There was a beautiful “Prayer at The Foot of The Altar” at the beginning of mass some years ago. Translated from Latin it says, “I will go to the altar of God.” And the response of the altar server was, “To God, who restores the joy of my youth.”
I love that phrase . . . “the joy of my youth.” Some questions arise however: 1. What is that joy like? 2. What happened to it that it has to be restored? And 3. Why do I have to go to God to get it back?
1. Think back. What were the times that best captured the unique happiness you had as a kid? I think of Christmas morning (just before the presents were opened). Something new always got us, like the first snow, a new ball glove, a doll, new shoes, a bike or a sled (wow!). Maybe it was a trip to a far away place. (The Maid of the Mist at Niagara Falls totally amazed me at age ten!)
But what defines “the joy of youth”? How is it different from middle age joy? I think it has something to do with the fact that there is nothing to temper it. A child has no accumulation of disappointing moments or fears of being tricked or laughed at. Happiness (like tears) comes quickly and sharply with no filters.
And one other thing (the best thing actually) . . . joy (in a young person’s head) will last forever. There’s been little experience of life’s eventual hurts and disappointments. There has yet to develop that callus we all acquire to deaden feelings and expectations of happiness. Remember summer as a kid? It’s going to last forever!
2. So what happened to this joy? Well, life happened. Tricks were played, lies told, promises broken, bicycles stolen, plans abandoned. You know, life here on earth. Welcome to the world kids. This is life after that mysterious fall of Adam and Eve.
We cover up, we hide our feelings, sarcasm becomes the adult form of humor. Being “on guard” is how we live now because, as “The Who” sings, “we won’t get fooled again”. And on guard we should be . . . there’s tough things out there.
3. So how does God, and only God, restore the joy of our youth? Quite simply God has provided the remedy for the dashed hopes of the human heart. The remedy does not turn us back into children hoping for a new pony. It points us to the original plan, the one lost so long ago.
God redirects our faulty longing . . . toward Him. All the false joys and counterfeit happiness fade away in the intense light of what God has given us in His Son Jesus Christ. Hear what St. Paul (the former cynic known as Saul) says of this new thing that God has done.
“We have peace now with God through our Lord Jesus Christ . . . and we boast in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we boast of our afflictions, knowing that they produce endurance, and endurance proven character, and character proven, hope.”
Paul goes on . . . “And this hope does not disappoint, be- cause the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.” Romans 5:5
It is this Hope that restores the joy of our youth. It made Paul say elsewhere, “there is nothing in all creation that will ever be able to separate us from the love of God which is ours in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Rm 8:38
So the joy of our youth is restored. That’s right children; we’re going to be with God in His Kingdom . . . forever and ever. Yay!!!
Spread the good news.