A Season of Lent: Sorrow to Sudden Joy

The proper place for sorrow and joy…

“For I am about to create new heavens and a new earth; the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in what I am creating; for I am about to create Jerusalem as a joy,and its people as a delight. I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and delight in my people; no more shall the sound of weeping be heard in it, or the cry of distress. ( Isaiah 65:17-19 )

“The official said to him, “Sir, come down before my little boy dies.” Jesus said to him, “Go; your son will live.” The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and started on his way. As he was going down, his slaves met him and told him that his child was alive. So he asked them the hour when he began to recover, and they said to him, “Yesterday at one in the afternoon the fever left him.” The father realized that this was the hour when Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.””( John 4: 49-53 )

“For His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for a lifetime; Weeping may last for the night, But a shout of joy comes in the morning.” ( Psalm 30:5 )

Blessed are you, Lord God: Blessed are you for ever. Holy is your name: Blessed are you for ever. Great is your mercy for your people: Blessed are you for ever. Amen! Ora Pro Nobis.

How many times it seems that our lives are dominated by a deep sorrow or fear that we think will never end? Its during those times that it seems almost impossible to believe that joy is right around the corner, in the next instant. But in that instant, when gladness and relief come, everything changes. Suddenly. And the sorrow is almost entirely forgotten. It gets put back into its proper perspective: it was only momentary in relation to the centrality of our life. That is what Jesus tells us about our trials here in this life when compared to the life that is to come. Like the father who realizes the instant Jesus spoke, his son had been healed, It has already been done. That is why we can maintain our joy even in the midst of enduring sorrow.  Chesterton returns to the theme of joy being central and sorrow peripheral several times in his work Orthodoxy.

“The mass of men have been forced to be gay about the little things, but sad about the big ones. Nevertheless (I offer my last dogma defiantly) it is not native to man to be so. Man is more himself, man is more manlike, when joy is the fundamental thing in him, and grief the superficial. Melancholy should be an innocent interlude, a tender and fugitive frame of mind; praise should be the permanent pulsation of the soul. Pessimism is at best an emotional half-holiday; joy is the uproarious labour by which all things live. Yet, according to the apparent estate of man as seen by the pagan or the agnostic, this primary need of human nature can never be fulfilled. Joy ought to be expansive; but for the agnostic it must be contracted, it must cling to one corner of the world. Grief ought to be a concentration; but for the agnostic its desolation is spread through an unthinkable eternity. This is what I call being born upside down. The sceptic may truly be said to be topsy-turvy; for his feet are dancing upwards in idle ecstasies, while his brain is in the abyss. To the modern man the heavens are actually below the earth. The explanation is simple; he is standing on his head; which is a very weak pedestal to stand on. But when he has found his feet again he knows it. Christianity satisfies suddenly and perfectly man’s ancestral instinct for being the right way up; satisfies it supremely in this; that by its creed joy becomes something gigantic and sadness something special and small. The vault above us is not deaf because the universe is an idiot; the silence is not the heartless silence of an endless and aimless world. Rather the silence around us is a small and pitiful stillness like the prompt stillness in a sick room. We are perhaps permitted tragedy as a sort of merciful comedy: because the frantic energy of divine things would knock us down like a drunken farce. We can take our own tears more lightly than we could take the tremendous levities of the angels. So we sit perhaps in a starry chamber of silence, while the laughter of the heavens is too loud for us to hear. ” – G. K. Chesterton, Adventurer and The Adventurer, Orthodoxy, 1908

“I don’t deny,” he said, “that there should be priests to remind men that they will one day die. I only say that at certain strange epochs it is necessary to have another kind of priests, called poets, actually to remind men that they are not dead yet.” – G.K. Chesterton, Manalive

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