13 Dec

On Sunday I spent most of the day visiting family, as is almost traditional for me since I moved into Edmonton to pursue my career two summers ago.

Sundays are particularly special for me. I typically visit family most of the day and then go to Mass in the evening. This routine is simple, yet is a welcome departure from the rest of the week. As I sat down to a wonderful supper with my family, the Advent candles were lit. Three of them: two purple and then one pink. The pink candle of the third week of Advent represents joy, whereas the three purple candles convey a more solemn message of preparation for Christ’s coming and of repentence.

Earlier in the day, I had read a column, “In Exile” by Oblate Father Ron Rolheiser in which he wrote about the definition of joy. When the pink candle was lit, Fr. Rolheiser’s words really sunk in.

Joy is obtained, in a paradoxical sense, by giving joy to others. Fr. Rolheiser cited the famous Prayer of St. Francis:

O Master grant that I may never seek
So much to be consoled as to console,
To be understood as to understand
To be loved as to love with all my soul…

Finding joy is a pivotal step in our preparation for Christmas. We are children of God. We have already been given the best Christmas gift possible: Jesus was born, lived among us as God robed in human flesh, taught us, died for us, and is risen again to give us the possibility of salvation. As such, we are entrusted with bringing the light of Christ shown by the lit Advent candles to the world. Joy is to be spread even when our busy lives get us down. Random acts of kindness can be simple: smile, listen, help a family member, or give up a seat on a bus to a pregnant lady (this from a radio show I listened to on the weekend)…there are endless possibilities.

Joy is found through kindness and selflessness. If one looks for joy in the material aspects of Christmas, it may last only briefly and then fizzle out. But though materialistic joy is ephemeral, Christ’s joyous message is eternal:

“Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” (Matthew 24:35)

“This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to Him!” (Mark 9:7)

To conclude, I think a poem by St. John of the Cross (1542-1591) is appropriate. This was also in Fr. Rolheiser’s column:

To reach satisfaction in all, desire its possession in nothing.
To come to possess all, desire the possession of nothing.
To arrive at being all, desire to be nothing.
To come to the knowledge of all, desire the knowledge of nothing.
To come to the pleasure you have not, you must go by the way in which you enjoy not.
To come to the knowledge you have not, you must go by a way in which you know not.
To come to the possession you have not, you must go by a way in which you possess not.
To come to be what you are not, you must go by a way in which you are not.

(Published in the Western Catholic Reporter. See



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