SpiritualDirection.com / Catholic Spiritual Direction

Rejoice in the Lord Always

December 18, 2013 by  
Filed under Advent, Anthony Lilles, Seasonal Meditations

augustine for rejoice in the Lord alwaysChristians have the duty to rejoice, to express their joy to the world. Great thinkers like St. Augustine explain to us that joy is love which possesses its object. When we have what we most desire, we are able to enjoy and rest in what we love. We also know that many things we desire, even when we attain them, do not provide a joy that lasts. Most things we desire are too small to occupy our hearts for long, at least in a way that fulfills us. St. Augustine teaches that what we desire determines the weight of our soul. If we desire earthly things, such things will weigh us down. But if we desire heavenly things, our hearts will rise up to what is above. Obviously, we cannot rejoice very long if our hearts are weighed down by lesser desires all the time. The command to rejoice in the Lord implies that we renounce desires that clutter our lives with things that weigh us down, that prevent us from raising our hearts.

The Christian sense of rejoicing, however, goes beyond the renunciation of earthly things. This is because of what Christ offers us by faith. When we believe in Him, when we reach out to him in prayer, when we lift up our hearts and offer them to the Lord, He shares with us something splendid and glorious, something so beautiful that our hearts will never tire of it as long as we cleave to Him by faith.

What does it mean to rejoice in the Lord? It means to attend to Him who is coming to us, to offer Him our hearts. This allows Him to pick them up with his own hands and to join them to His own. In this moment, our hearts are transformed, a new creation begins to unfold. A new holy communion, forged by the Cross, is laid open to us. In this moment of grace which no natural light can see, the Father looks on us with His beatifying love just as He gazes on his own Son. For a moment open to eternity, Christ's joy becomes our joy. Filled with this life, light, and love, can we remain silent or indulgent or anxious? No. Such love is too big to be kept inside and left unexpressed. It is a driving passion that consumes every fiber of our being. Such love, such joy needs to be expressed to those whom we most love, to those who most need it, to those we do not know and even to those whom we do not yet know how to love.
Editor’s Note: For more of Anthony’s insights on prayer, don’t miss his book, Hidden Mountain Secret Garden, an experience like no other. Anthony has an unusually profound understanding of mystical theology and lives a life of deep prayer. Among his many accomplishments and responsibilities, Dr. Lilles now teaches theology for the Avila Institute.


Art: Saint Augustine, Philippe de Champaigne, between circa 1645 and circa 1650, PD-US author's life plus 100 years or less; Detail of a stained glass window of the Holy Family, depicting Madonna and child (right part of the window), AFBorchert/Photo |Location=Church of the Immaculate Conception, Ballymote, County Sligo, Ireland 2010-09-23, Refe; both Wikimedia Commons.


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About Anthony Lilles

Anthony Lilles, a graduate of Franciscan University of Steubenville, completed his graduate and post-graduate studies in Rome at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas. He and his lovely wife, Agnes, are blessed with three children and live in California, where he is the Academic Dean, and Associate Professor of Theology, St. John's Seminary, Archdiocese of Los Angeles, and Academic Advisor for Queen of Angels House of Priestly Formation for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. For over twenty years, Dr. Lilles worked for the Denver Archdiocese directing parish religious education, R.C.I.A. and youth ministry, as well as serving as Director of the Office of Liturgy for the Archdiocese and as Coordinator of Spiritual Formation for the permanent diaconate. In 1999, he became a founding faculty member of St. John Vianney Theological Seminary where he was Academic Dean for nine years and Associate Professor of Theology. He is a Board Member for the Society of Catholic Liturgy. Dr. Lilles has provided graduate level courses on a variety of topics including the Eucharist, the Sacraments of Healing, Church History, Spiritual Theology, Spiritual Direction and on various classics of Catholic Spirituality. His expertise is in the spiritual doctrine of Saint Elisabeth of the Trinity and the Carmelite Doctors of the Church: St. Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross and St. Thérèse of Lisieux. In 2012, Discerning Hearts published his book "Hidden Mountain, Secret Garden: A Theological Contemplation on Prayer," a compilation of discussions with seminarians, students, and contemplatives about the spiritual life. He collaborated with Dan Burke on the books "30 Days with Teresa of Avila" and Living the Mystery of Merciful Love: 30 Days with Therese of Lisieux. And, his book "Fire from Above" was published in 2016. Among his many accomplishments and responsibilities, Dr. Lilles now teaches theology for the Avila Institute. He blogs at BeginningtoPray.blogspot.com

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