In our last DM, we celebrated Aquinas’s teaching that joy is born of love, and that “the only person who truly has joy is one who lives in love.” And how such joy and love is deeper than even our suffering and sorrow. It keeps us going when times are difficult, and injustice seems to be prevailing. 

Virtuoso nightingales sing during the day too! Video by Wildlife World.

We also celebrated the teaching of Terry Tempest Williams that the birds sing at dawn and at dusk to remind us of “that the world is meant to be celebrated.”

This affirms Rabbi Heschel’s teaching that “when we sing, we sing for all things,” and that “joy lies at the very heart of worship.” 

And that God is not only the Creator of earth and heaven but is also the One ‘who created delight and Joy’…Even lowly merriment has its ultimate origin in holiness. The fire of evil can be better fought with flames of ecstasy, than through fasting and mortification.    

Flames of Ecstasy: Lightning converges on a volcano. Photo by Marc Szeglat on Unsplash.

Is it true or even possible that lowly merriment has its ultimate origin in holiness? Is joy a sign of holiness therefore? 

Is it also true that “the fire of evil” is best fought “with flames of ecstasy”? 

Joy, Justice, and justice-making go together. Justice and the struggle against injustice, whether that be eco, racial, gender, gender preference, social or economic injustice—all of it is to bring balance back, so that joy flows more freely.

Ecstasy of justice done: Demonstrators on the Supreme Court steps rejoice at the Obergefell decision in 2015. Video by BBC News.

The poet Rilke says we “do justice only where we praise.” In this way he is linking justice and joy. 

Eckhart does the same when he says “what happens to another, whether it be joy or sorrow, happens to me.” Interdependence, and therefore compassion, are being named here.

We do justice in order to render joy possible and more present. And the joy we undergo empowers us in the struggle for justice, and keeps us going as source and goal.


Adapted from Matthew Fox, Sheer Joy: Conversations with Thomas Aquinas on Creation Spirituality, pp. 118, 433, 116. 

And Fox, The Tao of Thomas Aquinas: Fierce Wisdom For Hard Times, pp. 36-38.

And Fox, Creation Spirituality: Liberating Gifts for the Peoples of the Earth, pp. 18-26.

To read the transcript of Matthew Fox’s video teaching, click HERE

Banner Image: Birds await the dawn. Photo by Alek Newton on Unsplash.



Queries for Contemplation

What examples can you give of the fire of evil being best fought with flames of ecstasy? Do you agree with Rilke that “we do justice only where we praise?” What examples can you give of that?


Recommended Reading

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).
Foreword by Rupert Sheldrake

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

Creation Spirituality: Liberating Gifts for the Peoples of the Earth

Fox’s spirituality weds the healing and liberation found in North American Creation Spirituality and in South American Liberation Theology. Creation Spirituality challenges readers of every religious and political persuasion to unite in a new vision through which we learn to honor the earth and the people who inhabit it as the gift of a good and just Creator.
“A watershed theological work that offers a common ground for religious seekers and activists of all stripes.” — Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat, Spirituality and Practice.


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6 thoughts on “Joy & Justice, Birds of a Feather”

  1. Avatar

    We do justice through praise, by acknowledging, celebrating, honoring, respecting and responding to the sacred within ALL. We do justice by fully sensing through the heart; the sacred fire, that inherent beauty and goodness within ALL, praising the light and truth of this.

    To praise, is to be and live in alignment, harmony and balance with this sacred law, kindling the sacred fire, expressing gratitude and love for the living essence and presence of the Great Spirit within ALL; through justly being in right relationship with.

    To do justice through praise, is to graciously be open and receptive to the beauty and goodness of the giveaway that each creation gives of itself, that contributes to the whole. To do justice through praise is to honor the unfolding, evolving emergence of this as we converge with the many sacred expressions, reflections and infinitely diverse manifestations of the Great Spirit and the mystery of this, within ALL.

    We cross each other’s sacred fire, breaking the sacred hoop, when we oppress and suppress the light and truth of the living essence and presence of Spirit within ALL; by unjustly rejecting and denying, through judgement, criticism and condemnation, the uniquely authentic and inherent beauty, goodness and value of each creations giveaway, which is a neccessary part of the whole webb of life.

  2. Avatar

    LOVE~LIGHT~LIFE~PEACE~JUSTICE~HEALING~TRANSFORMATION~CREATIVITY~BEAUTY~JOY~COMPASSION~ONENESS… in our hearts and daily human lives with one another, with beautiful Sacred Mother Earth & all Her living creatures & grateful abundance, and within All our Sacred multidimensional-multiverse evolving diverse COSMOS in the Sacred Process of the ETERNAL PRESENT MOMENT….

  3. Avatar

    “what happens to (you) happens to me.” A thought experiment:
    Imagine if, for one day, everyone could suddenly actually FEEL, whenever they came near another person, everyone else’s emotions around them as they went about their day. The fear from a bullied child. The despair from a suicidal teen on their day of giving up. The giggly happiness from a toddler discovering a butterfly. The dull dread from a battered wife as she headed home to an angry, fuming husband. The glee from a lover with their date. The deep joy from a mystic. The gloating delight from an extremist kicking a (name the targeted “worthy of hatred” minority member of the day).
    Would anyone be able to beat, rape, shoot another person, if they felt the pain they inflicted reflected right back into themselves? Or would many people feel seething jealousy and resentment towards all the “unworthy” people around them who, they suddenly realized, have genuine love and joy? Would they turn their own emptiness and insecurities into a justification to inflict their own pain on others, to make everyone miserable if they couldn’t find happiness themselves?
    And who would we emerge to become, the day after such a shock of emotional non-duality and boundary erasing? What would our religions look like, the day after we all met each other in direct emotional unions?
    Just wondering.

  4. Avatar

    “The joy of the Lord is their strength.” This Joy of the Lord IS DISCERNABLE by those who are truly in The Lord’s camp. Beings who are not in the Lord’s camp do not possess this deep, unspeakable, reverent joy. Awareness of this can provide wisdom as to how, when, and if we are to interact with these beings who are lacking in the Lord’s Joy. Deep wisdom & joy can serve as road markers for those of us who are on this journey.

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