This Beloved Icon is called “Unexpected Joy”. The youth kneeling in prayer represents everyone. Has he come for physical, emotional, spiritual healing, burdened by some sin committed? One story about the Icon is that this soul, loving the Holy Theotokos came to pray. To pray before going out to commit a sin. Suddenly Christ’s wounds appeared on the Holy Child’s body and blood began to flow. Horrified the young man – as should each of us before any image of Christ suffering or crucified – asked who’d done this to Jesus and Our Blessed Mother replied: “You and other sinners when through sinning you crucify My Son anew!”
Weeping for some time, coming to understand his need of repentance and mercy suddenly his being was filled with the unexpected joy of forgiveness.
Within the depths of all Jesus gifts us in the Holy Gospels, the night before His crucifixion, His ultimate complete gift of Himself for our redemption, Jesus tells us: “I have told you this so that My joy may be in you and your joy may be complete.” [Jn.15:11]
This is the will of the Holy Trinity for every human being that we be filled with JOY, a divine gift. The acceptance of this gift of joy on earth means living lives rooted in union with Christ, living the Gospel with our lives without compromise. Once we have crossed the threshold of death the ultimate completion of joy becomes our state of being, for we have arrived to be with, in communion of love, the Holy Trinity, our destination from the moment of our conception. We have originated by an act of Love Himself giving us being that we might travel through time to that most precious moment when He calls us to Himself in the eternity of endless, joyous love.
It is rather bizarre that we are at a time in history were people who track such things list the nations of the world in a “happiness” quotient ranking. Happiness is a fleeting emotion whose intensity, or lack there of, depends upon what the self gets to make us happy.
JOY is a gift of the Holy Spirit and enflames charity/love, towards others. We do the giving, not the taking, yet in the very giving our joy increases!
This is Christ’s joy for immediately that He tells us He is giving us His joy that ours may be complete He points to the vessel in which joy comes to us: This is my commandment: love one another as I love you. [Jn.15: 12].
Just as darkness cannot overpower light, death is weaker than life, truth smashes lies, love disperses hate, hate is the total absence of light, life, truth, love and therefore is joyless.
Joy is not the absence of suffering. Joy is the leaven in the loaf of suffering. Suffering is participation with Christ in His redemptive sufferings, and these days mixed in with all personal spiritual, emotional, physical suffering, there is, for Christians, the communal suffering of striving to persevere in the anti-Christian culture of death: Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and God of all comfort, who encourages us in our every affliction, so that we may be able to encourage those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as Christ’s sufferings overflow to us, so through Christ does our encouragement also overflow. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are encouraged, it is for your encouragement, which enables you to endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is firm, for we know that as you share in the sufferings, you also share in the consolation. [2Cor.1:3-9]
In the Litany of Our Lady one of the invocations is: Cause of our joy. She is this cause and source because She gives us Jesus, and Jesus gives Her to us as our Mother.
St. John Paul reminded us: If you really wish to follow Christ, if you want your love for him to grow and last, then you must be faithful to prayer. It is the key to the vitality of your life in Christ. Without prayer, your faith and love will die. If you are constant in daily prayer and in the Sunday celebration of Mass, your love for Jesus will increase. And your heart will know deep joy and peace, such as the world could never give. Pope Emeritus Benedict stresses: Each of you has a personal vocation which He has given you for your own joy and sanctity. When a person is conquered by the fire of His gaze, no sacrifice seems too great to follow Him and give Him the best of ourselves. This is what the saints have always done, spreading the light of the Lord ... and transforming the world into a welcoming home for everyone. Pope Francis teaches: A Christian is one who is invited... to join in the feast, to the joy of being saved, to the joy of being redeemed, to the joy of sharing life with Christ. This is a joy! You are called to a party!
The Church reminds us with Gaudete Sunday in Advent to be filled with joy in anticipating the birth of Jesus and with Laetare Sunday in Lent to rejoice that the splendour of Jesus Risen will be with us anew.
Joy is a gift of the Holy Spirit and as present, and necessary, to us as the very air with breathe, the sunlight which illumines our days, the moon and starlight which guide us in the darkness of night.
Within the depths of the Beatitudes [Mt.5:3-12] we discover the template of lived faith, selfless love, the grace-gift of hope, the way to fulfill our vocation to love one another, dwelling in and radiating the light of Christ who is our joy.
His own abundant joy and trust make Him conclude the Beatitudes with a great cry of victory: “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven” [5:12]. Those who live the Beatitudes on earth are already in Heaven, for they are already living the divine life. Once we are breathing the air of the Kingdom, suffering with and for Jesus can only be a dynamic source of joy, springing from our awareness of identification with Him. 
However, neither satan, nor his agents roaming about in the culture of darkness and death want us to be dwelling in FAITH, LOVE, HOPE, LIGHT, LIFE, JOY.
There is a nihilistic lassitude which, being of satan, holds innumerable human beings in its talons, including many Christians.
This expresses itself in the ease with which Holy Marriage is rejected through divorce or couples living together without the joy and grace of the sacrament; in the rejection of the gift and joy of life through abortion and euthanasia; through people in general just being plain cranky, if not hostile, towards one another and when it comes to the political, financial, etc., powers just wandering through the morass as if there is no destination, no hope.
The early monastics knew this was acedia, referred to as the ‘noonday devil’, even though satan arbors light it might seem odd he is active at that time of day when the sun is at its high point – however who in the bright heat of noon has not felt less energetic than in the rest of the day?
Acedia is a state of spiritual, emotional, intellectual, physical, faith, hope torpor with joy draining away through giving into lassitude.
Thus, acedia is also the enemy of living out the great commandment to love one another: In effect, acedia is a sin against charity in two ways, which meet in reality. On the one hand, acedia is a sin against the joy that springs from charity; it is sadness about what ought to gladden us most: participation in the very life of God. On the other hand, acedia is a sin against charity when it crushes or paralyzes activity, because then it affects the deepest motive force of activity, namely, charity, the participation of the Holy Spirit. 
There is a treasure within the Church, through the Madonna House Lay Apostolate from its Foundress Catherine Doherty, rooted in Sacred Scripture, which is a great counter to acedia, indeed is a template for joyous daily living of the Gospel with our lives without compromise and this treasure, this template is known as the LITTLE MANDATE. 
In coming essays in this series, we will apply this treasure to daily life for all Christians and people of good will.
 FIRE OF MERCY HEART OF THE WORLD, Volume III; p. 148; Erasmo Leiva-Merikakis; Ignatius Press 2012
 THE NOONDAY DEVIL, Acedia, the Unnamed Evil Of Our Time; Jean-Charles Nault, o.s.b; p.81; Ignatius Press 2015 [underling added]
© 2020 Fr. Arthur Joseph
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