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Heart of Joy

The heart is the foundation and driving force of the soul.

The Joy of the Lord (7)

Be glad in the LORD and rejoice, you righteous;
And shout for joy, all
you upright in heart! Psalm 32.11

A well-kept heart
The heart is the foundation and driving force of the soul, which is to say, of the life itself. From the heart, the incubator and hot house of all our affections, issue all the defining issues of our lives, as Solomon explained (Prov. 4.23). Our duty is to understand the heart and its function in relationship to the mind and conscience, and to guard our heart carefully, so that all the right affections, properly focused and developed, can contribute to a strong soul and a faithful and joyful life of following Jesus.

We begin with the fear of God, which He commands, and which is the beginning of all wisdom. Add to that love for God and our neighbor and thanksgiving as our continuous acknowledgement of God’s Presence and goodness. Hope, courage, good grief, and joy round out the defining affections we must seek to get in place and keep in place by keeping a close watch over our soul.

Joy is the consequence and condition of a well-kept heart. Where all the other affections are functioning as God intends, we will know His Presence and pleasure, and thus we will abide within the joy of the Lord in all we do. Knowing the joy of the Lord begins in rejoicing, in using our words to express by faith the joy we know is ours in Jesus Christ.

Words of joy

We must not underestimate the power of words for bringing us into the joy of the Lord. This is why so many of the psalms contain exhortations to rejoice and reminders of why we should. It was to encourage them in joy that Jesus spoke to His disciples and the apostles wrote to their fellow believers. Words fitly spoken can prime our hearts to tap the joy of the Lord, so that joy wells up and overflows from us.

Long after the awakening fires of the Celtic Revival (ca. 430-800 AD) had cooled, leaders of the Irish Church looked for ways to recover some of the spiritual vitality, fervor, and joy that characterized that period. They prepared devotional guides called litanies, which were intended for use in personal and corporate worship.

These litanies were carefully-crafted poems of invocation, confession, longing, and praise, which drew on the riches of Scripture, the memories of Christian forebears, and the composer’s own desire to know the joy of the Lord. These litanies offer powerful words of worship and joy. Reading them can open a spigot for the joy of the Lord to flow in our hearts.

Here is an excerpt from one of my favorite of these litanies:

O holy Jesu;
O gentle friend;
O Morning Star;
O mid-day Sun adorned;
O brilliant flame of the righteous, and of righteousness, and of everlasting life and eternity;
O Fountain ever-new, ever-living, ever-lasting;
O heart’s Desire of patriarchs;
O Longing of prophets;
O Master of apostles and disciples:
O Giver of the Law;
O Prince of the New Testament…
Give and grant and impart to me Thy holy grace, and Thy Holy Spirit, to protect me and preserve me from all my sins present and future, and to kindle in me all righteousness… (“Litany of Jesus II” from Charles Plummer, tr. and ed, Irish Litanies, The Boydell Press, 1925, 1992).

This is about a tenth of this glorious litany of praise and celebration, seeking the Presence and joy of the Lord. The words, we can well imagine, ushered all who used them into the joy of the Lord. Such words can be for us a key to the treasury of joy to be known in the Presence of the Lord.

A litany of joy
Sadly, these wonderful litanies are not readily available, nor would they be readily understood without some background knowledge of the period of Celtic Christianity.

Still, the idea of such a litany, scripted to lead us into the joy of the Lord, strikes me as a worthwhile project. So to conclude our series on the joy of the Lord – and our study on keeping the heart with all diligence – I offer a contemporary “Litany of Joy”, which you may feel free to use in entering the sustaining joy of the Lord:

God Almighty, Whom to fear is
    right, and just what You command –
Father, Word, and Holy Spirit,
    let me in Your Presence stand.
In this vale of tears I seek You,
    there where sin does not alloy.
Hear, Lord! Grant me leave to speak to
    You, Who dwell in boundless joy.

There You know eternal gladness,
    Three in One forever blessed.
Here we walk in tears and sadness,
    from our troubles seeking rest.
Draw me, woo me, touch and lift me,
    o’er life’s burdens gently buoy.
Though all foes would shake and sift me,
    fill me with Your constant joy!

Jesus, You rejoiced in sorrow,
    looking toward Your great reward.
Tears will all be gone tomorrow
    in the bosom of the Lord.
Let me know Your constant Presence,
    strong, bright angels, Lord, deploy,
bearing with them just the essence
    of Your never-ending joy!

Now You reign in joyous rapture,
    saints and angels all around!
My soul let Your Spirit capture,
    in Your love securely bound!
Let me with that joyous throng be
    ever found in Your employ;
let my every prayer and song be
    filled with Your abounding joy!

Joy to know! Now bursts my heart to
    fill the world with Your great Name!
Joy unbounded to impart to
    all who would Your praise proclaim!
Joyous shouting, joyous singing,
    joyous praise would I employ,
thus Your great salvation ringing
    and with it Your boundless joy!

And in case singing is for you a cherished means of expressing the joy of the Lord, you can sing this litany of joy to the tune of Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” (“Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee”).

May the joy of the Lord abound in you today and always!

For reflection
1.  What are your favorite passages of Scripture for expressing the joy of the Lord?

2.  What can keep you from knowing the joy of the Lord each day? How can you prepare to overcome those obstacles by rejoicing in the Lord?

3.  What suggestions can you offer for knowing the joy of the Lord more deeply and consistently?

Next steps – Transformation: Use the “Litany of Joy” in today’s study for the next several days. Does this help you know more of the joy of the Lord? Do you find your joy increasing as you express it?

T. M. Moore

All the installments in this “Strong Souls” series are available in PDF by clicking here. Check out our newest feature, Readings from the Celtic Revival (click here).

All your reading and study should focus on Jesus as the hope of glory. Our book, Know, Love, Serve, can show you how to realize this goal. Order your free copy by clicking here. As we increase in the joy of the Lord, we fulfill our calling as joy-bringers to the people around us, as we explain in our book, Joy to Your World! A free copy awaits you by clicking here.

Thanks for your prayers and support
If you find ReVision helpful in your walk with the Lord, please seek the Lord, asking Him whether you should contribute to the support of this ministry with your financial gifts. As the Lord leads, you can use the Contribute button at the website to give with a credit card, or you can send your gift to The Fellowship of Ailbe, 360 Zephyr Road, Williston, VT 05495.

Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
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