A Celtic Christian Worldview (24)
From this it is understood that the Church will be lit not by created things but by the majesty of the Lord Himself, when it is allowed to enter the company of the angelic rank in the untroubled serenity of unending happiness.
- The Book of the Order of Creatures XV.7
And He said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts. He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son.”
- Revelation 21.6, 7
The life to come will be characterized above all by “unending happiness.” Happiness in this life is fleeting, because it too often depends on changeable circumstances and conditions. We feel happy when everything is going well in our lives, but when adversity or trials set in, then our happiness seems far away.
The Christian does not live to be happy, but to know the joy of the Lord, that is, the joy that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit share among themselves within the Godhead. Our joy – which is a far more reliable and powerful affection than mere happiness – is the joy of the Lord, in which we share and of which we partake by virtue of Christ’s work on our behalf and the indwelling Spirit of God. This is that “Joy to the World!” which we proclaim, the joy that overrides all adversity, every setback, and all uncertainty because it is ours by virtue of our relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Our lives have been hidden with Christ in God (Col. 3.4), and because of this, we may know joy at any time, regardless of the circumstances of our lives. As the prophet Habakkuk wrote (3.17-19):
Though the fig tree may not blossom,
Nor fruit be on the vines;
Though the labor of the olive may fail,
And the fields yield no food;
Though the flock may be cut off from the fold,
And there be no herd in the stalls—
Yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will joy in the God of my salvation.
The LORD God is my strength;
He will make my feet like deer’s feet,
And He will make me walk on my high hills.
Such joy can be fleeting in this life, but only because we too often confuse it with happiness, and seek the latter, mistaking it for the former.
But in the life to come, happiness and joy – like heaven and earth – will be fused into one unending affection, because not only will we see the Lord face to face, and be like Him, but all the conditions of our lives will have been transformed and renewed as well. The writer of the Liber describes “untroubled serenity of unending happiness”: “In this serenity [the Church] will possess everything beneficial without opposing affliction, since light will not be limited by darkness, nor life by death, health by sickness, joy by sorrow, youth by old age, love by the absence or unfaithfulness of dear ones, beauty by any base quality, courage by weakness or righteousness by any sin. In addition to these [blessings] were also those things which neither the thought nor any reasoning of a human being still on earth can comprehend.”
Truly, for the Christian, the best is yet to come. Yet we can tap into the life to come in every moment of our lives here and now. The God Who promises that one day He will be our God, is our God today. He is with us always, even to the end of the age (Matt. 28.20). He has sent His Spirit to dwell within us, and has given us His true and faithful Word. We commune with Him in prayer, in worship, via the Sacrament, and as we contemplate His glory in the creation all around us. Like the apostles, we have fellowship with God, and thus we enter His joy, even in the midst of every adversity.
And living in that joy we express the hope of greater and unending joy to come. This is a rare feature of human life today, that someone might know joy at all times, might express that joy in confidence and peace, and might explain the reason for that joy so that others might enter the joy of the Lord as well.
The life to come is going to be really great. And we can know that life to come even now, even today, as we abide in Christ and His Word, roll all our burdens onto Him, and walk in obedient faith, living the there and then of our heavenly calling in the here and now of our daily lives.
Questions for Reflections
1. How do you experience the joy of the Lord? What can keep you from knowing that joy more continuously?
2. How would you explain the reason for your joy and hope to someone who might ask you about it?
Psalm 121 (Duke Street: Jesus Shall Reign)
I lift up my eyes up to the heights: Whence comes my help by day, by night?
My help comes from the Lord above! He made creation by His love!
God will not let our footsteps fall; He will preserve us all in all.
He does not slumber, does not sleep; God will His chosen people keep.
You are our Keeper and our Shade; You have our debt of sin repaid!
You will preserve us by Your might; naught shall afflict us day or night.
Lord, You will guard our lives from ill; You will our trembling souls keep still.
All our endeavors You will guard; eternal praise be Yours, O Lord!
Bring me into Your joy, O Lord, so that I might…
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All Psalms for singing from The Ailbe Psalter. Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
 Davies, p. 27