadfast faith is that they may be “perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1.2-3) And this is the firm conviction of Saint Paul as well.
… we rejoice in our hope of sharing the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope-does not disappoint us, because God’s love his been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us. (Romans 5:2-5)
It is the spiritual joy of Christians, the joy of the martyrs, which more than anything else, is the invincible witness to the truth of the Christian faith and the genuineness of the Christian spiritual life.