Thursday, 10 January 2013

Don't worry; be happy

Gaudete Sunday is always one I look forward to—there is appearing in a different colour, of course, but also a marker for the half way (or more) of Advent, and the prospect of the Rorate Mass. The only thing that spoils it for me is the second reading in the Jerusalem Bible version.

I want you to be happy, always happy in the Lord. I repeat; what I want is your happiness. Let your tolerance be evident to everyone; The Lord is very near.

A parishioner made reference to this recently, in criticism of the (extremely little) plainchant that we have introduced—in fact, only the Missal chants (and not the Gloria) in Advent and Lent. That, he said, is 'miserable', whereas the Bible says that the Lord wants us always to be happy; so why can't we have the 'clapping Gloria' all the time? Well it did no good to suggest that that that sort of thing was what made me miserable, or to point out that I have continually to sacrifice my taste so that he can have his—St Paul told us to be 'happy', and that is that.

The question is, did he? 'Being happy' and 'rejoicing' seem to me to be two rather different things. St Paul's letter to the Philippians is a great hymn of Christian rejoicing as the answer to current suffering—rejoicing (like loving) is something we do rather than something we feel; the feeling comes as a consequence of the action. One can make oneself happy with all sorts of things, but rejoicing is something far more precious.

And the reference to the nearness of the Lord rather has the sound of 'don't make a sound, because teacher's listening', rather than the confident hope of the coming Saviour (the thought comforting us in our tribulations) which suggests both the second coming and the approach of Christmas.

The shallow interpretations of 'love' and 'rejoicing' bring to mind that National Pastoral Congress mission statement;

We are the Easter people, and alleluia is our song.

I have always rather thought that it is more appropriate to consider ourselves the Parousia people and Maranatha be our song.

Which is why I much prefer the translation 'Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say rejoice! The Lord is at hand'.

We are the Easter people
Alleluia is our song
Make your request, we'll not refuse you
We are here just to amuse you
Would you like to share your story?
Will you share our joy?
At Sunday Mass we're more than keen
To jump around and make a scene
Although we all wear purple jeans
We're happy girls and boys.

1 comment:

Genty said...

I'm not going to guess the age of your critic. But what about The Happitudes? Guaranteed to trigger the gnashing of teeth.
As you rightly say, "happy" and "rejoice", can't really stand as synonyms; the former being passive, the latter active.
It's strange, isn't it, that the more we are assailed by words in modern communications, the less room there is for nuance. Is it because people don't read in depth any more?
I did enjoy your updating of The Ovaltineys, (Radio Luxembourg, just before the episode of Dan Dare, Pilot of the Future, I believe).