We pray the Canticle of Mary every day at Vespers and in the second line we read, "My soul rejoices in God my Savior." How does one experience a rejoicing soul in the world today? Ignoring all Scriptural scholarship, exegesis, and pious words, there is something profound about a soul that finds joy in God.
In a world in which antidepressants are a multi-billion dollar industry - and they do a tremendous amount of good for many people - how does the soul rejoice? There is so much sadness, so much pain, our memories steeped in toxic nostalgia. Is it possible for the soul to rejoice in the depths of chronic sadness?
We are a nation at war with enemies who are far away, hidden in mountains and caves, their brand of "spiritual warfare" cannot be conquered, or so it seems. We spend billions of dollars each month paying for the machinery of war and death, we send the best and strongest of our youth who are brave, bright, and willing to make the ultimate sacrifices to fight this war so far away from home, from families, friends, and peace. Is it possible for our souls to rejoice in God our Savior in this reality?
The economy is improving (so pundits and economists proclaim) at a snail's pace. Meanwhile, the homes of some of my friends are being foreclosed upon in these cold winter months. People are having a hard time paying their bills, putting food on their tables, and finding jobs that can sustain their lives and the lives of their families. At the same time the wealthiest and most powerful people in our nation are making sure the status of their lives are being maintained at the highest levels.
Finally, we have to ask the question again, how does the soul rejoice in a culture that shuns religion, tradition, dogma and doctrine only to replace them with entertainment, technology, material possessions, and a frenetic pace that does not allow the time to pay attention to what the soul experiences here on earth? Is it really possible for our souls to rejoice in God our Savior here in this valley of tears?
It is. Somehow the human spirit finds it possible to be joyful in the face of all the sadness we experience in our daily lives. It is possible for us to choose to be joyful people, but the decision to be joyful is rooted in the fertile soil of grace and discipline. We are called, chosen, created to be God's beloved. God does not want the suffering we experience in our culture today. It is not God's fault that the condition of our culture is so painful. We are called to rise above it trusting that God our Savior will reveal the strength of his arm when we are made weak in our pride and conceit. God lifts us up to heights far beyond the mighty thrones of the powerful in the simplicity of daily surprises and graces beyond measure. God does provide for us in a bounty that can never be outdone, no matter how much we sacrifice in our charity.
We, in turn, must choose to be joyful people in the sadness of this world. We might look like annoyingly happy freaks, but we cannot help what people see in us. It takes a powerful kind of discipline to be joyful in the sad abyss we call home. But choosing to be joyful can be done. It happens in the soul and no amount of difficulty can destroy a spirit that finds joy in God our Savior.