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Saint Seraphim and a God's-eye View of Joy
  • Beauty
  • Orthodoxy
John Mark Reynolds

We are God’s joy.

God loves us, all of us, despite our wandering far from what is good. Father warned us and must discipline us, but He never stops loving us. God never sees us without hope now until the hour of our death. The good Father is never hopeless, never merely angry, or without mercy. 

We are God’s joy: now, just as we are, considering what could be, even knowing what is true of us. We are God’s joy.

The wise and virtuous God, perfect in knowledge and splendid in justice, will take joy in our little gifts to him. Our gifts are because of Him. Our talents are through Him. How could the great God joy in us? God birthed us and so loves us beyond all merit. 

When I was a boy, my mom would put little pictures I drew on the fridge and crude ornaments I made on the Christmas tree. Some remain fifty years later, because she loves me more than the merits of my art. So it is with God, who loves us and what we do more than we deserve.

Why?

We are His children.

The saint, Seraphim of Sarov, saw this reality and so said “my joy” when he saw God’s children. We are broken, God knows, but we are forgiven if we will admit our brokenness. Our little images on the fridge are works that are not so great, and if we will admit they are not so great, they can stay there proudly. Love gave them status and only love can keep our little works there. God gives us gifts and abilities and delights in our expression of our inherited talent.

We simply must not insist our failures are equally beautiful!

This is a sublime hope: A great saint like Seraphim could see us, just as we are, wishing we were not as we are, and say “my joy." Was he crazy? Didn’t he realize how bad some people are? How could he be so hope-filled?

Seraphim of Sarov was not crazy, unless virtue is madness. He knew how bad he could be, and as a man who heard the confessions of thousands, Saint Seraphim knew how bad we can be. He had heard and seen the terrible choices people could make.

He saw Russia plunging into the mental madness of secularism and physical vice, yet Seraphim of Sarov knew hope. When events, people, the Church, seemingly everything kept going wrong, Seraphim knew hope. He did not huddle or hide. He did not compromise or divide the faithful. He saw each person, broken as we are, and said: “my joy.”

Seraphim had spent so much time seeing God and seeking the Holy Spirit that he had developed a God’s-eye view of people. Seraphim could distinguish between the nation and the person. He knew that in aggregate a people may go mad and embrace evil, and he knew that individually we can develop own quirks and vices that might damn us.

Seraphim understood that the nation and the individual could fail. If both failed simultaneously, the ruin - as Russia found in 1917 - would be very great indeed. Yet Seraphim of Sarov was hopeful, and called every man and woman “my joy.”

Let’s take joy in each other.