Joy is the Prayer You Are

Joy is natural, an unconditional inheritance. It has no ways or methods. When we stop searching for it, it is there, and when we stop trying to own it, it is ours.

“Joy” in this context means awareness of the state of perfection arising effortlessly from God, from That-Which-Is, and which in the ultimate instance goes nameless.

Joy is neither ecstasy nor giddiness, though it judges neither, nor their cousins. Happiness in the world – with a sunset, with a lover, with a poem – is merely Joy’s faint reflection, given to us that we might turn our attention to the diviner whole. There is nothing wrong with that level of happiness – with, say, a Mardi Gras sensibility – but it is not itself the gift for which we long.

I learn Joy in the forest, beside the pond, and following brooks to rivers, and rivers to larger rivers which reach – beyond my ken – the faraway sea.

In the morning, when I sit or stand by the pond in pre-dawn darkness, and the light slowly changes, revealing the perfect stillness of the water, its perfect reflection of the revelation of sky, the tendril mist drifting ethereal as if across glass . . .

Joy is neither the thoughts or feelings in that moment – nor the wordiness they midwife – but the pond itself. This is not merely semantics. The pond is Joy, as the heron standing in far cattails is Joy, and the deer who come slowly down the piney hill to drink before settling in secret glades to fitful rest are Joy.

Joy is the specific instance, and the space in which the instance occurs, and it is also the awareness of occurrence. Joy is calm and still. It does not travel. It does not advertise. Ask truly and be its willing initiate and it is given without qualification or condition. The answer precedes the question because without it, the question would have no meaning.

Joy means that there is no church but the one you take with you, and no teacher but the one you appoint to learn on your behalf. Nothing is undone, no hymn remains unsung, and no altar is left uncleared. You take the prayer with you; and it prays you as it goes.

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