Glory to Jesus Christ!  Glory forever!

In the Name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

“Jesus . . . lifted up His eyes to Heaven and said, ‘Father . . . now come I to Thee, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have My joy fulfilled in themselves.’”

“’[T]hat they may have My joy fulfilled in themselves.’”  Jesus here in His High Priestly prayer on the night of His betrayal prays for His Disciples and, ultimately, for all of us.  “’I do not pray for these alone,’” which is to say, His Disciples, “’but also for those who will believe in Me through their word’” (Jn. 17:20).  That’s us.  Because of their apostolic Word, we have come to believe with the Church of every time and every place that this Jesus is, in fact, “’the Christ, the Saviour of the world,’” sent by the Father into this world (Jn. 4:42).  He has manifested the Name of His Father to us who have believed in Him and through Him we receive Eternal Life which the Father has granted Him to bestow upon all whom the Father has given Him.  “But as many as received Him,” says the Apostle and Theologian, “to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to those who believe on His Name” (Jn. 1:12).  Our Lord’s revelation of His Father to us is bound up with and inseparable from the words that He has spoken to His Church.  For they are the very words of the Father imparted to us through His Son, the Word made flesh (Jn. 1:1,14, 18).  He has declared the Father.  He has made the Father known – manifested Him, revealed Him, disclosed Him – so that, if we have seen the Son we stand assured that we have seen the Father (Jn. 14:9-11).  For the Father and His Son are one and the same in divinity, that is, “one in essence and undivided,” the very truth and reality we confess with one mind which binds us together in Their communion of love!  

Jesus, take note, prays for us, for His Disciples, and not for the world.  He prays as our Great High Priest that the Name of His Father might keep us, that is, might preserve us intact and whole in the midst of the world He has come to save and re-unite to God.  He has called us from out of the world so that we might be united in Him and with His Father as we live out God’s saving and sanctifying Word in the very midst of the world (Jn. 17:14-19).  In the world but no longer of the world – the leaven of the Kingdom of God in the dough of the world.  

Jesus prays that we may have His joy fulfilled in us as we dwell in the midst of the world preserved by the saving and sanctifying Word of the Father’s Truth.  Just what is the joy of Jesus but His going up to His Passion – the glory of which He speaks here for His hour has come – His going to the Cross in anticipation of His Resurrection on the third day.  This is the joy promised to us who must remain here in a world quite at odds with God and His saving and sanctifying Truth (Jn. 17:14).  “Through the Cross,” we sing, “joy has come into all the world” (Troparion).  The joy of the Cross is the Resurrection!  Jesus found joy as He looked toward the Cross because He saw what would come of it all (Hb. 12:2).  

“’[T]hat they may have My joy fulfilled in themselves.’”  That is what our Lord asks His Father for us here in His prayer.  It is His Paschal joy which He offers to us, that He prays will be fulfilled in us, which is to say, completed in us, made whole, and perfected in us as His own.  Jesus speaks His word to us and He says, “’These things have I spoken unto you, that My joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full’” (Jn. 15:11).  Our joy is linked – bound up together – with Jesus and His Word.  He speaks of joy several times throughout His Last Supper discourse as He prepares Himself for the Garden of Gethsemane and for Mt. Calvary!  The Light of divinity in the flesh of man has pierced the darkness of this world, “and the darkness did not comprehend [overcome] it” (Jn. 1:5).  

For us, as for our Lord, joy is not some superficial and shallow happiness, a fleeting feeling contingent upon uncontrollable events or circumstances, be they good or ill.  The illusion of happiness chased after by our culture but never attainable is akin to a babbling brook – its merriment seemingly unceasing as its waters run rapidly, leaping over rocks.  But the waters of that babbling brook are shallow.  They are easily dissipated at the whim of nature and cease to exist just as easily at the height of nature’s drought.  But, what our Lord God and Saviour Jesus Christ promises to fulfill in us is of ever greater depth and far more sustaining.  Joy’s waters, beloved, run deep.  On the surface, they are calm, undisturbed, because they run deep and not shallow.  They are alive, but they are not superficial effervescence.  Such joy appears solemn to the world, but, oh, the joy that lies below.  We know as Orthodox Christians that such solemnity does not necessarily equate to joylessness.  Well within our Tradition there is what we have long called a “joyful sorrow” or a “sorrowful joy,” that “bright sadness” of Great and Holy Lent experienced as we move toward Pascha, lived in the light of the Cross and Resurrection.  To have sorrow or to experience sadness does not have to mean that joy is absent.  We confuse joy and happiness.  Happiness means we don’t have to go to the Cross . . . . this time; joy, on the other hand, can endure the Cross because of the Resurrection!  Joy may be forced for the moment beneath the outward event, but it nevertheless exists and will be resurrected on the third day, if you will.  Indeed, it is such joy that sustains us in the midst of unbearable suffering – look to the Martyrs and to the Confessors of our most holy Faith!  Our Lord said something akin to this once, that a woman in the travail of labor groans in agony because her “hour” has come to give birth.  But, oh, the joy that breaks forth from her that was there all along once she has delivered her baby (Jn. 16:21-22).  She endures because of the joy that is hers.  

