The Joy of Holiness
Throughout our day, we are constantly bombarded with all sorts of messages. Some of these messages are conveyed to us in the form of advertisement of some new ‘life-changing’ product; others are suggested to us underhandedly with some God-forsaken, sly intention in hopes of winning some political, economic or social battle. Be that as it may, these messages always attempt to shape our Will and our Desire in a way that will control and manipulate our character.
Inside every human being, there exists Desire. This Desire is the driving force in our life. In and of itself, it is not a bad thing because it moves us to find partners (husbands or wives) with whom we can start family units and share with God the act of creation to produce new life on earth. However, when it becomes corrupt, human wretchedness increases and multiplies. This is especially true, when Desire is left to its own devices, to be free to control our life as it pleases i.e. to make us eat whenever or whatever it tells us, to engage in any sexual act with whomever it commands us, or to sleep, watch television, or speak whenever it decrees us. This is wretchedness in all sense of the word, for how loud does the voice inside of us scream at times wanting to be freed from this slavery, and yet we find ourselves incapable of achieving this freedom? How many times have you wished to stop smoking that cigarette, and yet you found yourself unable to keep that cancerous roll away from your lips? How many times have you wished to look at the other way when an attractive person passes by, and yet you found yourself not only taking a second look, but also flying into a world of fantasy where shameful things that occur in our mind cannot even be mentioned? How many times have you wanted to do the good thing, and yet you found yourself doing the evil that you did not want to do? As a result, we find that there exists a conflict (a gap, a rift, or a schism) between our Will (the good which we WANT to do) and our Desire (the inclinations which control our Will). On the one side of this conflict, there is our Will which knows and wants to do the right thing; and on the other side, our Desire is there to quell down, control and silence our Will to enslave us and make us act in a manner that is contrary to our Will. The result of this great conflict is great wretchedness and misery. Think of all the great acts of evil in this world. The perpetrators always have some sort of a defense for their gruesome acts. In essence, this defense is really nothing more than their wish to act contrarily to the evil they’ve committed; yet, the agency to act contrarily is completely removed from them because of some excuse or another. This excuse is what we know to be Desire. The question then is how can we overcome this wretched conflict and become free?
Before we answer this question, first we must distinguish between joy and happiness. Joy is a chronic, interior state of being that accompanies us regardless of exterior hardships and difficulties that surround us, whereas happiness is a temporary feeling of satisfaction that is dependent on the convenience of exterior elements. Joy speaks to the soul, but happiness addresses the body. Joy nourishes both body and spirit, but happiness only momentarily satisfies the body. Joy belongs to Will, but happiness to Desire. Joy is achieved by obeying the Will; happiness is attained by obeying our Desire. This is precisely why often times we see people who are miserable in life, and yet they obtain a moment of happiness through some rebellious act of escapism such as drinking alcohol, doing drugs, or engaging in some act of sexual promiscuity. So far, I’ve remained descriptive. So far, I have not yet been prescriptive. The question remains, how can we achieve joy in our life?
To answer this question, the solution lies in resolving the conflict and making our Desire conform to our Will. In effect, this reverses the condition I described above where Will conforms to Desire. However, this is impossible for human beings to do alone. It is impossible to find a person in this world whose Desire conforms to his Will at all times through his own powers and strength. Instead, this is a gift from God, which we call ‘grace,’ or the love of God that was revealed to us in the birth, life, crucifixion, death, and resurrection of Our Lord Jesus. Christ, the love of God revealed to humanity, moves our Desire upwards. Once Desire is directed upwards towards God, no longer will it seek the lower appetites. No longer will it rebel and wage war against our Will. A human being can lie down in peace and conformity. The war against pride, greed, envy, hatred, lust, gluttony, laziness is then won. God has won this battle for us. In turn, we too have a role to play. We have a part to take in this fight. Our role is to submit our Desire and our Will to Christ, who then takes over us and begins to be active in us. Our part is to surrender ourselves completely and without any reservations to Christ, who then defeats all the forces that wage the fierce and deadly battles inside of us. Then, both, Desire and Will, praise and glorify our Maker, whose love for us made Him take on a human form and die for us on the cross. The fight is now won. What is then achieved is not some fleeting, fraudulent moment of happiness. Rather, it is joy, a persisting state that will reside inside of us even in the midst of the most turbulent and chaotic situations that life deals us. It is the Joy of Holiness.