Divine Happiness

Some years ago I was captivated by an aspiration
(“one-liner” prayer) from St. Alphonsus de Liguori:
“Lord I rejoice that You are infinitely happy”

I’ve been praying that routinely that ever since, and it’s given me much fodder for meditation. How can God be infinitely happy when there’s so much pain and suffering? Sacred Scripture makes it abundantly clear that it’s not because He doesn’t notice or doesn’t care. He thunders against injustice (Isaiah 5:18-25, etc.), lifts up the lowly (Luke 1:52), fathers the fatherless (Psalm 68:5–etc.). But that’s just the point. He has everything under control. He’s working everything–even the worst of it–together toward a glorious end (Romans 8:28)…and since He’s eternal, that end is always before Him. He can rejoice in it always (just as St. Paul tells us, “Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say, rejoice!” -Philippians 4:4, despite his laundry list of beatings, imprisonments, shipwrecks, etc.: II Corinthians 11:23-33).

Then there’s the inner delight of the Trinity, God the Father delighting in His Son, Who is eternally with Him (“This is My beloved Son, in Whom I take My delight” -Matthew 3:17, 17:5, I Peter 1:17, etc.) and Jesus rejoicing in the Holy Spirit as He offers praise to God the Father (Luke 10:21). This fits St. Thomas Aquinas’ classical definition of happiness as the enjoyment of the possession of a good–in this case, the supreme Good! God is overflowing with the joys of Heaven, redeeming the troubles of earth.

This awareness of divine happiness has made God seem more approachable. It’s much nicer (and safer!) to be around a genuinely happy Person than one who’s preoccupied with trouble. And I had the sense that since I’m united with Jesus through my Baptism (Romans 6:3-5, Galatians 3:27), this unalterable happiness has a place in my life too (not to be mistaken for putting on a plastic smile no matter what, nor for always feeling good). St. Paul commands it, for one thing (Philippians 4:4, quoted above), and since God has given Himself to me (especially through Baptism and Holy Communion), as long as I’m in a state of grace I always have an infinite Good to enjoy (God Himself!). Then I came across this:

[when we are friends with God,]
unselfish love has identified our will
with the will of our Friend [God],
His happiness is ours–even as it is between human friends. From the first moment of this divine friendship,
our Friend is always and intimately with us:
as Lord and Creator to His creatures
as the object of our knowledge and love,
and by that extremely intimate presence by grace
which enables us to live His very life.
Then there is that triumphant joy
in our Friend’s possession of the great good we wish Him;
though He does not so much possess it, as He is it.
Nothing can threaten His happiness,
nothing can dim the joy of our friendship.
-Walter Farrell, A Companion to the Summa, vol 3

Through our friendship with God, His happiness is ours–forever!

‘Course, this begs a question. Am I that kind of friend to God? Do I love Him unselfishly, desiring His happiness over my own? Or am I just in this relationship for my own pleasure? (or do I relate to Him at all?) Worse yet, have I driven Him (and His happiness) out of my life through sin?!

And it requires a few qualifiers. Sharing divine happiness doesn’t mean that I cease to have other emotions. If one friend gave birth and another had a miscarriage, I would rightly rejoice with the one and grieve with the other (“Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep”, Romans 12:15). Jesus’ infinite happiness did not prevent Him from being moved by the deepest emotions, weeping at Lazarus’ tomb (John 11:33-35), and weeping over Jerusalem (Luke 19:41). There is a place within God’s sacred order for the whole gamut of emotions. Divine happiness helps me to keep them in that place so that they can fulfill the purpose for which God made them instead of running away with me. It provides an underlying stability, and a “home-base” of happiness, a ray of Sonshine, to which I can return.

Lord, I rejoice that You are infinitely happy,
and that You have loved me into being
that I may share in Your infinite happiness! Amen.

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