Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Sharing the Lenten Journey with St David (4) : Finding David's joy in lent

As I have been trying to journey through Lent mindful of St. David's wish that we should 'be joyful and remember the little things'  I have to confess that it is the being 'joyful' bit that I have found most problematical.   You only have to pick up a newspaper to realize that we live in a pretty awful world.  Sometimes it is very difficult to feel joyful.  The more one reflects on the state of the world the more hopeless rather than joyful one feels.   And yet as Christians we are, as St. David reminds us, called to have hope and to be joyful.  As Teilhard said often, to live a life focused on the Sacred Heart is to live a life with faith in the future.   Faith in what? Faith in the love of God - as represented in the Heart of Jesus - as alive and active in creation.  But in Lent, and as we reflect as we approach Good Friday, I find it hard to be joyful.  Lent is not a time for joy. Having said that, however, St. David tells us to be joyful: even in Lent.  Have faith and hope in the future: believe in the power and energy of love.  Be open to joy, and not overwhelmed by a sense of hopelessness.   C.S. Lewis comes to mind on this.  His book Surprised by Joy is all about 'joy' and being a Christian.  Re-reading it recently it is interesting that he describes joy using the German word 'sehnsucht': joy as a intense longing or yearning. It is a tricky word as it is difficult to translate, but it seems to me that it is close to the Welsh word 'hiraeth' which also means an intense longing and yearning for Wales, or for home.  Joy as hiraeth: an intense longing felt deep within the heart for that which is lost or far away.   To be joyful in this sense is to have an intense longing for home - where we belong.  
When we are joyful we somehow feel an intense feeling of what being home, or being complete means. Joy  -as sehnsucht or hiraeth - is a sense of there being a better place, a place where we will feel at home and complete.  I think St. David is asking us to always be in a state of hiraeth and remain open to those flashes and glimpses of joy when we are intensely  aware of our real home.  Hiraeth or sehnsucht is  a longing which calls from deep inside us - from our very heart.   To be joyful is not to walk around smiling and looking like an idiot, but to live  with a sense of the home which is calling us, and which we know is there and waiting for us.   It is this sense of joy which gives us faith, hope and love.

When we reflect on the Sacred Heart as as centre of a cosmic energy which is pulling creation towards itself and which seeks a personal relationship with us - the centre and heart of us as individuals - then we too can live joyfully.  The Sacred Heart is the source of our joy - the focus of our deep longing and yearning: our hiraeth and sehnsucht.  This is the joy St. David  asks us to remember.   It is the joy which we find in Francis Stanfield's great hymn:

 O Sacred Heart,
our home lies deep in thee;
on earth thou art an exile’s rest,
in heav’n the glory of the blest,
O Sacred Heart.

O Sacred Heart,
lead exiled children home,
where we may ever rest near thee,
in peace and joy eternally,
O Sacred Heart. 

To be joyful in keeping the faith is to live with this longing for unity with the Heart of Christ.   St. Augustine put it well when he says in the Confessions: 'You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.'  Joy is to found in the restlessness of our hearts for the Lord.  With this joy we can, in Teilhard's sense have 'faith in the future': Lent becomes a time for joy. 

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