“Peace, Joy, and the Life of Praise” (6/1/2019)
Fr. Ignatius John Schweitzer, OP
In the Gospel, Jesus says he will tell us clearly about the Father. When does this happen? We might think this refers to the beatific vision, when we will see Father face to face. And that is certainly true enough. But in the context, Jesus is speaking about an asking and receiving that sounds more like our situation now, in this life. And Jesus says, “The hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures but I will tell you clearly about the Father.”
“The hour” is almost a technical term in John and refers to Jesus’ Passion, Death, and Resurrection. So it seems that it is in the Paschal Mystery that Jesus will now longer speak to the disciples in figures but tell them clearly about the Father. Jesus tells us clearly about the Father in words and deeds, and the Paschal Mystery is the clearest manifestation Jesus gives of the Father by word and deed.
Self-giving Love is most made manifest on the Cross. From all eternity, the Father has given to the Son everything, except that of being Father. The Father in begetting the Son gives him the divine nature. The Father gives everything in love. This is the kind of love the Son has known from all eternity. And as he enters into our sinful world and wishes to show us love, this is how things will end up: the complete self-giving love of the incarnate Son on the Cross. And in the Resurrection, we see that divine love is stronger than death. The life of the Father, the fruitfulness of the Father in begetting in love is stronger than death. Jesus tells us clearly about the Father in the Paschal Mystery and accomplishes our salvation. The communion of Father and Son in the Holy Spirit is moreover opened to us by the sending of the Spirit to us.
This is Good News. This is the joy of our life. The Trinity deserves a life of praise for this. In the Gospel, Jesus also speaks about our joy being made complete. Yes, if we grasp this, deep joy and peace will follow. If we grasp this, a life of praise will follow spontaneously.
Yet sometimes joy and peace can go underground. It’s just the way life is. Maybe it’s so our peace and joy grows deeper, that a more felt joy and peace recedes below the surface.
Sometimes the peace and joy are in the depths of our soul as a dimensionless point. Right? In geometry, the point has no dimensions, but it is there. The point is there, but it is dimensionless. The Trinity dwells in the soul in the state of grace as in a temple. The God of peace and joy is not in our space and time continuum. He is in the soul, but as a dimensionless point. God’s peace and joy are in the depths of the soul, but sometimes as a dimensionless point. Only faith can lay hold of it. “Lord, I may not feel peace at the moment, but I believe you, the God of peace are there, in my soul.”
But usually from that dimensionless point, peace and joy radiate out. It can be subtle because it is a deep and long-lasting peace and joy. Sometimes it is the attitude of praise that unlocks and uncovers these rays of peace and joy so they can radiate out.
I’m not saying we praise the Lord so we can find peace and joy. That wouldn’t be good. We praise the Lord for who he is and what he has done for all of us, and peace and joy follow as unsought, but welcome guests. We praise the Trinity for who he is and for what God has done for humanity and us included.
I found in my time in the monastery that every so often I’d have to re-dedicate myself to a life of praise. I was always going to the chapel and praying the office—no doubt. But I mean at times I’d have to recommit myself consciously to a life of praise, deciding that a life of praise of God was meaning enough for my life. There’s hardly anything as meaningful as love and praising the infinite God, our beloved Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This is the stuff of heaven and eternity. St Augustine, at the end of the City of God, says of heaven, “There we shall rest and see, see and love, love and praise.”
To help you see what I mean by choosing a life of praise, I’ll close with a very short reflection I wrote on my annual retreat in 2016, enclosed within the walls of the monastery. And actually, this is from me in the belly of the whale, so to speak. “We must make a choice for praise, a decision for a life of praise. To do this, often entails surrendering our ‘adult’ cares and becoming a ‘little one,’ with radical trust, simplicity, and a playful joy. For ‘out of the mouths of babes and infants you have found perfect praise’ (Ps 8:2). Praise is as weighty a matter as anything else that life throws at us.”