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Joy and the Presence of God

The Rev. Dr. William Rich
February 1, 2018

Banner for Trinity Community Update, February 1, 2018 by the Rev. Bill Rich, Interim Rector


Joy is the most infallible sign of the presence of God.  ~ Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, SJ


Every once in a while, the calendar of the Church and the calendar of the secular world overlap in ways that bring a smile, and cause one to stop and think. This year Ash Wednesday falls on Valentine’s Day, and Easter Day coincides with April Fools’ Day. That Lent begins on a day dedicated to love rather than morose self-punishment, and that the Lord’s Resurrection can be understood as a cosmic joke God plays on the devil (see Conrad Hyers, And God Created Laughter: The Bible as Divine Comedy), reminds me that our God may be far more joyful than we usually imagine.

If, as Teilhard de Chardin said, joy is the surest sign of God’s presence, then if you are looking for God this Lent, you might want to ask yourself: “Where do I experience joy?” Let me be clear: joy is deeper than mere happiness. To know joy is to experience life as so abundant, so overflowing with love and goodness, that nothing can defeat it, even the sadnesses and losses that are part of all our lives.  

Consider for a moment the lives of Archbishop Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama, the authors of The Book of Joy. Certainly their lives have been overshadowed by deep injustices and loss – apartheid and exile. Yet they not only co-authored a book about joy; they are two of the most palpably joyous humans walking the earth with us.

For those of us who have lost track of joy, these two holy men suggest that there are eight pillars that will help us rediscover joy’s wellsprings, if we can commit ourselves to any one – or all – of these eight practices. They are: perspective, humility, humor, acceptance, forgiveness, gratitude, compassion, generosity. For Lent this year, I have decided that instead of “giving up” something, I am going to “take on” these eight practices. Since Lent has forty days – Sundays are “days off” – I will have the chance to dedicate five days to each of these eight practices. And as I practice each, I want to remember that welling up in each one is the chance to rediscover joy, and the God who dwells infallibly in every experience of joy.

With prayers that you may experience a joy-filled Lent,

Bill Rich

Interim Rector


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