“Let your soul rejoice in the Lord,
for He has clothed you with the robe of salvation!
Let your soul rejoice in the Lord!
He has covered you in a garment of gladness.
Let your soul rejoice in the Lord!
And as a bride adorns herself with jewels,
so has He adorned you with comeliness.
Let your soul rejoice in the Lord!”
There’s a setting, an arrangement of the melody for this text of “Let your soul rejoice in the Lord” by Ivan Moody (linked here as Track # 5 ) that delights in lingering in my ears, my mind and even on my lips… and lifts my heart wherever and whenever it’s fallen of late or become enmeshed in the mire of the everyday. And with just that easy recollection, all of a sudden there’s a way out from under the decay and darkness, a page is turned, my troubles seem to melt as I’m led back towards Christ and His grand calling for our lives. Like so many before, this has increasingly become my go-to recourse text… and I revel in its every word as I’ve done the others.
It’s as though in these brief lyrics, the words of (now – as of December, 2013) St. Porphyrios the New in his great work, “Wounded by Love” are poured into mind:
“…In your spiritual life engage in your daily contests simply, easily and without force. The soul is sanctified through the study of the words of the Fathers, through the memorization of the psalms and of portions of Scripture, through the singing of hymns and through repetition of the Jesus Prayer. …There are two paths that lead to God: the hard and debilitating path with fierce assaults against evil and the easy path with love. The shorter and safer route is the path with love. This is the path that you, too, should follow. Have as your aim to advance in the love of God and of the Church.
(And rather than) …fight(ing) to expel the darkness from the chamber of your soul… open a tiny aperture for light to enter, and the darkness will disappear. …You don’t become holy by fighting evil. Let evil be. Look towards Christ and that will save you. What makes a person saintly is love – the adoration of Christ which cannot be expressed, which is beyond expression… The saints, the ascetics and the martyrs… cast themselves upon Christ’s love. They gave their hearts.
We must steal their method.”
But there’s more than this… the words “Let your soul rejoice…” take me back to that first “Let it be unto me according to your Word…” of the Theotokos… and her later Magnificat (one of my early “faves”), the song of the Church itself on the impending fulfillment of God’s promise of salvation. This is all God’s doing… His will, His power, His salvation, His faith in us. And in all that He has done for us… all He asks is for our simple(!) assent that He might start the wonder of our own ascent. Yet we wrestle within ourselves for “my faith”, “my salvation” and doing things by “my own power”… and so often we put it off. But if we can let that go, relax and move forward, God will provide. He really will. He’ll overcome our doubt with love; He’ll fill all the rest… those holes where we have no answers… somehow… love will abide and prove enough.
But grand as the opportunity is when it comes, and as wonderful a calling as it’s meant to become, we (at least I do) get sidetracked, waylaid, distracted, and even lost and confused. I used to confuse the celebration of the divine in the ordinary with reveling in the freedom to be ordinary itself… as if these two were the same. They’re not.
While its good to aspire to no more than raising a couple of kids, working hard at a good job, and loving a spouse over a lifetime with all that you can… and while these are still treasured gifts, and even miracles of a sort in this darkened age… they can be so much more. For around us, the darkness still lingers like a forest awaiting its chance to reclaim the peaceful meadow bit by bit…or a sea lapping at a sandbar it wants to wash away. Yet transformed in the light of Christ, the love of God and our neighbor with all that we are and have… we can let Christ illumine the dark recesses that remain and literally lift our hearts… and our joy cannot be taken away. For like Christ, it abides even to the last.
“Acquire the Spirit of Peace, and a thousand souls around you will be saved.”
– St. Seraphim of Sarov
This is not in the least a selfish work, for true acquisition of the Holy Spirit is a gift to all… not just in how it saves our brothers and sisters from the darkness that dwells within us, but in how that joy literally shines from one countenance to illumine another. As it says in the Gospels, our vocation is to let our lights shine from a lampstand! that we might share our joy with one another.
Yet while many of our happy moments seem frozen only to evaporate as did the “happily ever aftering” of Camelot, the Light of Christ endures, etching itself in our hearts even as the moment passes. With the work of earnest devotion, that memory can feed a life lived in Christ, sustained in Christ, and a joy that doesn’t yield to time, to circumstances or even necessity. It’s as though the freedom we grant in allowing these cherished moments to come, to pass, and perhaps even to linger feeds the vision that all the world, all Creation and everyone of us is Christ bearing, as “the Light of Christ illumines all.”
Yet as creatures confined by time, experiencing life and illumination in sequence, we readily become enmeshed in the thought that this fleeting moment is all there is, rather than the concession it is in truth to our limited ability to absorb more than a smidgen here and there without harm. Unseen and unsequenced, surely the world is far richer. Consider how our liturgy reveals the truth that all the separate moments we experience, that our brothers and sisters bear as well, and all the moments of history – all of these are joined in the mystery of Christ as one and at once celebrated in the vision of the Church. For in the Kingdom, each of us and each of our moments and all others are part of one another.
Let it therefore be seen by the eyes of our hearts, how it shines forth, how we release it from the opacity with which God shields us in His mercy… that the light would otherwise blind and overwhelm us… literally exploding the eyes of our minds. But it is in God’s gentle spirit to allow this truth to be apparent only by our assent… even if it’s only for a brevity that we can bear. And so it becomes enough, and we know: “It’s all real, all true, God is God, and wonderful in His saints,” and His joy bears us forward.
Suddenly then… everything changes: We’re no longer dressed in the drab, dreary garments of our work-a-day world, but instead find ourselves adorned in the glimmering robes of salvation. Our tensions evaporate in something more than an instant, and as they pass, so our anger, our neglect, our self-centeredness, our lack of love… all that is gone as well. And at last we know and can find our place as creatures of the most high, the Living God as though every fiber were filled with the fresh breath of the first morning in Eden. We are renewed, and re-created.
God has given us this life, this second chance, and His raiment… and love… even these words and melody lift us literally out of the poverty, the smallness, and ordinariness of our own lives. Our hearts are englarged to chart another course; and thus it is that a simple juxtaposition of texts alongside a life, my life and yours, leads us along The Way to True Life. May it do so to from this day forward to our last.