Essay "On Joy in The Temple"

by J. R. Arner

Joy, I did lock thee up: but some bad man
                 Hath let thee out again:
And now, me thinks, I am where I began  
                     - The Bunch of Grapes

     If you have captured joy and are satisfied with the progress of your life, who would let it/him/her go and set you back into retrogressive dissatisfaction, even depression? You would feel manipulated, angry, hurt, certainly frustrated, even abused, exposed and vulnerable. You may regard the person or persons as intrusive, envious, at least, and jealous of your hard-earned success and happiness. If they told you that they did if out of love for your own good, you take it unkindly. Even if it were a close friend or relative, you would not be the better for it. You would have to re-solve, re-establish, re-create and re-live your life to re-capture joy, or would you re-prise your past efforts toward the same pleasure.
     This leads the reader to the image of the Israelites in the Wilderness when they followed their own joy and pleasure, and God brought them back again and again breaking their joy, so that they had to begin searching for their eternal joy from the beginning. Like a coach, seeing a mistake, says, "Take it from the top." The team may be satisfied with their performance, enjoying themselves, but it is not good enough, not their best if they want to be first string, please the coach and prepare to battle their major opponents.
     There are 2 joys: Here and Hereafter. You may have only one. If you seek your joy here, you lose joy hereafter. Even Christ "... was hungrie here. Wouldst thou his laws of fasting disanull? Enact good cheer? Lay out thy joy, yet hope to save it? Wouldst thou both eat thy cake, and have it? Great joyes are all at once" (The Size). This is what God taught the Israelites, and George Herbert expresses its truth for all Christians.
     Pleasures and diversions make up the transcient, earthly joys. "Then silly soul take heed; for earthly joy/ Is but a bubble, and makes thee a boy." (Vanitie (II)) They encourage immaturity and prevent spiritual growth. And on a larger, historic scale, Satan rewards and diverts nations with earthly joys, and Christ punishes this temporal joy with affliction.1 Earthly enjoyment, present gratification, leads the spiritual person astray; affliction shocks the sweet pleasure with a bitter aftertaste.

Pleasure succeeded straight, when that grew cold.
Which soon was blown to such a mightie flame, 
That though our Saviour did destroy the game,
Disparking oracles, and all their treasure,
Setting affliction to encounter pleasure;
Yet did a rogue with hope of carnall joy
Cheat the most subtill nations. 
                          - "The Church Militant"

     Earthly joy ranks low on a scale of preferred choices. It is not the prize, reward, that you should keep your eyes on. If all worldly pleasure results in affliction time after time, it ceases to entice or delight. (Dotage) But not everyone can make the connection. It produces tears and pain, but this joy retains its attraction. For some it never ceases to thrill and captivate. As long as this garden of earthly delights and affliction are separate elements and not clearly understood as cause and effect, mortal joy and suffering is the reoccuring, human cycle.

          Hark, how the birds do sing,
                    And woods do ring. 
All creatures have their joy: and man hath his.
          Yet if we rightly measure, 
                    Mans joy and pleasure 
Rather hereafter, then in present is.
                                - Mans medley.

     Because the only lasting, permanent joy rests with God, the joys of this world are at best transitory and at worst sins, either distractions from or oppositions to God. The transition from joy-here to joy-hereafter sets pleasure and grief in perspective.

  • If thou do ill; the joy fades, not the pains: If well; the pain doth fade, the joy remains. - Church Porch, Stz. 77.
  • Although thy heap [of joy] be kept For future times, the droppings of the stock May oft break forth [into our lives.] - The Glimpse
  • "... But thou wilt sinne and grief destroy; That so the broken bones may joy, And tune together in a well-set song," Repentance
  • "It cannot be. Where is that mightie joy, Which just now took up all my heart? Lord, if thou must needs use thy dart, Save that, and me;" The Temper (II).
  • "... Sure thou wilt joy, by gaining me To flie home like a laden bee Unto that hive of beams And garland-streams." The Starre
  • ... what is that supreme delight?
                         Echo. Light. 
    Light to the minde: what shall the will enjoy? 
                         Echo. Joy.
                                 - Heaven
But he hath spoilíd the race; and givín to anguish
One of Joyes coats, ticing it with relief
To linger in me, and together languish.
     I live to shew his power, who once did bring
     My joyes to weep, and now my griefs to sing.
                                       - Josephs coat 

