Part 16 in a series; see other parts here.
So often, prayer means wrestling with the angel, refusing to let go until God leaves us with a blessing. For all that, though, sometimes prayer is pure joy, the sun clearing the horizon and driving out the shadows. If there are prayers of anguish, there are also prayers of exultation, when we find ourselves so awash in grace as to be overwhelmed. Through heaving sobs of joy we can find no other words than: “Thank you, thank you, thank you.”
In joy we experience a release from the usual pulls of gravity, like taking a sports car out to a long, quiet straightaway—the kind of place where it can express its full capacity. Joy isn’t the kind of letting go that happens when we eat the entire tub of ice cream in a sitting; it’s the kind of letting go where the full splendor of our divinity gets to shine out for a few minutes before we return to earth.
Moments of extremity teach us fundamental things about who we are, and there’s a temptation to privilege our times of crying out de profundis over the experience of joy. The darkness teaches us what’s left when everything else is stripped away, but the light teaches us how high we can reach, showing the pleasure that can be found in reaching our limits.
The best part about joy, though, is the way that it, unlike saccharine happiness, can spill over to other people. Joy feels like connection to something deep in the cosmic order, which means that it connects us inevitably to other people. The fullness of joy usually lasts but a moment, and yet it leaves behind a foundation that affords a new capacity for friendship and love. In our gatherings together, then, let us kindle what spark we can of lingering joy.