We are meditating on Joy as a sign of holiness.
A patriarchal version of Divinity appears more occupied with judgement and denunciations than with joy. A punitive father God often lacks joy.
Thomas Aquinas talks a lot about the joy of God. “Sheer joy is God’s and this demands companionship,” he tells us. This means that joy is the very reason for the existence of the universe. The entire purpose of the universe is joy and spreading the joy.
Aquinas is telling us that Joy reigns in the entire universe. The universe in all its vastness—two trillion galaxies, each with hundreds of billions of stars—and all of its 13.8 billion years of expanding—contains the history of joy.
Is this one reason humans have come into the universe: to recognize and name and celebrate the joy at work everywhere??
Whose joy is this? God’s, the Creator’s joy. And our own. Who wants to be joyful alone? Sharing joy is intrinsic to joy. Aquinas is telling us how eager divinity is to share the joy. Celebration is the name we give that process of sharing the joy. Earth and the universe are celebrations.
A prime reason for rituals of celebration and the invoking of ancestors or the communion of saints is to remember the joy we have derived from them and with them. To be grateful together, to thank together with the living and the deceased ups the ante on joy. “Spread the joy” we are told. God did.
Life is a lot of work and a lot of struggle—not just for humans but for all creatures—the birds and trees, dogs and cats, the whales and porpoises, the chimpanzees and forests—all struggle to flourish and survive and share their beauty and to pass on progeny.
But are all beings joyful as well?
It is as if joy lives on in the roots of our being while all sorts of other struggles occupy us on the surface. Joy is deep and often quasi-hidden, silent and still. Sometimes it is expressed as celebration with others, but sometimes it is just present in silence upholding us in the midst of turmoil and strife. Joy is deeper than strife.
Some joy is red/orange and hot; some joy is blue/green and cool. Joy calls us to action; and to repose. It is bigger than us, thus “a gift of the spirit.”
Adapted from Matthew Fox, The Tao of Thomas Aquinas: Fierce wisdom for Hard Times, pp. 33-44.
And from Fox, Sheer Joy: Conversations with Thomas Aquinas on Creation Spirituality, pp. 99ff.
To read a transcript of Matthew Fox’s video teaching, click HERE.
Banner image: Joyful children. These Ugandan children were overjoyed to have their picture taken. Photo by bill wegener on Unsplash
Queries for Contemplation
Do you think sheer joy is God’s? And that this demands companionship? Do you find lots of joy among the beings on earth and in the beauty of the universe?
The Tao of Thomas Aquinas: Fierce Wisdom for Hard Times
A stunning spiritual handbook drawn from the substantive teachings of Aquinas’ mystical/prophetic genius, offering a sublime roadmap for spirituality and action.
Foreword by Ilia Delio.
“What a wonderful book! Only Matt Fox could bring to life the wisdom and brilliance of Aquinas with so much creativity. The Tao of Thomas Aquinas is a masterpiece.”
–Caroline Myss, author of Anatomy of the Spirit
Sheer Joy: Conversations with Thomas Aquinas on Creation Spirituality
Matthew Fox renders Thomas Aquinas accessible by interviewing him and thus descholasticizing him. He also translated many of his works such as Biblical commentaries never before in English (or Italian or German of French). He gives Aquinas a forum so that he can be heard in our own time. He presents Thomas Aquinas entirely in his own words, but in a form designed to allow late 20th-century minds and hearts to hear him in a fresh way.
“The teaching of Aquinas comes through will a fullness and an insight that has never been present in English before and [with] a vital message for the world today.” ~ Fr. Bede Griffiths (Afterword).
10 thoughts on “Joy and Holiness, continued”
Joy is a gift from God and a gift from the Spirit. I was meditating yesterday and became joyful with the knowledge of the presence of gifts bestowed upon me. Gifts bestowed from the Spirit cannot be contained and only serve purpose by spreading and cojoining with others. For all we receive we are to be most grateful for and that gratitude is shown by our own giving in turn. — BB.
Beautiful awareness, Bill.
Joy begets JOY!
Gosh, our world needs our awareness, your awareness.
Do you have other outlets to share your meaningful awareness with others,
besides here? Your voice needs to be shared, because Joy begets JOY!
