G.K. Chesteron (Brandon Vogt)
It is This Supernatural Joy That Gives Meaning and Light to Life.
During this time of great chaos and sorrow, uncertainty and unclarity, let us not forget the source of our joy and that if we are humorous we are not laughing away reality but entering into it more deeply by seeing the point. Joy gives meaning to life, for “despair is this, that it does not really believe that there is any meaning in the universe.” Thus, Christianity has joy because it has meaning. Meaning that is clear and defined in its dogmas, Traditions and Creeds and from this we enter into a real sense of reality, and humor sees the point! For Christ said: “If you keep my commandments, you shall abide in my love; as I also have kept my Father's commandments, and do abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and your joy may be filled.”
In G.K. Chesterton’s book, Orthodoxy, one theme that emanates and is dominate above all the rest, and rightly so, is the theme of joy. Joy has always been the most mysterious thing found not in any another religion as it is in Christianity (Catholicism in this sense here). There are many aspects that can be seen in mystery of joy, such as its uniqueness, unity, infiniteness, mysteriousness, beauty, truth, and goodness. It is a joy that surpasses that of the world and lifts one out of the world and yet it is also found in the world. Chesterton presents well the paradoxical joy of Christian orthodoxy. Orthodoxy for him means the Apostles Creed, that beautiful, clear, and pristine pearl of the Faith that has been handed down to us. In another work of Chesterton the Everlasting Man, he remarks that Christianity has the key to life, because of its Creed. This Creed has a definite, arbitrary, and complex shape and this is what gives it its depth, length, height, and width; it is what makes joy possible because of its beauty, truth, and goodness. For this beauty, truth and goodness, has order, certainty and in its infiniteness affirms man’s desires and sets them free. Hence, Truth and Joy are intrinsically connected. Chesterton hits the nail on the head when he points to Pride as the downward drag of all things into an easy solemnity though it tries to lift itself above all created things and the Creator. He says how pride “settles down into a sort of selfish seriousness; but one has to rise to a gay self-forgetfulness.” This solemnity he explains further on, “flows out of men naturally; but laughter is a leap. It is easy to be heavy; hard to be light.”2
Why is it that laughter is a leap? Is it because it raises one up out of one self? Maybe, because if Pride brings us down and is as Chesterton says is a sort of serious selfishness, then naturally the opposite would have to be a joyous self-forgetfulness, a leap taken from the humble ground. This is an important part of apologetics to get back to the ground of some understanding of what is right and wrong; what is true and what is untrue. As we know with a flower, growing is only from the ground up, and unless we humble ourselves we shall never blossom forth and become that truth, goodness and beauty that God has set our heart to from the very beginning. Yet, what else does this joy consist of? Chesterton notes that we must view the world in two ways, in wonder and in welcome, for “we need to be happy in this wonderland without once being merely comfortable.” Thus, being happy is not merely being comfortable, that is, having all one wants and desires nor always being without pain or trouble. Life is full of mystery to which when we wonder opens the mind to the deeper reality; to that divine beauty not seen by those who wonder and contemplate it not. Life is also full of things unexpected and things that are painful, but these must be welcomed with an accepting heart to offer it in sacrifice so as to turn it into joy and not lose the joy one has. This is the most mysterious thing in Christianity that our sorrows can become joys.
“Laughter is a leap. It is easy to be heavy; hard to be light.”
