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.”
There’s a lot in that phrase. 1. What is the joy of my youth? 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 right? The first snow, a new ball glove, a doll, new shoes, a bike or a sled (wow!). Maybe it was a trip to a cool new place (Niagara Falls was amazing as a kid).
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 accu- mulation 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 hurts. So 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. Remember the youthful joy of Adam and Eve when they beheld each other for the first time? “At last!!” Adam cried out. Such joy they had in the Garden.
Contrast that with the British rock band, The Who. They sang “We Won’t Get Fooled Again” as the anthem of a disaffected generation. The Stones proceeded them with “Can’t Get No Satisfaction”.
This is life after Adam and Eve ate the apple. We cover up, we hide our feelings, sarcasm becomes the adult form of humor. Being “on guard” is how we live now because “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 we lost so long ago.
God redirects our longing toward Him. All the false joys and counterfeit happiness fades away in the intense light of what God has promised us in the gift of 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 proven character, 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, “nothing can separate us from the love of God 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.