So many of us in our culture are allured by or attracted to a supposed joy that keeps a plastic smile plastered on your face, a grin from ear to ear, no matter what.  That shallow and superficial version passes in our culture for the joy our Lord prays might be fulfilled in us.  Do we imagine our Lord, savagely beaten to a bloody pulp, forced to bear the weight of the Cross under which He falls on His way to Golgotha, let alone the searing pain of His tearing flesh as the nails are driven into His hands and His feet, and then to undergo slow asphyxiation while hanging suspended between Heaven and earth – do we dare to imagine that our Lord had a cheesy plastic smile plastered on His face all that time, grinning like a Cheshire cat all the while?

To believe in this version of happiness to which our world is addicted is really denial.  However, Jesus endured the Cross for the joy set before Him, says the Apostle (Hb. 12:2).  There is a certain solemnity – shall we say even a kind of serenity – about Him because there is joy deep in Him as He undergoes His Great and Holy Passion.  Joy is real because its roots run deep into the very Body and Blood of Jesus Christ Himself.  Joy does not have to be necessarily absent if sorrow has invaded our lives.  Joy is not the absence of sorrow because joy goes beyond mere happiness.  St. Paul, himself no stranger to joyful sorrow or sorrowful joy, says that the Thessalonian Church received the Word of God “in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Spirit.”  So much so, he says, that their bright sadness, if you will, became an example to all who believe.  Their faith, Paul says, became evident so that it was self-explanatory (1 Th. 1:6-10)!  

Faith, joy, sorrow – it’s all bound up together.  Joy is a multi-faceted diamond.  No one specific angle or cut is the diamond.  It is joy cultivated in the Holy Spirit that enables the Church’s martyrs to mock and to taunt their persecutors to do their worst to them.  Joy, beloved, is a fruit of the Holy Spirit and because it is it is tied to other aspects, other facets, of the diamond like love, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Ga. 5:22-23).  So that where there is joy there is also faith, hope, and love.  None of this should surprise us.  Each of these easily characterizes the saints of God.  Sacred Scripture tells us that the Apostles counted it all joy to suffer for Jesus Christ (Ac. 5:41; Co. 1:11) and we are to count it a joy when we “fall into various trials.”  Why?  Because we know where it leads us and what such testings can produce in us by the Holy Spirit (Rm. 5:1-5; Jm. 1:2-4).  Where joy is present and being fulfilled in us, such things run deep in us like satisfaction and contentment and assurance and thanksgiving and gratitude.  Where joy is absent these other things will be absent likewise.  All we have to do is recall the parable of the prodigal son and there we will find the contrast between the joy of Heaven that receives a repentant sinner and the stagey elder brother who begrudged such joy because he lacked faith, hope, and love; because he was spiritually barren of gratitude and thanksgiving and mercy (Lk. 15:1-32).

“’[T]hat they may have My joy fulfilled in themselves.’”  This is what Jesus says and holds forth for us who bear His Name on our brows.  It is His joy that is fulfilled in us.  If we want joy, we must look to Him “Who for the joy that was set before Him endured the Cross, despising its shame” (Hb. 12:2).  If we seek to anchor our joy in anything or anyone else in this world, we will be the most miserable of all men (1 Cr. 15:19)!  It is “’the joy of the Lord [that] is your strength,’” says the Prophet (Nh. 8:10).  It is the Lord’s joy and not our own.  It is the Lord Who is our joy and our strength!  To whom or to what do we look for such joy?  The things of this world pass away, but not so the Lord.  Let the Word of Christ, therefore, beloved, dwell in your hearts and in your souls richly, says Sacred Scripture (Co. 3:16).  Or, rather, let Christ the Word of God dwell in you, remain in you, abide in you “’that they may have My joy fulfilled in themselves.’”  For where the Word is so there is the Father, and where the Father and the Word are, there is the Holy Spirit.  “’If anyone loves Me, he will keep My Word,’” says our Lord, “’and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him’” (Jn. 14:17, 23).  There we have it: the fulfillment of Jesus’ joy in us is to love Him and His Word and to find in Him the fullness of our lives.  For we were created for the life of the world to come (Nicene Creed).  

“Jesus . . . lifted up His eyes to Heaven and said, ‘Father . . . now come I to Thee, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have My joy fulfilled in themselves.’”

Through the prayers of our holy Fathers, O Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us.  Amen.

Glory to Jesus Christ!  Glory forever!


Ac. 20:16-18, 28-36

Jn. 17:1-13