Though I love to smile, enjoy a good joke, and have an ironic sense of humor, I am somewhat suspicious about what I might call “cheap joy.”
I occasionally run into people of faith who have a really bouncy approach to their faith and seem to be always on a high. They sometimes make me uncomfortable, especially when they expect me to have the same type of cheerfulness, especially when they expect everybody to clap and shout for joy in meetings.
I sense the need for a different joy.
Today is the anniversary of the death of the Jesuit priest and poet, Gerard Manley Hopkins, in 1889.
His poetry speaks often of the glory of God in creation:
“The world is charged with the grandeur of God”
But, he seems to have been a soul that experienced deep desolation:
I wake and feel the fell of dark, not day.
I am gall, I am heartburn. God’s most deep decree
Bitter would have me taste:
Yet, as Robert Ellsberg notes in All Saints, his final words were “I am so happy.”
True to the Ignatian tradition, Hopkins experienced the joy, the consolation, that is deeper than surface happiness, the joy that can be lived in the midst of pain and consolation, the joy of the Cross and Resurrection.
And so today I pray for real joy – but a joy that allows me to be with the suffering – and live within my own suffering – perhaps showing that Joy that comes, not from me, but from a God who doesn’t look at us from afar but has come among us and suffered with us.
That’s not a cheap joy.