Monk Moses the Athonite
March 6, 2011
Who does not want to be happy? Joy is an eternal universal desire. Joy is of great importance in our lives.
It’s meaning is known and there is no need to analyze it. Today, however, it seems to have lost its true meaning. Pain dominates and joy is absent. Or at least joy is manifested though not in its authentic, essential and fulfilling form, but rather in cheap substitutes, which increase pain in the soul.
Man in Eden was innocent, happy, blessed and perfectly joyful. His source of joy was a comfortable and uninterrupted conversation with God. Wanting to become independent and self-deified, he became estranged automatically from the source of his great joy. Joy is for the soul of man what bread and water is for his body. Joy is divine inspiration, life-giving warmth, the mother of health and sister of wonderful consolation. Some think that joy will be found in unbridled fun, shameless revels, the overnight hunt for pleasure, the celebration of drunkenness, the drunkenness of luxury, extravagance and indulgence. If one could photograph the depths of the hearts of these patrons of so-called entertainment centers, we would observe an abyss of pain, desolation, coldness and hard loneliness. Joy is not sold in any store nor bought with little or much money.
Today people have fun (διασκεδάζει) – from the ancient verb διασκεδάνυμι, meaning “to scatter” (διασκορπίζεται) – and do not entertain joyfulness. Usually their fun is stressful and burdensome. As the wise Solon said, “Forsake pleasure which gives birth to sadness!” They return from secular entertainment jaded, downcast, sad, more alone. Some think that all rich people are quite happy. This is a big lie, which often is confirmed by the same. A clown went to be consoled by a psychiatrist, who made others laugh out loud and himself could not be cheered up. A rich actor, handsome and famous, was considered the happiest, yet he considered himself the most miserable.
Basil the Great points out that an ungodly person cannot be completely and truly joyful. Sophocles in Antigone will say: “Man without God is a seafaring pauper.” Saint John Chrysostom says that good will and true joy do not come with the size of one’s possessions, nor the amount of one’s money, nor the size of one’s sovereignty, nor physical strength, nor luxurious tables, nor fashionable clothing, but only in spiritual accomplishments and a good conscience.
Christianity, as opposed to those who casually speak, gave a new, comprehensive and captivating joy. True joy gives internal confirmation and certainty, which is made permanent and inalienable in the human heart, despite external adversity. Pascal says clearly: “No one is happier than the true Christian.” The truly humble have great joy. He who has erased his ego has merged with the happiness of all. Those who do good are doomed to always be joyful. Photis Kontoglou said that true joy only issues out of the vein of goodness.
From the Gospel springs forth the theology of joy; the Gospel itself is the source of inexhaustible joy. The Orthodox experience is basically happy and joyful. An old, great hermit, Saint Nilus, states in the patrology very nicely: “Joy destroys sadness, in tragedy it gives patience, in prayers it gives grace, in labors and struggles it gives delight, in obedience it gives merriment, in hospitality it gives shelter, in hope it gives recourse, in mourning it gives comfort, in sorrow it gives assistance, in love it gives decoration, and in patience it gives reward.”
Joy is not the laughter, the yelling, the giggling, the lightness, the playfulness, the anecdotes, the satirical, and the continuous jokes, but is the lasting peace and genuine cheerfulness which comes from the heart that is rejoicing and has a clean conscience. Joy is the light of the virtuous. It springs from the depths of existence. It is not something make-believe, exterior, illusory, but something quite profound and certainly more important. A serious, modest and quiet person is not unable to be happy. The first known miracle of Jesus at the wedding of Cana was so that half the joy of the guests from a lack of wine would not be lost. His last miracle, of the resurrection of his friend Lazarus, was to banish sadness and give joy.
The endless food of joy is virtue. The selfish, the individualist, the miser, the hater cannot be happy. Joy cannot be jealous of anyone, nor hostile nor hateful. One’s joy is gained with humility, patience, truth, freedom and love. True joy comes lovingly to every sincere, honorable, heroic and saintly person. Our age suffers from a lack of true joy, and sorrow is at a surplus through evil and dishonor. The option is open for the acquisition of true joy indeed.
Translated by John Sanidopoulos