“The joy announced to Mary is not the banal joy clung to in forgetfulness of the abysses of our being and so condemned to plunge into the void. It is the real joy that gives us the courage to venture the exodus of love into the burning holiness of God. It is the true joy that pain does not destroy but first brings to its maturity. Only the joy that stands the test of pain and is stronger than affliction is authentic.” Mary, the Church at the Source
Reflection: So, who wants joy, anyhow? Silly question, right? Joy is what we’re made for – it’s what we cannot not want. Joy is that which is ours when we receive our heart’s desire, whether it’s the short-term, temporary joy of a chocolate chip cookie or the abiding joy of love and peace in our hearts. The strength and endurance of our joy depends greatly on the strength and endurance of our heart’s desire. So much is about this, isn't it? what do we want, really? Joy? Yes, but what kind of joy? Joy in what?
Ratzinger speaks of banal joy here. This pallid kind of substitute joy is what we might think of at first – having a good time, partying, whooping it up. Or, more sinister, the ‘joy’ that comes from drugs and alcohol and the planned oblivion they bring.
This is the joy that is clung to out of a sort of despair of life, a sense that it’s all futile anyhow – no purpose, no future, no happy end to things. “We’re here for a good time, not a long time… party like it’s 1999… oh daddy dear, we’re not the fortunate ones, and girls (and boys) just wanna have fun.”
OK, so I grew up in the 80s. Nobody's perfect. The joy announced to Mary, however, is the real thing – real joy. Rejoice, Mary, highly favored one! This joy proclaims that creation is fated for a happy ending, a glorious final act, that the cosmos is essentially comic, that is, on an upward trajectory.
It is this joy that gives us the courage then, to essay the high adventure of life – the exodus of love, going out from ourselves to love of our brothers and sisters. Risking all, daring to endure pain and sorrow, to chance everything on the possibility that maybe, just maybe, we have a Father in heaven who is going to catch us, hold us, and no matter what happens here and now, throw us up into the eternal heights.
And this joy is only strengthened and confirmed by its encounter with pain and sorrow. In fact, this is the test of our joy and its authenticity – can we pass through sorrow and darkness and come out the other side with joy? This is the proof of the authenticity of our life.
So we have the type of ‘joy’ that flees from reality, that flies to oblivion and escape, and we have Mary’s joy, that emboldens her to love, leads her to the foot of the Cross, and from there to the heights of heaven. Queen of heaven and earth, pray for us, that we might find true joy and life in abundance.