The quiet gothic columns of the church were speckled with ocean currents from the stained glass windows. Each carved and rounded pillar became violet, like the absent Advent candles.
This is Gaudete Sunday.
It is my favorite Sunday of the year.
Where we sing Philippians 4:4 ad nauseum. But it is a necessary reminder. For to rejoice in the Lord always is quite a terrible command. How can we rejoice in the Lord when we are suffering so deeply? When we are hurt? When our world and our selves are broken by sin--how?
The answer occurred to me during the fifth time singing: "and in all pray-er/ and supp-li-kay-cee-ohn" that prayer is a vital part of finding our way to rejoicing in an evil world.
Prayer, for me, is too often a duty that I am neglecting, and therefore think about as little as possible, in an attempt to distract my guilty conscience.
But Paul instructs us, right after his command to rejoice: "in every thing, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your petitions be made known to God."
With thanksgiving, let your petitions be made known to God. Pre-emptive thanksgiving professes a trust in the goodness of the Lord, and the presence of Emmanuel with us. Whatever comes from our prayer, the outcome will be worthy of the thanksgiving. For it is the prayer itself that is truly the gift.
Prayer is not so much something we have to do as something that we get to do. (This sounds like a terrible turn of senseless rhetoric that a mother would use on a petulant child: you don't have to help clean the kitchen; you get to help clean the kitchen! But I think there is really and truly a distinction here. Prayer is desperately important for us to be the homo adorans we were created to be; but we do not have to pray to survive. Or perhaps we do, we just don't always recognize our prayers as such.
Prayer is an avenue for joy, because, through prayer, we take all of the disparate elements of our lives and offer them back to God. And God is waiting to received the disordered elements of our lives and arrange them into clarity. The heavens are not closed, they are simply waiting for us to open, that they might rain down grace upon us, whenever we are ready to receive.
Prayer is an avenue for peace. And peace, ever increasingly, has become synonymous with Joy. Prayer, Joy, peace, desire-- they all have welded together.
And the peace of God, which surpasseth all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.