Saturday, December 28, 2013

Joyful, Yes: Giddy, No

My desk is tucked behind a hutch in the north room, which gives me a sort of oversize bulletin board by my left elbow. This poem, written by my father, had been taped to it:
Autumn Yard Work (II)
Bernard I. Gill

Life passing
Leaves falling
Birds flying
Clouds floating
I'm watching
It fell off Friday, for no apparent reason. I could assume that the slip of paper falling at that particular moment is a sign from God, caused by a ductile fracture in the tape, or both. That reminds me of secondary causes, which is another topic.

Quite a few folks enjoy autumnal colors. Not so many, I suspect, rejoice at reminders of "life passing." We have a few dozen decades in this life, sometimes much less. There's reason to think that we can't live more than about 125 years, even with medical technology that hasn't been invented yet.

So how can any sane person be "rejoicing," while contemplating "life passing?"

Being a Christian, and understanding a little of the big picture, helps.

Joy, Ecstasy, and Victory Celebrations

Joy and ecstasy don't mean quite the same thing, but they're similar ideas.

Joy can mean intense happiness, particularly if it's ecstatic or exultant happiness.

Ecstasy can mean intense joy or delight, being so emotionally whipped up that rational thought and self-control are impossible, or 3,4-methylenedioxy-N-methylamphetamine (MDMA): and that's yet another topic.

A dictionary says that "to rejoice" means "to feel joyful; be delighted."

I've seen folks be wildly emotional in a delighted way: particularly during some victory celebrations. Sometimes folks torch cars and loot stores in the process, sometimes they don't, and that's yet again another topic.

But someone can rejoice without losing self-control or becoming irrational.

I'm about as sure as I can be that my father wasn't out of control when he wrote that poem: or earlier, when he was doing autumn yard work. I've had a few brushes with that sort of joy, too.

"Set Free From Sin"

"The joy of the gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus. Those who accept his offer of salvation are set free from sin, sorrow, inner emptiness and loneliness. With Christ joy is constantly born anew...."
("Evangelii Gaudium," Pope Francis (November 24, 2013)
I'm not going to try boiling 51,000 words of Evangelii Gaudium down to sound bite size. There's more than enough in those three sentences to keep me busy in this post.

Maybe it's obvious, but "set free from sin" doesn't mean that Christians are perfect people. We're all wounded people, living in a damaged world. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 386-390)

Jesus took my place, accepting the consequences of sin. That set me free from sin: but doesn't exempt me from trouble here and now. (Matthew 16:24; Catechism, 599-618, 976-983)

Being "set free from sin" doesn't mean that I can't make mistakes, and certainly doesn't mean that I can't make daft decisions.

I have free will and can decide to do something I know is wrong. That's why we have the Sacrament of Reconciliation and Penance. Catholics living in America generally call it 'going to confession.' It's also called the sacrament of conversion and sacrament of forgiveness. (Catechism, 1422-1484)

Being happy is okay, but expecting a life full of giggles and good times is silly. I'm content with the occasional glimpses I have of coming attractions. God willing, at the end of all things I'll join the saints and angels: rejoicing.
"But as it is written: 'What eye has not seen, and ear has not heard, and what has not entered the human heart, what God has prepared for those who love him,' "
(1 Corinthians 2:9)
Related posts:

A very quick look at joy, Catholic style:
"By his death and Resurrection, Jesus Christ has 'opened' heaven to us. The life of the blessed consists in the full and perfect possession of the fruits of the redemption accomplished by Christ. He makes partners in his heavenly glorification those who have believed in him and remained faithful to his will. Heaven is the blessed community of all who are perfectly incorporated into Christ.

"This mystery of blessed communion with God and all who are in Christ is beyond all understanding and description. Scripture speaks of it in images: life, light, peace, wedding feast, wine of the kingdom, the Father's house, the heavenly Jerusalem, paradise: 'no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him.'603

"Because of his transcendence, God cannot be seen as he is, unless he himself opens up his mystery to man's immediate contemplation and gives him the capacity for it. The Church calls this contemplation of God in his heavenly glory 'the beatific vision':
"How great will your glory and happiness be, to be allowed to see God, to be honored with sharing the joy of salvation and eternal light with Christ your Lord and God, . . . to delight in the joy of immortality in the Kingdom of heaven with the righteous and God's friends.604
"In the glory of heaven the blessed continue joyfully to fulfill God's will in relation to other men and to all creation. Already they reign with Christ; with him 'they shall reign for ever and ever.'605"
(Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1026-1029)

"The New Testament uses several expressions to characterize the beatitude to which God calls man:

"- the coming of the Kingdom of God;16 - the vision of God: 'Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God'17

"- entering into the joy of the Lord;18

"- entering into God's rest:19
"There we shall rest and see, we shall see and love, we shall love and praise. Behold what will be at the end without end. For what other end do we have, if not to reach the kingdom which has no end?20
(Catechism, 1720)

"Human virtues are firm attitudes, stable dispositions, habitual perfections of intellect and will that govern our actions, order our passions, and guide our conduct according to reason and faith. They make possible ease, self-mastery, and joy in leading a morally good life. The virtuous man is he who freely practices the good.

"There are many passions. The most fundamental passion is love, aroused by the attraction of the good. Love causes a desire for the absent good and the hope of obtaining it; this movement finds completion in the pleasure and joy of the good possessed. The apprehension of evil causes hatred, aversion, and fear of the impending evil; this movement ends in sadness at some present evil, or in the anger that resists it."
(Catechism, 1765)

"The moral virtues are acquired by human effort. They are the fruit and seed of morally good acts; they dispose all the powers of the human being for communion with divine love. "
(Catechism, 1804)

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From time to time, a service that I use will display links to - odd - services and retailers.

I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.