“The Joyful of Countenance Have Overcome All Things”

Fr. Ignatius John Schweitzer, OP

            St. Bernard, by his rare use of a quotation from pagan literature, makes this gem of natural wisdom stand out all the more: “The joyful of countenance have overcome all things” (Song of Songs 71.3, from Ovid’s Metamorphoses).  It’s a striking insight because we may be inclined to think it’s rather a stern, gravity of countenance that overcomes.  Grit your teeth and get it done.  But no, it’s mirth that overcomes all things.

            This is heightened in the New Covenant where, in the most decisive sense, the victory has already been won.  “Be of good cheer,” Jesus says, “I have overcome the world” (Jn 16:33).  What is more, the mighty Victory Himself remains present.  “Rejoice in the Lord always.  I will say it again, Rejoice.  Let your forbearance be known to all.  The Lord is near” (Phi 4:4-5). 

            This power of joy involves the uplifting energy of a positive attitude, a certain charm that wins over others, an unflagging endurance, and an attractive witness to Christ’s victory.  Goodness diffuses itself even on the level of our demeanor however subdued.  Yet there is something more.  Jesus’ very own joy is to be in us.  “That my joy may be in you” (Jn 15:11).  His joy being in us is ultimately the corollary of His life being in us. 

            We read in 2 Cor 4:6 that what has enlightened our hearts is “the glory of God shining in the face of Christ.”  Christ’s joyful countenance transforms us from within and shines powerfully in the victory over the world.  Thanks, then, to the divine joy shining from the face of Christ upon us and in us, it’s most of all in the Christian that “the joyful of countenance have overcome all things.”

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