The Joyful Hermit today considers joy. What is joy? How do we get it? Of what use and benefit is joy in our daily lives? For the answers, JH turns to the spiritual because the spiritual is the root of all temporal outflow. And, JH turns to an excellent book: The Spiritual Life: A Treatise on Ascetical and Mystical Theology by Msgr. Adolphe Tanquerey.
Spiritually, joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. Joy is experienced in our souls when we perform acts of virtue: doing what is right and good. Then, when we practice doing what is right and good in matters that are increasingly difficult to even want to do right and good, we experience even more joy. This joy is holy joy. There are other fruits of the Holy Spirit, but when we strive to reach a certain degree of perfection in doing right and good (virtuous thoughts and acts), the soul is filled with holy joy.
We may have thought that joy is something that comes from outside ourselves, such as getting what we want for our birthdays, playing iPhone tech games, drinking with friends, seeing our favorite team win, or having a good time shopping.
Or we may think it has to do with great events in our lives such as graduating from college, buying our first car, getting married, or having a baby. While these events have more joy-meaning depth, they are yet more temporal joys. And temporal joys are wonderful, but they have finite limits. (Lots of people marry and then divorce. What joy is that?)
Spiritual joy–the kind of joy that we all deep-down desire if we take God’s gift of time to think about it–is the joy that comes as a gift from the Holy Spirit as a result of our attempts to practice virtues, especially the ones that are hard to want to practice.
Consider the joy of the rookie police officer who ran to a burning car and risking his own life, dragged out a man who would otherwise die. Consider the joy of a young woman who, perhaps without a boyfriend’s support, decides to give birth to a baby even though it means she will have to work while going to school or postpone her own desires. Or what about the holy joy that a young woman and a childless couple experience when a baby is given for adoption?
Ponder the joy that comes from deep inside ourselves when we turn off the tech toys and play with our children, or communicate with those around us rather than watch TV. Any time we sacrifice our own perceived wants or needs for the betterment of another person–if it is as simple as not losing our temper even though it might seem justified–will bring about a special joy that bubbles up from deep within our souls. It could be just saying “I am sorry” for an unkind word or glance.
The joy that is a gift from the Holy Spirit is unmistakable once we experience it, and it is the kind of holy joy that makes all temporal, more external joys, seem superficial. We can learn to do what is good and right [practice virtues], even the difficult, without balking but with pleasure. Then we find that doing good–even great–acts becomes a virtuous habit, and the holy joy given to us deep within is a right-now spiritual taste of bliss.