Joy in Christian Faith
Father Matta El-Meskeen (Matthew the Poor)
ETERNAL JOY and true happiness had ceased in mankind following Adam’s sin. Man remained deprived of it till he accepted the message of Christ’s birth when the angels appeared to the shepherds spread around Bethlehem announcing the message of the Savior who would save mankind, and the world from the bondage of sin when the angels said to the shepherds: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”13 Jesus’ birth was equal to the announcement of God’s peace entering earth after its curse in Adam’s days, and also the entrance of eternal and true joy into men’s hearts after the curse of sin. Faith in the Savior Jesus Christ became tantamount to entrance into the age of peace, love, and eternal joy with the Lord as part of the Christian faith’s qualities.
Amid its most special qualities is eternal joy in Christian faith; a joy that is a heavenly gift which cannot be taken away from man as long as he is holding on to Christ: “no one will take your joy from you”14 i.e. Eternal joy through Christian faith is a definite gift defying the world and the leader of this world, and that does not cease even with death.
I know a virtuous doctor who told me the following story: when his mother died, his step-mother (father’s wife), his father being a protestant elder, righteous and fervent in spirit, followed with others the funeral procession of his wife’s coffin and every few steps stopped and cried out in the loudest voice “halleluiah”. When his son the doctor paid him a remark, he answered: “keep quiet, we are accompanying her in the bridal procession to heaven.” This is the nature of eternal joy which no one can take away from us, nor can death.
Eternal joy is the essence of Christian faith. It defies the grieves and troubles of these times, nay it defies this world and the head of this world with all its tragedies. If troubles and grief are of this age’s nature, then it is Christian faith that is the nature of the present and of eternity.
It is Christ who set the basis for joy in Christian faith when he faced the devil of grief and sufferings; as the Apostle Paul says: “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake.”15 Joy in grief and pain is a Divine surrender we took from Christ. The devil of this world’s greatest defiance created out of grief and suffering the temptation to submit to his power. The Bible consequently unceasingly emphasizes holding on to eternal life, and making it the means of victory over the devil: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say Rejoice.”16 This is a clear statement to make Divine eternal joy the core of our faith.
Eternal joy’s support ensuring its eternity in man is joy in the Lord. This means that the essence of eternal joy is the person of Christ Himself that preserves it through His presence with us: “I am with you always …”17, “Finally my brethren, rejoice in the Lord”18, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.”19
Through joy Christian faith is thus drawn by a victorious power that conquers the world with all its tragedies. Christian faith becomes extremely understandable through joy appreciated by the greatest inheritance we received from Christ. It is tantamount to a traffic license over the world and a declaration of the mystery that we are the children of His Kingdom.
I think the reader will consequently understand the reason for which the Bible emphasizes joy in the Lord in Christian faith when it says: “Rejoice …again I will say, Rejoice”, i.e. joy in the Lord is the beginning and the end, equal to entering into and together attaining the group of invited saints. True joy in the Lord is tantamount to resurrection from the dead, because it is joy in death as in the resurrection from it. There is no resurrection from the dead except through Christ, because Christ is the first of those resurrected from the dead: “and I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.”20 Thus faith’s joy is the joy of resurrection. If joy in the world is temporary, of limited time, quickly changing to grief, faith’s joy is a true unchangeable faith, that lasts and is indescribable and unimaginable. The Bible describes it as: “and rejoice with unutterable and exalted joy.”21 It is a joy in Christ’s resurrection in glory. When Christ is revealed we are revealed with Him through His words: “I am glad for your sakes.” 22 Christ’s joy has become ours through the periodic “now”, so that the present time does not separate us from joy through Christ.
Fasting, a weapon forged by God
Fasting was the commandment that was given to our nature in the beginning to protect it with respect to the tasting of food, and in this point the progenitor of our substance fell. There, however, where the first defeat was suffered, the ascetic strugglers make their beginning in the fear of God as they start to keep His laws. And the Savior also, when He manifested Himself to the world in the Jordan, began at this point. For after His baptism the Spirit led Him into the wilderness and He fasted for forty days and forty nights. Likewise all who set out to follow in His footsteps make the beginning of their struggle upon this foundation. For this is a weapon forged by God, and who shall escape blame if he neglects it? And if the Lawgiver Himself fasts, who among those who keep the law has no need of fasting? ... When the devil, that foe and tyrant, sees a man bearing this weapon, he is straightway frightened and he recollects and considers that defeat which he sufferred in the wilderness at the hands of the Savior; at once his strength is shattered and the very sight of this weapon, given us by our Commander-in-chief, burns him.
Ascetical Homilies, 37 (Massachusetts, 1984, p 172).
1 John 6:56
2 John 6:55
3 John 6:57
4 John 15:4
5 John 15:9
6 John 14:21
7 John 14:23
8 Phil 2:13
9 John 15:4
10 John 14:21
11 1 John 5:3
12 1 Tim 6:12
13 Lk 2:14
14 John 16:22
15 Col 1:24
16 Phil 4:4
17 Matt 28:20
18 Phil 3:1
19 Phil 4:4
20 John 12:32
21 1 Pet 1:8
22 John 11:15
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