The first word we hear coming from God for God’s children, when the Savior comes to the world, is an invitation to joy. It’s the word that Mary hears: «Rejoice».
Jurgen Moltman, the great theologian of hope, has expressed it so: «The first and last word of the great liberation that comes from God isn’t hate, but joy; it’s not condemnation, but absolution. Christ is born from God’s joy, and he dies and rises to bring God’s joy to this contradictory and absurd world».
However, joy isn’t easy. You can’t force anyone to be joyful; you can’t impose joy from outside. True gladness must be born in the deepest depths within us. On the contrary, laughter is superficial, guffaws empty, euphoria passing, but joy ends up outside, at the door of our heart.
Joy is a beautiful gift, but also vulnerable. A gift we must take care of with humility and generosity in the depths of the soul. The German novelist Hermann Hesse says that the cause of the tormented, nervous and sad faces of so many men and women is that «happiness can only be felt in the soul, not the reason, or the stomach, or the head, or the pocketbook».
But there’s something else. How can one feel happy when there’s so much suffering on earth? How can one laugh when all the tears haven’t dried yet and other new ones flow daily? How to be glad when two thirds of humanity find themselves plunged into hunger, misery, or war?
Mary’s joy is the joy of a believing woman who rejoices in God the savior, the God who raises the humiliated and disperses the proud, who fills the hungry with good things and sends the rich away empty-handed. True joy is only possible in the heart of one who yearns and seeks for justice, liberty, and fraternity for all. Mary rejoices in God, because God comes to fulfill the hope of the abandoned.
One can only be joyful in communion with those who suffer and in solidarity with those who weep. One only has the right to be joyful who fights to make joy possible for the humiliated. One can only be happy who makes the effort to make others happy. One can only celebrate Christmas who sincerely seeks the birth of a new person among us.
Jose Antonio Pagola
Translator: Fr. Jay VonHandorf