Joy. Pink, sparkly letters glint the word from my mantel. They’ve been there since Gaudete Sunday and they will remain there through January. Joy. That Christmas morning joy. I want to hold it, keep it, live it well past the last few notes of “We Three Kings.”
Christmas is exhausting. Who’s with me here? Moms? There’s so much heart and soul and effort and energy poured into the tastes and treasures and traditions of the holiday. Sometimes it’s easy to lose sight of the soul-gift we are given. But when the afternoon light is bouncing off the ornaments and bits of paper and ribbon remain in the corner beneath the tree and I have a moment to sit and be still in the quiet giddiness that comes after Christmas morning, I know joy. I hold it close, examine it carefully, tell myself not to forget.
And then, there is the after-Christmas. This year, in our family, the days after Christmas were filled with even more joy. Our first child was married and the weekend was filled with light, song, and utter delight at the blooming of God’s love. To be married in the octave of Christmas, on the Feast of the Holy Family-- of course that is joy.
The happy couple got away for a few days and then returned home to establish their new family in a new household. Meanwhile, back in my household, we prepared to take Patrick to college for the first time. He went a semester early and his leaving caught us a bit by surprise. He’s bursting with enthusiasm for the adventure. I’m watching bedrooms empty in my home with astonishing speed and helping the children left behind to understand that love in not bound by time or space.
And then there’s the flu. It came to visit, too. Virginia, it’s not Christmas any more.
If it’s genuine joy though, can it be lost? In the tired and the cold and the mundane of the post-holiday days, do we really lose joy?
St. Francis of Assisi wrote “When spiritual joy fills hearts, the Serpent throws off his deadly poison in vain. The devils cannot harm the servant of Christ when they see he is filled with holy joy.” When Christmas fills us, when the Baby truly enters us and stays there, even January is joy.
Mothers, especially, are guardians of joy. Whether we intend to or not, we set the tone in our households. I watch my children carefully and I see the serpents circling. What to do? How to fill their hearts with spiritual joy and banish the serpents from my home? Blessed Mother Teresa gently reminds me that “Joy is infectious; therefore, always be full of joy.” Later, she says, “Joy is a net of love by which you can catch souls. A joyful heart is the inevitable result of a heart burning with love. “ It begins with me. I must fill myself with joy so that it spills into every crevice of my home.
Joy is the Small Steps virtue for January. This January, I'm resolved to teach it, to share, to live it together.
New year’s resolution? To fill heart and soul to overflowing with Jesus so that joy is contagious. To listen to Him daily in the Word. To thank Him always, affirming that He is the font of all blessings and that He is even God over adversity. To trust in His sovereignty and willfully make Him lord of all. To worship Him daily in the Mass. To gratefully take Him into myself in Communion. And to remain in constant conversation. Contagious Christmas Joy. All year ‘round.