There have been numerous books published recently on happiness and how to find it. We are told we have the right to its pursuit. How does one pursue it? And when found, how is it retained?
I believe happiness is being close to God. Not just any God but the one true God, the God of Abraham, the God of Peter and Paul and the Apostles, the God of you and me.
And to retain happiness, I must give it away, share it, for God is love. I must knock down the wall between God and me, the wall created when I sin, when I disobey His law, His will for me.
And what is His will? I search, seeing clues all around me… Scriptures, the Sacraments of the Church, Prayer, other Christians through whom He speaks. How do I spend the time given to me? Do I love enough? Do I obey His law?
“Love God with all your heart, soul and mind, and your neighbor as yourself,” Christ said to the rich young man. He says to follow the Ten Commandments: worship the one Lord God, do not worship images, do not swear, keep Sunday holy, honor your parents, do not kill, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not covet.
And if I don’t keep these commandments, I will not be happy, I will have separated myself from God. I was meditating on this separation as I knelt in church this morning. I knew that as I journeyed into and through the sacred liturgy, I would be washed clean of my sins, and I would once again draw near and be united with God. I knew I would know happiness.
Paul’s Epistle to the Corinthians this morning spoke of the the “sufficiency” of God, that He is enough for each of us. God teaches us His will, how to love, what is wrong and what is right. But we must desire to be taught, and we must learn from Him in Scripture, prayer, and liturgy. If we do this, He will meet us, it will be enough, sufficient, and we will be happy.
Anglican Christians, like Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Christians, are sacramental Christians. That is, we acknowledge that we are made of matter and spirit, and that God, being our creator, meets us through both matter and spirit. So we adorn our churches with sensory beauty: flaming candles, stained glass, sculptures, incense. We incorporate the dance of liturgy and the sounds of harmony and song, hymns solemnly reverent or joyfully triumphant, the organ tender or thundering. We sing with the choirs of angels and kneel with the communion of saints. Past, present, and future weave into this tapestry of happy holiness, or perhaps holy happiness, and we taste Heaven. We see, hear, smell, touch, taste.
We are pulled out of ourselves and into God and His delirious love, as we receive the Eucharist. And I know, as I look to my week ahead, that I shall have other chances to meet Him, and the choice will be mine, to go to Him or not, to be happy or not. Much will pull me away, many things will distract me, but He will be there, waiting.
Saint Peter’s Anglican Church, 6013 Lawton Ave., Oakland; Sunday Mass, 8 and 10, Wednesday Mass, 11; www.saintpetersoakland.com