Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:4-7 NRSV).
It is human nature to rejoice because things turn out as we had hoped for. When something happens that makes us happy, rejoicing is easy. We all have those things that we rejoice about. Yet, our understanding of what it means to rejoice always, and worry about nothing to find God’s peace is limited because of our false-sense of self.
Before I continue, I want to give a strong word of advice to pastors and spiritual directors. I live with autism that includes generalized anxiety disorder. There is nothing more harmful to people with anxiety disorders than to hear a pastor or spiritual director use another translation of this reading from Philippians that reads, “Do not be anxious about anything….”. Please do not do it. Anxiety disorders are not the fault of those who have them, and it is simply not possible to just not be anxious.
So what might part of this Reading by St. Paul about rejoicing and not worrying say about contemplation and mysticism? I suggest that one possibility is to meditate on what Paul tells us about being thankful and that it is the peace of God which surpasses all understanding that will guard our hearts and lives in Christ Jesus. It is God’s peace that is guarding us. When we let go, even when our lives seem to be falling apart, that peace that surpasses our understanding is still at work in our hearts. Just because we might not feel God’s peace, does not mean that God has given up. Most likely God’s peace is at work in us long before we are aware of it. Because God gave us that desire for God, so that we can respond to God’s desire within our own desire.
God’s peace that is at work in our anxiety, prayers, petitions. The mystery of God’s extravagant love and compassion are never out of our reach. God’s peace is speaking and calling us in the Holy Spirit. That is something to rejoice about always.
“How much more important is it to lay our petitions before the Lord God of all things with the utmost humility and devotion.” (RB 1980: The Rule of St. Benedict in English, p.48).
What does rejoicing always mean for you?
Peace be with all who enter here.
Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB
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