We are quite blessed in this renaissance era of Star Wars creativity. When once we suffered through dark times, we are now embarrassed by riches and opportunity and a wealth of material. These things make us happy. Usually. And the happiness can be expressed in our homes through killer posters or sweet action figure displays.
But each of these things is topical. Either that is the depth of the engagement for a fan, or there is a potential rebirth of the soul, a nurturing of mankind’s inherent creativity available through finding the joy in the contemplation of this great mythology.
This is the chasm between happiness and joy. Ice cream makes us happy, Porgs make us happy, and so on. But each of these moments is fleeting, and does not necessarily leave a lasting sense of joy in our souls. To find joy in happiness, one must enter deeper into the mysteries and lessons of a thing.
Joy may be found in other ways, and not simply through happiness. Happiness often may become shallow, vapid or enslaving. In addition to many pleasing moments, joy is also found through struggle, fasting, effort, training, stress, pain, and even in loss.
For us Orthodox Christians, we also celebrated Easter, or Pascha, recently. The joy of the festal day is still fresh in our minds. The gulch between earth and heaven is smaller as we rejoice with Heaven on this beautiful day. As we hear in the Paschal Homily of St John Chrysostom on that night, “If any man be devout and love God, let him enjoy this fair and radiant triumphal feast. If any man be a wise servant, let him rejoicing enter into the joy of his Lord.” We arrived at this night after a long Great Lent. This great joy came after ascetical struggle, and not by prematurely feasting.
Fr Moses Samaan, a priest of the Coptic Church, wrote: “What is true joy?…Man in the Garden of Eden was happy, blessed, innocent and perfectly joyful. The source of his joy was a real and uninterrupted relationship with God. As long as he was close to God, he was filled with the peace of God and rejoiced in the perfect and indescribable joy of God. When he chose to become independent by disobeying God, however, he became separated from the source of his great joy.”
The machinations of this self-serving world has directed us toward the disjointed search for happiness, and nothing deeper. It is a function of the human soul to seek depth and fulfillment. As Adam and Eve had done in the Garden, sometimes that function and gift is traded for an immediate and fleeting excitement. Fr Moses again says “What we do today is have fun, but that doesn’t necessarily translate into joy… [T]he Greek word for fun, diaskedazei, is the same exact word used to describe how the Prodigal Son scattered his wealth in sinful living. It’s the same exact word, because to simply have fun is to scatter oneself on the things of the world, which never produces true joy.”
But we, dear readers, are pilgrims in search of something more, for something original and foundational. The joy which flows only from God. Joni Mitchell longed for this when she yearned I “Got to get back to the land and set my soul free…And we got to get ourselves back to the garden.”
The celebration scene at the end of the Special Edition Return of the Jedi is fabulous. Roaming throughout the galaxy and seeing celebrations of freedom. A statute falls on Coruscant, Jar Jar narrates Naboo by screaming “Weesa free!” And we come back to Endor. The Rebels have lost many comrades in arms and sacrificed years of their lives. But in this triumph, when the goal is achieved, when the galaxy has the potential to be resurrected, they are gathered in a treetop village singing, dancing, smiling and feasting. Joy has encroached in the struggles of this plane. But honestly, can you trust an Ewok banquet? And what happened to the former inhabitants of those stormtrooper helmets? Are these connected questions?!
True liberation is an internal victory. This internal victory consequently leads to external victories. We saw Luke make peace with the Force and be reawakened. Through his reborn desire for communion with the Force, he became the catalyst for the spark that will bring the next victory to the Galaxy. The sweaty old man on the craggy lonely rock has achieved joy. He has lost his best friend, is mournful with his sister, laments his vocational failure; yet by allowing himself to be a conduit through which the Force may flow, he is the carrier of salvation for many others. The twin suns of Ahch-To are harbingers of the genesis of this man’s life. Back to a time when he sought fulfillment. In that childish desire, he did not know where he would be led, or the cost it would exact. Here at the end, we see that all sacrifices were worth it. His joy is completed and he has achieved communion with the Force. He has been joined at a profound level to the other.
This is the Pascha story. Mankind has stepped out of the Garden, but has been called back. Through the cycles of life and death, through denial of temporal joys in deference to the eternal, through being servants of all and not coveting power over the weak, mankind has been brought into the eternal joy of union with God. This is not a state reserved for the great and the good, or the randomly chosen. “You rich and poor together, hold high festival. You sober and you heedless, honor the day. For God “shows mercy upon the last, and cares for the first; and to the one he gives, and upon the other he bestows gifts. And he both accepts the deeds, and welcomes the intention, and honors the acts and praises the offering. Wherefore, enter you all into the joy of your Lord; and receive your reward.”
Joy is available to all, and is greater than mere happiness. It is the fulfillment of what it means to be a human. We were made to be good stewards of the earth and all that dwell therein, to rise above the angels, to join to God in oneness of mind and will. This is true joy. And this joy supersedes all fleeting pleasures of the temporal world.
Will the new rebellion be successful? It doesn’t matter, really. Will the good continue to fight and sacrifice for the good? Will Rey, Finn or Poe lose their lives in service to the salvific Force? It doesn’t matter. Trillions of insignificant beings find their joy through the struggles of this life that are fulfilled and blessed in the life of the world to come. The forces of evil and death cannot prevail. As St John ends his Paschal homily,
“O Death, where is your sting? O Hell, where is your victory? Christ is risen, and you are overthrown. Christ is risen, and the demons are fallen. Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice. Christ is risen, and life reigns. Christ is risen, and not one dead remains in the grave.”
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Please leave comments on this and all my posts – I really look forward to it. You can find me on Twitter at @adelphotheos and email at jamesw@CoffeeWithKenobi.com, occasionally at TheForceandFaith.blogspot.com as long as I am not listening to the latest edition of the several podcasts in the Coffee With Kenobi family!
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