The very first time we became aware a Godly life could be filled with joy was 26 years ago while my husband made a silent retreat a Trapist monastery near Oka in Quebec. He was walking quietly down a hallway, trying to be quiet and unobtrusive when a monk threw his head back and let loose a full-out belly laugh. It sparked joy in everyone who heard it. That’s what holy laughter does; it ignites the joy of the Lord in everyone who is open.
Another Trappist, Thomas Merton, was asked if it was possible to tell if someone had truly undergone inner transformation and purification.
“It is very difficult to tell but usually it is accompanied by a wonderful sense of humour.”
Humour, the ability to laugh and not take ourselves too seriously, puts the process of inner transformation into perspective. If I am self-centered instead of God-centered, everything becomes intense and dramatic. When I take my eyes off myself my faith, my religious practices, my spiritual ‘progress’, and look at my Saviour, everything comes back into the proper perspective. I am filled with joy, the joy of the Lord.
“If this is how you treat your friends, no wonder you have so few!”
Did you ever wonder how the plain, hard-working, celibate, 17th-century Shakers got their name? It is because they shook under the power of God and they danced! One of their dancing songs is ‘Tis a Gift to be Simple
‘Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free
‘Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
‘Twill be in the valley of love and delight.
When true simplicity is gain’d,
To bow and to bend we shan’t be asham’d,
To turn, turn will be our delight,
Till by turning, turning we come ’round right
No wonder they were persecuted and chased out of Europe; they scandalized staid, proper, miserable Christians. Just like when King David danced before the Lord in complete abandonment.
As Catholics, do we look on with scorn when we see anyone moving and dancing in the Spirit? Remember how God reacted not only to David but to his wife Michal;
2 Samuel 6
Wearing a linen ephod, David was dancing before the Lord with all his might, 15 while he and all Israel were bringing up the ark of the Lord with shouts and the sound of trumpets.
16 As the ark of the Lord was entering the City of David, Michal daughter of Saul watched from a window. And when she saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord, she despised him in her heart.
20 When David returned home to bless his household, Michal daughter of Saul came out to meet him and said, “How the king of Israel has distinguished himself today, going around half-naked in full view of the slave girls of his servants as any vulgar fellow would!”
—I will celebrate before the Lord. 22 I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes….
23 And Michal daughter of Saul had no children to the day of her death.
I am willing to wager that almost all religious, faithful Catholics would not model David but scowl along with Michal. However, joy is not just for Pentecostals, joy is also for intelligent, sophisticated Catholics.
Even though icons and holy cards often depict the saints and the entire Holy Family looking miserable and weak with tears streaming down their pale faces, the truth is the saints lived in God’s Presence and in His joy. St. Francis of Assisi is the most famous, joyful saint. Look at our pope, whose namesake is Francis; his very countenance radiates authenticity, kindness, joy and the love of God.
this article is linked to Theology is a Verb