By Henri J. M. Nouwen
Opening thoughts and basis for discussion
“I have told you this, so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete” (John 15:11).
“Ecstasy for all Christians is a struggle to move from the house of fear to the house of love.” Pg. 71
Joy is the reward of an intimate and fruitful life in the house of God. Ecstasy is this realization and experience of joy and is not for the mystics but for all believers. Joy is a deeper, more intimate, more “normal” condition than sadness and pain, and therefore harder to articulate. It is for some reason, much more difficult to express joy than sadness.
Humanity has experienced the ultimate joy, that is the incarnation of the Word, God manifested in the flesh, born as none other than a baby. The nativity impacts us when we allow that joy of the birth of Christ to enter into ourselves and make it manifest in our daily lives.
Fear Makes ecstasy, a real experience of joy, impossible
Fear keeps us clinging to the familiar place, or, in the case of acute anxiety, makes us dissipate ourselves aimlessly. When we are stricken with fear we often exude two reactions – routine and rootlessness.
Routine is developed by all people to some degree. Many of them are helpful ways of ordering our lives and communicating with others. However, it is when routine behavior begins to dominate our daily lives, and suggestions of change call forth violent resistance, “fear has begun to position the roots of our existence.” Pg. 76
With an experience of rootlessness and lack of direction we become fearful and often delve into those routines that are familiar to us.
The stronger our fear is the more rigid our routines become. When our environment causes us great anxiety we often cling to familiar ways of thinking and acting.
True joy comes from the house of Love – Chris’s own joy-filled presence
True joy cannot be found in the house of fear where routine and rootlessness dwell. We make attempts to produce joy: happy hours, receptions, and surprise parties. These “productions” are only attempts to alter the present for a moment of artificial bliss.
True joy is the joy Christ offers when he enters into the world. It is the joy he offers his disciples that being his own joy-filled presence, which flows from his intimate communion with the One who sent him.
“Community is the place where God completes our lives with his joy.” Pg. 90 Every word Jesus spoke was spoken to share his joy with us and thus make our joy complete. Please see John 15:11.
We must continue to move towards a shared life and disregard the static living because it separates us and turns us into isolated individuals fighting for our own individual survival.
The nativity, the incarnation of the Prince of Peace, is not only in our lives once a year as media and society makes us think, it is in our lives every day through every word and encounter. We are so caught up in our consume-or-be-consumed society of self-indulgence of the Christmas gifts we give and are given. Why don’t we become consumed with joy? We don’t need to continue our routine lives to feel safe and protected. We need to live our lives in the expectation and fullness of the Joy of Christ, who has promised what no one can ever promise…His Joy.