Yes, I agree! I have found in my life that joy goes with the expansion of awareness (consciousness). Much joy comes to a soul through the ongoing expansion of learning. We “put things together” as we learn. We joyfully thank God in the Spirit of Gratitude.
Thank you, Gary.
“We joyfully thank God in the Spirit of Gratitude.”
Every day, many times a day, take a breath to share the deep gratitude
of your heart. A practice that encourages our Joy to deepen and expand.
Can NEVER have TOO MUCH JOY!
Yes, I find lots of joy in the beauty of all of creation. When I engage with this reality, I do find myself feeling a sense of harmony. Nature itself speaks to me; and I give voice to what I experience and encounter, through story-telling… sharing my experience with another, through writing in my journal, or through painting or photographying… embodying more fully and deeply this memory of being in harmony with… that awakens me to the beauty to be not only seen, but deeply sensed, that I am offered to partake in joyfully… which I am also apart of.
Yes, the joy that I find in the beauty of nature expands my heart, mind and soul. It fills me with a sense of awe, wonder, and gratitude; as well as teaching me many things about life and the unfolding, evolving emergence and convergence with this experience.
Yes, the joy that I find in the beauty of nature, is a precious gift that does indeed help me to progress in seeing, learning, and understanding what it is to be in sacred relationship, companionship and communion with… with the Great Spirit incarnate within the all and the everything and the beautiful reality of this… which includes me.
When I sometimes forget this reality, ever present in any given moment .. due to losing site of this and getting lost in all the things of this world that cause me sadness, sorrow and suffering… Mother Nature calls me home!
Oh, Jeanette, what a wonderful observant Mother we have.
Sometimes I read The Parable of the Lost Son(Luke 15:11-32), also known as the parable of the Two Brothers, Loving Father, or of the Forgiving Father, with a feminine focus. For my personal meditation, I think of each person as female. I see myself in each of the roles: Mother, older daughter, younger daughter. Did you ever notice that none of the characters has a name? Jesus was sharing this Parable as a teaching story. It is full of wisdom. I see and experience myself in each of the roles, one at a time. Sometimes the Mother, other times the young daughter or the older daughter. I feel what it is like to be in each of the story’s teaching roles.
Yes, Mother Nature, calls us home and the Forgiving Mother in this parable watched each day for the return of her young daughter who did get lost in all the things of this world, causing sadness, sorrow and suffering hunger.
Interesting, isn’t it, the young daughter, who expected at the least a good scolding, brought deep JOY on her return! Can you imagine, her Mother running out of the house, with hair flying, no jacket down the street to welcome her young daughter home. Gifts too! A new dress and a party for family and friends, a feast prepared!
Thank you, Jeanette, for stirring this memory in me. We certainly are incredibly loved!
I wonder if the unconditional love, the Divine has for each of us, is an overflowing deep and abiding Joy extended to every creature.
Yes, Matthew, the last two paragraphs on the varieties of the “gift of the Spirit” of Joy spoke to me. It reminds us that Joy is not only outwards and expressive with others, very human, but also very deep in our inner spiritual life, in our silent meditation, gratitude, creativity, and paradoxically in our compassionate suffering and service with others toward Truth and Justice…
Carol here, not Matthew. I resonate just as you have with Matt’s last two paragraphs.
I have been pondering whether unconditional love or deep inner joy is the birther of the other?
Or, is it possible that they both birth the other?
What I know from my personal experience, is that no matter what comes in the way of struggle, because I am rooted in deep abiding Joy, I know all is well. I know I am loved, no matter what, and… All is very well, with my soul.
Peace and Joy to you, Damian
Hi Carol! Thank you for your comments. Also, checking right now if I’m able to use my personal faith logo again…
My husband was newly diagnosed with an aggressive stage 4 cancer and had begun what was described to us as “the most painful treatment we give for anything.”
I was numb with pain, empathy, and fear when we went to bed.
But what woke me was something I can only describe as Joy.
This feeling did not come from me.
I understood I had been blessed beyond human ability with a perfect love and companionship which had not come from any earthly source.
I had given birth and held my newborn babies. I had watched sunsets and storms. I had climbed to the top deck of a ship in a gale. I had traveled around the world and seen sights many never see—but I never before understood Joy.
I am blessed beyond the power of human speech to tell.