BETWEEN SERIOUSNESS AND CHEERFULNESS
By: Fr Tadros Malaty
“Be faithful unto death, and I will give you a crown of life” [Revelation 2:10].
Many times I have been judged by others that I am serious in my life, faithful in my studies and my work, and strict in my behavior even in the small matters, but inside me I still feel that I am reckless and untrue even with myself. Thus, what does seriousness mean?
Here, the following questions are raised in my mind:
- Does the seriousness in life go against a life of joy and cheerfulness?
- What does seriousness in life mean?
- Is seriousness bound to a specific age? In other words, why shouldn’t I spend my youth in amusement, away from baring the heavy responsibilities that are weary to the soul?
- Is it enough to be serious in my studies or work, and in my familial and social responsibilities?
- Is seriousness required in the spiritual life? And to what extent?
- Do I have to give up my relationship with the others for the sake of being serious in my commitment to what is right?
THE SOCIAL SERIOUSNESS AND SPIRITUAL LIFE:
It is comely for us to distinguish between mere social seriousness, which is the produce of familial education, social behavior, the desire to have a strong and sound personality, the seeking of some reward, or fearing the law or the failure, and the spiritual seriousness, which is a natural setoff that comes from the believer as a sign of his fellowship with God “the faithful and holy” [Hosea 11:12].
The first is usually an outer garment that the person can put off whenever he gets the chance or when the seriousness goes against some of his special needs; but the second is an integral part of his inner life. It is one of the features of the children of God that seek to resemble their heavenly Father, of Whom it was said: “God is faithful, by whom you were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord” [1 Corinthians 1:9].
OUR SERIOUS AND FAITHFUL CHRIST:
Seriousness is a gift of the Holy Spirit that dwells inside you and that longs to form you into the image of Christ, the “faithful high priest” [see Hebrews 2:17], the “faithful and true witness” [Revelation 3:14]. St. John beheld Him this way in the heaven, as he said: “and I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he does judge and make war” [Revelation 19:11].
“Being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself” [Philippians 2:8], and with His love-filled humbleness He attracted the young children and called unto them to come to Him [Matthew 19:14; Mark 10:14; Luke 18:16], and in Him they found a fatherhood that is filled with cheerfulness and kindness. This cheerfulness attracted many unto Him as was testified by Pilatus in his report that he sent to Herodias; yet at the same time He was venerable, feared by the Pharisees who were feared by all.
In this way we bear His image and present the cheerfulness that comes from inner joy, along with seriousness and commitment in every aspect of life.
This is our “faithful” Christ: He is always cheerful, attracting to Him the trespassers and the publicans with the joyful love so that they could enjoy His salvation; while the hypocrites were not able to meet with Him, and thus used to come unto Him together in groups for His purposeful resoluteness.
There is a great difference between a man that was educated with faithfulness from his childhood or practices it out of fear from an emotional or physical sanction and a man that delights and rejoices the faithful life as a fellowship with the heavenly God. This man is fond of “faithfulness” or the “seriousness in life” even with regard to his inner thoughts and feelings that nobody knows about except himself. We do not deny the role of the familial education and the importance of the society’s laws and rules, but man remains in need of God’s grace that is alone able to penetrate his depths and to always renew his inner life, so that he would bear the fellowship of our Savior’s features. He lives with it, neither to please the people nor seeking some timely reward or out of fear of others’ criticism or timely punishment, but he practices it with the righteous spirit inside him as well as in his outer behavior, so that this feature would remain touching his entire being forever.
The “seriousness in life” bears within itself a reward as long as it involves the enjoyment of the fellowship with the Faithful Holy, as it forms you into the image of your Savior. What reward is greater? It does not cause pressure unto the soul due to the heavy feeling of the responsibility, but it is considered joy and happiness as it is a true virtue of the bride that bears the features of its Groom that is fairer than the children of men [Psalms 45:2].
SERIOUSNESS AND THE NEW LIFE IN CHRIST:
Since seriousness is a gift of the Holy Spirit that works inside you, then you bare it as a sign of the new life that became yours in Jesus Christ, our Savior.
When you exercise this seriousness or faithfulness in your spiritual life, it will flow not only in your behavior but also in your passing hidden thoughts. You would surrender the keys to the doors of your mind and heart in the hands of the Son of David, who is alone able to open them up and build His Kingdom inside you, and close them up so that no defiled thing or adulteries can sneak in. He sets your depths straight and sanctifies them on the account of His Kingdom, the city of God, the icon of His heaven, so that you would praise and say: “Except the LORD keep the city, the watchman wakes but in vain” [Psalms 127:1].
As you surrender your life in the hands of your Savior, you will truly long for the seriousness in your personal or group prayers, in your fasting, repentance, worshipping, praises, giving, and in your execution of the divine commandment. He is the One working inside you to want and to act.
