†ďRejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.Ē
Father Matta El-Meskeen (Matthew the Poor)
THE ADVICE to rejoice occurred for the first time in the Old Testament when the Law was read to the people following a long period of absence from God; when they started weeping passionately affected by Godís words. Nehemiah the prophet told them not to grieve that day saying: ďDo not sorrow for the joy of the Lord is your strength.Ē1 We thus received from the Old Testament the Divine Law governing our conduct before the Lord, and before His Word that ďthe joy of the LordĒ is in fact manís true power, because its source is Godís mercy and love to mankind. Until the Apostle Paul came with his Divine enlightened commandment that the Lordís joy is not just for a while nor has it a special time, but due to it emanating from the mercy and love of God in the person of His Son Christ Jesus has become a joy all the time. This is the most precious commandment that became the Son of Godís perpetual joy which the Apostle Paul through the Spirit told mankind. Our joy is through the Lord Jesus. The Lord Jesus exists permanently in God. Consequently our joy that emanated from God in His Son is the same permanent joy. Joy in the Lord is silent worship that comes from divine feelings in the renewed man who is happy with his Creator.
If the worldís joy with worldly things is but for a moment or a day it will change to grief and sadness; because that which makes us happy in worldly matters, in-spite of their insignificance, are temporary and ephemeral as they will be followed by a dark emptiness suffocating the soul encompassing it with gloom, sadness and regret. God knows this about man at all times and therefore sent him His Son, His love and special joy, to convey to us His joy as coming down from God.
It is really strange that Godís commandment to man is to be always joyful, because the world is full of grief. Godís commandment to His renewed children to be continually joyful based on Godís joy is therefore a positive weapon with which to destroy grief and annul its causes. Nay it confronts all the various kinds of pain the devil thrusts against us in the world that is like a mosquitoís bite whose effect vanishes with its disappearance. We therefore consider the Lordís commandment to be ever joyful based on the joy of God, a commandment protecting against the serpentís poison that falsely and unjustly kills grief for matters that are all ephemeral. The joy of the Lord is thus a real treasure, coming to us from above due to the acclamations of the saints, their praises and exultations, which reach us as the soulís feelings of joy and happiness.
The most profound point in Godís commandment of joy is that it is permanent and does not end in grief, despondency or sighs. It is a first edition of the beauty of the coming glory.
Alongside with permanent joy the Apostle Paul places ceaseless prayer thus completing the symphony of Divine commandments. Who is it that is joyful always and prayer does not emanate from the depth of his heart through the Spirit! Sure, the flesh is weak and does not have the ability to continually stand before God in prayer. But renewed man is given the fountains of prayer from the stores of prayer that come from above. Ceaseless prayer seeps out to us from the saints clamor in the Light, who do not stop praising, exulting and singing like the Seraphim of the Heavenly Holies, like a chorus facing a chorus without cease. It is a prayer of praise and glorification void of human words but a language of the heart and a spiritual elation making man lose his balance, like David who while an honored king danced before the ark of the covenant as a young man and could not stop. It was as if the dance was an expression of the heartís fervency in unutterable prayer. We also hear of Paul who when he rose to the Third Heaven heard voices of acclamation and praise and expressed it by them being unutterable words.2
If man is given to be joyful all the time when he prays without ceasing then his soul will be filled with the grace of God and will overflow with thanks continually. This is the situation of renewed creation. Thankfulness will accompany the inhalation and exhalation of the breath, indescribable because it is filled with the Spirit accompanied by the feeling of Godís glory. Divine thankfulness is thanks for every thing God gave us. Although we thank for earthly matters it is thanks equally for their existence or discontinuance. It is thanks anyhow for every condition and in every situation for God to be glorified in that which exists and does not exist. Thankfulness adds to the glorification of God.
25 June, 2005
1 Neh 8:10.
2 2Cor 12:3, 4.
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