Joy infuses the New Testament since it begins with news of the Messiah: “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you news of a great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day in the city of David a saviour, who is Christ The Lord (Lk 2:10–11).
Abiding in Christ brings “fullness of joy,” according to John (Jn 15:11). Paul likewise finds the ultimate source of the believer’s joy stemming from “being in Christ” (Phil 4:4; 3:1). He encourages his readers to let joyfulness be a constant characteristic of their daily lives (1 Thess 5:16). He sees the experience of joy as a result of the indwelling of the spirit (1 Thess 1:6; Rom 14:17).
“The fruits of the Holy Spirit are perfections that the Holy Spirit forms in us as the first fruits of eternal glory,” says the Catechism of the Catholic Church (1832). Our experience of joy, when it is a fruit of the Holy Spirit, is a foretaste of that glory which we hope and believe, through Christ, will be our destiny.
If you are a fan of St. Thomas Aquinas, you may enjoy the following description: “These fruits are derivatives of human actions performed under the influence of virtues and of the gifts of the Holy Spirit that cause a certain intimate delight in the soul of the doer. Joy as a fruit of the Holy Spirit corresponds to the gift of understanding.” (New Catholic Encyclopedia)
The early Church looked forward to the second coming of Christ as a time of joy (Mt. 25:21. 23). The ultimate triumph of God and “the marriage of the Lamb” will consummate the joy of God and all his people (Rev. 19:7). The highest and most complete joy of which humanity is capable is that which results from the vision of God. We may glimpse such a vision in this life and hope for the beatific vision in the world to come.
“The joy of the Gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus,” perhaps says it all. (Thank you to Pope Francis from the introduction to Evangelii Gaudium, The Joy of the Gospel) “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say: Rejoice!” (Phil 4:4)
Father Mark Greenaway-Robbins