     On earth there are the passing joys, but there are also the fore-tastes of heavenly joy that we experience and develop here. There are disciplines and restraints to sustain this glimpse of joy. "Continence hath his joy" (Church Porch, Stz. 3). Herbert's summary of mortal pleasures is "All worldly joyes go lesse/ To the one joy of doing kindnesses." (Church Porch Stz. 55).
     There are heavenly joys that God gives us on earth to sustain us, like manna in the wilderness. To be with God is the only joy, but on earth we have only glimpses. Since Christ is no longer present with men, God limits the occasions.

   Thou shutt'st the doore, and keep'st within;
   Scarce a good joy creeps through the chink:
   And if the braves of conqu'ring sinne
Did not excite thee, we should wholly sink.
                          -  Whitsunday

Even the thought of Christ gives joy (Love-joy., A true Hymne and The Call). And, of course, conversation with the Divine is "Softnesse, and peace, and joy, and love, and blisse," Prayer (I). These joys, the presence of Christ, intimate immortality, the continuous presence of God.
     The Church and the eucharist possess the presence of Christ. In these we have the possibility of God with us to master temporal situations. The British Church, double protected by God and the state, secures a divine society. Like the Israelites in the wilderness, the eucharist fortifies each one personally, but the lesser joys and their consequences must be destroyed before the greater joy strengthens.

                    God is here
                   In this cheer,
And on sinne doth cast the fright.

Come ye hither all, whom joy
                   Doth destroy,
While ye graze without your bounds:
Here is joy that drowneth quite
                   Your delight,
                      -  The Invitation

While we are earthbound, joy, in the eucharist, destroys all we were, overwhelms our mortal joys like returning to the Red Sea from the Wilderness, destroying our golden calf. Our choice is between the joy that delights for a short time and becomes a burden, an affliction, or a lasting joy that overpowers all others.
     What is your Joy (your "Bliss")? Where does that joy lead you?

1 Affliction possesses a double purpose. It punishes sin and earthly joy, and it represents the suffering of Christ and potential salvation. "As we at first did board with thee, Now thou wouldst taste our miserie. There is but joy and grief; If either will convert us, we are thine:" (Affliction Poems). Both the blessings and the grief, the scepter and the rod, educate us, comfort us. [Return]

Optional Music: "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring," Johann Sebastian Bach.

Notes from The Countrie Parson and The Book of Common Prayer on Joy Hereafter
Country Parson. Chapter 15: The Parson Comforting. ... , how comfortable, and Soveraigne a Medicine it is to all sin-sick souls; what strength, and joy, and peace it administers against all temptations, even to death it selfe, he plainly, and generally intimateth ...

Country Parson. Chapter 32: The Parson's Surveys. ... soules, and raise them to their height, even to heaven; to dresse and prune them, and take as much joy in a straight-growing childe, or servant, as a Gardiner doth in a choice tree. Could men finde out ...

Country Parson. Chapter 34: The Parson's Dexterity in Applying of Remedies. ... for a time leaves us, as he did our Saviour, and the Angels minister to us their owne food, even joy, and peace; and comfort in the holy Ghost. These two states were in our Saviour, not only in the beginning ...

Service of Burial, from the 1559 Book of Common Prayer ... the souls of them that be elected, after they be delivered from the burden of the flesh, be in joy and felicity: We give thee hearty thanks, for that it hath pleased thee to deliver this N. our brother ...

A Commination against Sinners (1559) from The Book of Common Prayer... be clean: thou shalt wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Thou shalt make me hear of joy and gladness: that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice. [See last line of Repentance.]

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