Wednesday, December 17, 2014

I've Got That Joy, Joy, Joy...

Happy 3rd week of Advent!

The theme of joy has been strong for me this Advent. I shared that I am working on being more joyful this Advent season, or as Father helped sort out for me during spiritual direction, really just being more positive overall. See, joy is something that is more deeply rooted. I know that I have shared Aquinas' definition(s) of joy before because everything on this blog is cyclical, and I've been teaching the same course using the same lesson on joy for 4 years now.

But just for good measure (and my own sanity), I'm going to share them again. The Thomistic definitions that I share with my students are: delectatio (delight) vs. gaudium (joy). Delight is something that is sensory. I delight in music. I delight in coffee and chocolate. I delight in my students cracking a joke or a smile in class.

Joy is something deeper. Joy has to do with the attainment of the good. Just like Aquinas' definition of love: "The effective willing of the good of the other." Love and Joy are connected. When we attain the good, or joy, we want to share it, which can grow into love.

I have been focusing on this in my Advent prayer and in class, and I have had some tough reactions from my students this go around with this lesson. In the past, I may have gotten disagreements with the distinction between happiness or joy. There may have been some misunderstandings. But this year, I get...nothing. Almost no reaction to the material. And that startles me. Am I not getting the point across? Am I not being enthusiastic enough? How can these kids not care about JOY?!?!

Our culture, sadly, cares soooooo much about the sensory- what makes us happy. I have also been surprised this year about how many students think that happiness has the long lasting effect, and joy is temporary. The kids all want to be happy. But joy is much harder to understand and perhaps attain. And I make the point of saying that happiness is not always a good. Something can make us happy that isn't necessarily good for us. Joy is always about the good.

But then there is the whole thing about defining the good to begin with. Absolute truth is always hard for people to understand. People think that what is "the good" for one person is different for another. I want to be clear: "the good" is always the truth. And the truth is unchanging. Because God is unchanging.

All hope, however, is not lost. In this joy lesson, we also talk about prayer. And for me, prayer is a gateway to joy. It is an avenue for peace. My students often struggle with "how to pray" but my hope is not lost that they won't understand the importance of it. I know that they know it is important to pray. It's just convincing them to do it.

I wish that I could emphasize even more to them the joy that my friend Dan exhibited. I use with them quotes from Fr. James Martin's book "On Heaven and Mirth" and one of these quotes is "Holy people are joyful...because God is the source of all joy." I tell them that holy people may not always be "happy", but there is always this underlying peace and joy because they understand "the good" which is God.

Dan was holy and he was joyful. His joy came from his understanding of and relationship with God. And that transformed into love. The love and joy he had radiated from his person. Today is the 7th month anniversary of his death. This past weekend- Gaudate Sunday to be exact- was Dan's 34th birthday. It is not a coincidence that his birthday fell on the Sunday when we think about joy. I know that Dan had the most joyful birthday of all this year as he celebrated it with the angels and saints in complete union with our Lord.

My friends and I have committed to praying a rosary on the monthly anniversary of Dan's death. I said mine today reflecting with this little guy as I also reflect on the joy of the season...

Children are joyful because they are innocent and pure. When we start to mess with our knowledge of the truth and the good is when we start to mess with our joy.

So tonight, I'm praying about things that are joyful and meditating on things that bring joy.

I got much joy when I saw the liturgical color of WHITE on my iMissal calendar- Christmas is coming!!!
I received much joy meditating tonight with my Christmas lights on...

And this might be more happiness than joy, but my friends who make me funny memes bring me delight (and their friendship brings me joy).

You're welcome!

I'm going to use that meme forever.

Just an aside: the Pee Wee Christmas Special was one of the best ever recorded. If you can find that on the internetz, you are welcome in advance.

God bless you all! Keep the joy!


Monday, December 8, 2014

The Obligatory Advent Post! "Where are You?"

Happy Feast of the Immaculate Conception and Second week of Advent! I have been meaning to formulate an Advent post for a while, but these things require time and inspiration which I've had plenty of the latter, but perhaps not very much of the former! But I'm not complaining. I like to stay busy. Busyness, however, seems to be the age old antagonist for a reflective Advent.

I have always been "that student" that starts projects way in advance so there is plenty of time to complete them. I am not a procrastinator. So in true form, I made sure to start thinking about how I was going to celebrate Advent well in advance. When home in Ohio visiting family, I like to go to a perpetual Adoration chapel on Lake Erie. I probably have posted about it before:

When I was home for Thanksgiving this year, I had a couple of days before the first Sunday of Advent to reflect. My thoughts went to the typical theme of Advent: waiting. I've always found the waiting during Advent to be pretty easy. I do not, however, find waiting in general to be an easy thing to do. So I started to think about this. What makes waiting during Advent so much easier than waiting in  "ordinary time", Lent, or the rest of the year?

I think waiting during Advent is easier because we know the outcome. We know that Christmas is going to come and that it's going to be great. We know that Jesus coming to earth was and is a good thing. So that makes the waiting much easier: we already know the outcome and we know it to be a positive one.

Waiting is much harder when we don't know what will be and we don't know if the outcome will be positive. The only way to make the waiting a little easier is to live in the present moment, not worry, and to trust. Much easier said than done!

So I am trying this Advent to really soak in and live that easy, joyful anticipation for Advent so that I can get good at it and apply it when the waiting isn't as easy. I'm trying to be more joyful in the present moment which hopefully will translate well past the Christmas season.

Today is the feast of the Immaculate Conception. At our school Mass, we went all out with the Marian music today: every song was Mary themed. I, myself, as a music minister usually try to diversify the selection a little more, but it seemed to be effective today, and I got a lot of compliments on the music for the liturgy.

The priest was a visiting priest and gave such an inspiring but simple homily. He examined the first reading for the feast which is the story of Adam and Eve. He brought to our attention that in this story we hear the first question that God ever asks mankind: "Where are you?". I had never thought of that before. The priest went on to apply that question to many aspects of our lives: where are we among the poor? Where are we in helping one another? Where are we with our relationship with God? And he told us to answer that question like Mary's fiat: "here I am."

It was such a beautiful way to connect Eve to Mary and us to the Scripture as well as apply it to the modern day. All in all what a homily should be! And it has given me something else to think about this Advent: Where am I truly in this present moment? Where am I in my commitment to God and joy this season?

It also relates to the book my women's group and I have been reading: Testimony of Hope by Cardinal Van Thuan. We had decided the last time that we met that we all needed to focus a little more on the virtue of Hope. There are many good points that the author makes in this text, but one that stood out for me ties in with these questions of the present moment. The cardinal points out that sometimes we are so focused on the "acts of God" that we miss God Himself. We focus on the results or outcome of our prayer rather than His presence in it. I just think that is another great insight as we contemplate active waiting in this time of Advent. Asking ourselves: "where are we?" and hoping that we can answer: "here I am- I am with my Lord."

I hope and pray that everyone is having a blessed Advent and happy "new" liturgical year!