Something hit me today. Sometimes I hear people saying Christians should be joyful at all times. I don’t disagree, however, it often presented as saying that Christians should be happy and cheerful all the time, which isn’t the same thing and often strikes me as false since no one can possibly be absolutely happy all the time.
So that had been in the back of my mind for a bit without me really thinking about it more in depth when I went to Mass today. Today is the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, where we remember the prophecy of Simeon that a sword would pierce Mary’s soul as well – hardly a cause for smiling. Then I thought of the images of Mary. The Pieta is perhaps one of the most known image types.
Or think of images of other Saints. I can’t think of a single one who is shown happy and smiling, though that doesn’t mean they aren’t joyful. The one who immediately comes to mind is St Theresa, as shown in The Ecstasy of St Theresa.So, my takeaway from all this? I think of the absolute joy Mary and all the Saints have had even in the midst of great sorrow. No, they didn’t appear with cheerful countenances, but their joy was still palpable, regardless. To quote a hymn I like, “it is well with [their] soul[s].” I hope that I can exude that joy, too, and remember that joy is not synonymous with smiling all the time.
Update: I was thinking about this more as I was praying the Rosary in the car. I was praying the Joyful Mysteries (because it’s Monday), and I remembered Fr Theo first telling me that the 4th Joyful Mystery – the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple – is also the 1st of the Seven Sorrows of Mary. I think that sums up our outlook, really, since the prophecy of Simeon was a sorrowful thing for Mary, and yet she had joy. I hope I can emulate that.
I also think my insistence on not equating joy with happiness and cheerfulness is due to reading up on the Quiverfull movement lately and how a happy expression is considered the only acceptable expression for some families, to the point that anything else is considered sinful.