This infinite joy has a deep mysteriousness, but this mysteriousness calls us into its deeper truth. When we read poetry we begin to experience this, as Chesterton remarks, “poetry is sane because it floats easily in an infinite sea; reason seeks to cross the infinite sea, and so make it finite.” Two things that are most expressed in poetry are Joy and Love, the reason is because reason in not sufficient in its understanding or explaining! This brings us back the point made earlier on wonder, but now with this next analogy that Chesterton brings to the table we can see the connection between that wonder and the Creed. He draws the attention to “the garden of childhood” which is “fascinating, exactly because everything had a fixed meaning which could be found out in its turn.” Thus, this wonder is connected to truth. Only by looking into the light can one see and rejoice. For,
“Man is more himself; man more manlike, when joy is the fundamental thing in him, and grief the superficial….praise should be the permanent pulsation of the soul…Joy ought to be expansive; but of the agnostic it must be a contracted, it must cling to one corner of the world. Grief ought to be a concentration…that (Christianity) by its Creed joy becomes something gigantic and sadness something special and small”7
It is this supernatural Joy that gives meaning and light to life. An example can be found in C.S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters in chapter XI, where the devils do not know the reason or the real cause for laughter and Screwtape warns Wormwood to discourage laughter for it is a “direct insult to the realism, dignity, and austerity of Hell.” He continues saying that joy promotes charity, courage, contentment, and many other evils.9 This is an important aspect of joy to
remember, for in the popular TV show "Life is Worth Living", Ven. Fulton Sheen talking
about The Divine Sense of Humor said that we must strive to cultivate a Divine sense of Humor for one is said to be humorous if he sees through things to the point. Well, it so happens that God made the world in such a way that everything points to Him! Thus, if we are humorous we are not laughing away reality but entering into it more deeply by seeing the point. Joy gives meaning to life, for “despair is this, that it does not really believe that there is any meaning in the universe.” Thus, Christianity has joy because it has meaning. Meaning that is clear and defined in its dogmas, Traditions and Creeds and from this we enter into a real sense of reality, and humor sees the point!
Where do we see examples that joy has created uniqueness and unity? In the most dramatic and awful story in history, when an innocent man, beaten, stripped naked, is crucified with iron nails in the hands and feet, and hangs there for three long hours. The Crucifixion of Christ is a joyous occasion, which the world cannot understand, that is why Catholics call it Good Friday. Our Lord spoke of eternal joy when He told the Good Thief: "Amen I say to thee, this day thou shalt be with Me in paradise.”11 That is, the soul is now united to Him forever in that happy state of rest, joy, and peace everlasting. When Christ was having His last discourse with the Apostles he told them: “Amen, amen I say to you, that you shall lament and weep, but the world shall rejoice; and you shall be made sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy.”12 This is the uniqueness of joy that can never be fully explained. As Chesterton said: “Pessimism is at best an emotional half-holiday; joy is the uproarious labor by which all things live…” Hence, theirs would be an everlasting joy in that labor of love. To see another example of that unity which joy brings about we don’t have to look farther than the words of St. Paul who remarks that all of heaven rejoices at the repentance of one sinner. St. Paul again when speaking of Christ’s humility of emptying Himself out taking the form of a servant, exhorts us: “Fulfill ye my joy, that you may be of one mind, having the same charity, being of one accord, agreeing in sentiment.”
In the Eternal Light of Truth and in the burning fire of Divine Love the true Joy of the heart is found. For it is in Truth, Goodness and Beauty, which is not ambiguous, broadminded, unclear, or uncertain, that is found in the Heart of the Bride on Earth, in her Creed and ‘holy breed’ (Saints and Fathers of the Church), contrary to the mind of the world, Joy is found and abounds.
It makes total sense now that the title of Chesterton’s book should fittingly have the title Orthodoxy, but that the main theme of the book be joy. In apprehending the Truth we are somehow made whole, being made into one mind and heart, while yet still remaining defined and unique. To conclude in the words of Christ: “If you keep my commandments, you shall abide in my love; as I also have kept my Father's commandments, and do abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and your joy may be filled.”
 Orthodoxy, 234. 11 Luke 23: 43 12 John 16:20.
 G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2009), 181. 2 Ibid.182.
 Ibid. 21.
 Ibid. 182.
 Orthodoxy, 31.
 Ibid. 231. 7 Ibid, 237.
 C.S. Lewis, Screwtape Letters (New York: The Macmillian Company, 1946), Chapter XI, p.57-60. 9 Ibid.
 Orthodoxy, 234. 11 Luke 23: 43 12 John 16:20.
 Orthodoxy, 237.
 Philippians 2:2.
 John 15:10-11.