The serious desire or the sacred will does not work only in the spiritual life, but it also includes all aspects of your life. You will feel the seriousness in the clarity of your goal, your faithful behavior, your precision in your studies, work, and familial relations, in your care for the others, and even in what is related to your body and your entertainment and comfort. The apostle said: “if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit…” [Philippians 2:1]. Thus, the believer that is serious in his life and faithful in the image of his Master would know how to be resolute even in his comfort or entertainment.
Seriousness does not imply cheerlessness or gloominess. We mentioned before that Pilatus wrote to Herodias about Christ, the LORD, mentioning that He was always cheerful. However, He was never seen laughing, but He was sometimes found crying. He also said that one would crave to look upon His face.
Be faithful even in your cheerfulness and in your dealings with the members of your family, for if you were faithful in the Lord in the matters that are within your capabilities, He would grant you faithfulness and seriousness in the matters that are not within your capabilities. For example, the young man that is not cheerful with his parents and bothers, but lives in cheerfulness with his friends and with the strangers, is usually beaten with the thoughts of the bodily lusts; for, since he was not faithful in the matters that seem simple, he would not find the divine help to support him against the thoughts that are not under his control.
Thus, let us be faithful over the few things so that God would make us rulers over the many things [Luke 19:17]. St. Paul said: “Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong” [1 Corinthians 16:13].
The Greek word “Greegoreite”, which came to mean watchfulness and alertness, is a military expression that is used with regard to the watch-soldiers and those who monitor the movements of the enemy. Thus, the apostle urges them towards seriousness and to be alert to the movements of the evil enemy lest he defiles their faith with the fraud and wrong teachings, or ruin their lives or their inner peace with familial or church problems. He demands them to stay awake, for they were as if in a state of slumber or dwelling in a deep sleep. They ought to stay awake, for the salvation does not depend on the names of the workers in the vinery, but on their exerted efforts and wakefulness. The believer feels that he is like a soldier of Christ that is always in a state of battle as long as he is in the body and in the world. He is always in danger, for the enemies are lying in wait for him and Satan wants to destroy him.
He asks them to awake in order to accept God’s grace, and to exercise the sacred life in the LORD. He said: “be strong”, for God has granted you the strength and the power to work with the spirit of strength, not weakness. He speaks with them here in a military accent as an army in battle that is committed to awake and be alert, working seriously and strongly.
He commits them to stay awake lest they are secretly attacked in their faith. It is comely for them to stand fast, so that they would be encouraged to testify with what they have learned, and to be strong in the word and in the act, for this is a true commitment to the word and the act to reach maturity.
St. Paul tells them to be brave and strong like a soldier and a gladiator of Christ, doing everything with love unto God and unto each other.
St. Dydimus, the Blind
SERIOUSNESS AND YOUR VALUATION OF YOUR LIFE:
Possibly, one of the main reasons behind non-seriousness is man’s non-realization of the value of his life and his place in God’s eyes. You are not a creature that came to be “by chance”, i.e. your parents’ marriage, but as God said to the prophet Jeremiah: “Before I formed you in the belly I knew you…” [Jeremiah 1:5].
Your valuation of your life, for which sake Christ the LORD had died, your appreciation of your being, and your understanding of your mission as the image of Christ will grant you seriousness in your life. You would know the value of each and every hour of your life, more even every moment.
When the prophet David, of whose righteousness the Book has testified, lingered and was careless with his gazes for few moments, his heart got drawn unto a series of sins, due to which the sward had never left his house for the rest of his life and all the night he made his bed to swim with his tears.
When you realize the value of your life that will never recur and get to appreciate your soul, for which Christ the LORD had died, you will truly live in seriousness, and even consider the entire world as waste to win Christ, your Life and the Key to your resurrection. “For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” [Matthew 16:26; Luke 9:25]. “But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ… for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ” [Philippians 3:7-8].
SERIOUSNESS AND JOY:
“Worshipping keeps the heart and justifies it; it grants joy and happiness” [Sirach 1:18].
St. Ava Antonio believed that joy is the food of the soul, without which it would hunger and die. The heavenly inner joy supports the soul in its wilderness away from its heavenly homeland and prepares the body to bear a feature that is more like the spiritualities, so that it will be prepared to become a spiritual body in the Great Day of the LORD.
Just as the trees cannot grow if they don’t drink water, the soul cannot grow and ascend into the high places if it doesn’t accept the heavenly joy. Only the souls that accepted the Spirit and the heavenly joy can ascend into the high places, for the secrets of the Heavenly Kingdom were revealed before them while they were still in the body, and thus they found familiarity before the LORD in everything, and all their requests were fulfilled. The soul always grows with this joy and rejoices it, ascending with it to heaven, for it is like the body in need of its spiritual food.
