This blog post has turned into a bit of a sermon on the place of joy. I hope it has a wider audience but let’s start Churchy: apologies if anyone can see the formatting glitches further down.
Today in the Roman Rite, the priest and deacon wear a colour that only comes out twice a year, a light, bright pink called rose . It indicates, to gloss over much of its symbolism and history, a day “off” from the penitential season of Advent. The opening song of the Mass begins “Rejoice,” as the comparable Sunday in Lent begins “Be glad.” The chant, or part of it, is in the photo, and this link takes you to it being sung. Note: it isn’t the carol popularised by Steeleye Span, but a song of waiting.
But what if you don’t feel like rejoicing?
The next image is of the defeated and dispirited Arthur in the Book of Merlyn. He has, it seems, nothing left, although the book and Arthur’s lessons about what it is to be human have some way to go. The unrequited desire, the longing for fulfilment, for liberation: exhausting.
The text of the chant is one of the most famous lines of the apostle Paul in the letter to the Christians in Philippi. The exhortation to rejoice is one “in the Lord,” in expectation of the end of days: “The Lord is at hand… Take no care for anything…” but it is not a smug grin that the Philippians are to put on. We are not at a happy-clappy bus stop to heaven. Puddleglum is right.
I also wonder whether this is “life coaching” in difficult times for a whole load of people, whether in the Christian community or not. It’s about acceptance, about not being dragged down, not being lost in despair. God knows, I find the enforced jollity of Christmas hard, and this year is threatening to be as hard as the last in some ways.
So I want to jump ahead a few verses to advice from St Paul perhaps we could all listen to:
Finally… whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.