St. Anthony the Great
God’s Kingdom inside you is the joy that the Holy Spirit plants in your hearts as an icon and an earnest of the eternal joy, which the souls of the saints are enjoying.
St. Gregory of Nyssa
Christ proclaimed about the laughter that comes from joy and happiness in what came in the Holy Book in Job: “He fills your mouth with laughing…” [Job 8:21]. Perhaps, that’s why one of the Patriarch Fathers (Isaac) was called “laughter”, for this name means the divine joy.
A source of joy and glory for the men is to have children that try to alike them… how much more could God’s joy be when man becomes spiritual in his deeds and praises, declaring the Divine Highness in his life.
When the soul is filled with the fruit of the Spirit it puts off the gloominess, distress and boredom and puts on wideness, peace and joy in the LORD, and opens in its heart a door of love to all mankind.
St. Markus, the Syrian
“Your joy no man takes from you” [John 16:22], because their joy is Jesus, Himself.
What is Christ’s joy inside us except that He rejoices to have joy in us? And what is this joy that is ours, of which He says that it cannot be complete unless we had participation with Him? For that reason, He said to St. Peter: “If I wash you not, you have no part with me” [John 13:8]. Thus, His joy in us is the grace that He grants us, which is our joy as well.
Above all that, He has rejoiced from the beginning as He has chosen us before the foundation of the world [Ephesians 1:4], and we cannot say that His joy was not complete, because God’s joy is never incomplete. But, this joy was not inside us for we did not exist before. Even when we started to exist, this joy didn’t start inside us, but it was always inside Him, for He is always Right and Incapable of falling, who, through His pre-knowledge, rejoiced that we will be His. He had joy in us, complete joy, as He rejoiced through His pre-knowledge and His pre-selection of us.
It is comely for the Christian to be “Hallelujah” from His head to toe.
Let us rejoice and be thankful, not because we became Christians, but because we became the body of Christ! Do you realize that? Do you understand the great grace that God has granted us? Stand in revere and joy, for we have become the body of Christ!
“And David danced before the LORD with all his might; and David was girded with a linen ephod” [2 Samuel 6:14].
Can’t you imagine the prophet dancing?! Can’t you hear the sound of the psaltery and the stamping of the dancers [Psalms 81:2-3]?! It is the wedding! You, too, take a psaltery, so that if you got to enjoy the touch of the Spirit, your inner strings would respond with the echo of the good deeds.
Grab hold the harp so that there would be harmony between your words and your deeds. Take the timbrel so that the Spirit would grant you to praise inside through the instrument of your body.
SERIOUSNESS AND SILLY JOKING:
The satiation of the inner soul pours on one’s life joy, happiness, cheerfulness along with seriousness, and realization of one’s worldly and eternal mission; while irresolute laughter, mocking others, and hilarity are serious signs of the emptiness of the inner soul, or one can say that they are a coverage of the hidden wounds and weariness of the soul.
Many people, who think that they can pour a joyful spirit unto others or that they can snatch them from depression, are actually the ones who are in great need for someone to pour true joy inside them.
I met, in Los Angeles, with a girl that spends her life in hilarity. She lived with more than one guy during different times, and knows nothing but wild parties, drugs, drinking… etc. When I asked her to answer truthfully whether she was happy or not, she said: “I’m the most miserable person in this world”. She is in need of her Deliverer, who is alone able to penetrate the heart, dwell inside it and satisfy it!
It was once told about a famous comedian that he went secretly to a psychiatrist complaining about the depression and the miscarriage that he is suffering from. The doctor told him, among his many advices, to attend one of the parties of the famous comedian (himself). Then, he said: “I am that comedian. I can vibrate joy unto others, but I’m suffering from bitter depression inside me!”
St. John, Golden Mouth, advises us against the silly joking:
St. John Chrysostom
FORCE OUT DEPRESSION:
- Force out grief (depression), for it is related to doubt and anger.
- The Holy Spirit that dwells inside you does not stand depression nor trouble.
- Depression, when mixed with prayer, prevents it from ascending with purity.
CHEERFUL SERIOUSNESS AND THE ROYAL PATH:
God called His people “the faithful city” [Isaiah 1:21], and when He blessed the way of Abraham’s servant, he said: “I bowed down my head, and worshipped the LORD, and blessed the LORD God of my master Abraham, which had led me in the right way…” [Genesis 24:48]. Furthermore, God said about Moses that he: “is faithful in all my house” [Numbers 12:7].
One of the blessings of leading a serious and faithful life is that you will feel safe as you will enjoy the royal path… you will feel that you are in the embrace of the Holy and Faithful God [Psalms 91:12], covered under his wings as He brings you to participate in the eternal glories.
TO YOU I COMPLAIN ABOUT MYSELF: