Rejoice in the Lord!
“Rejoice in the Lord always: again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. Be anxious for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, shall guard your hearts and your thoughts through Christ Jesus.”
“Blessed are they that mourn,” and “woe unto them that laugh” (Matt. 5:4; Luke 6:25), said Christ. How does St. Paul then say, “Rejoice in the Lord always”? “Woe to them that laugh,” said Christ, the laughter of this world that arises from the things that are present. He blessed also those that mourn, not simply for the loss of relatives, but those who are pricked at heart, who mourn their own faults, and take count of their own sins, or even those of others. This joy is not contrary to that grief, but from that grief it too is born. For he who grieves for his own faults, and confesses them, rejoices. Moreover, it is possible to grieve for our own sins, and yet to rejoice in Christ. Since then they were afflicted by their sufferings, “for to you it is given not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him” (Phil 1:29), therefore he says, “Rejoice in the Lord.”
For this can but mean, If you exhibit such a life that you may rejoice. Or when your communion with God is not hindered, rejoice. Or else the word “in” may stand for “with”, as if he had said, “with the Lord”. “Always; again I will say, Rejoice.” These are the words of one who brings comfort; as, for example, he who is in God rejoices always. Yes, though he be afflicted, yes, whatever he may suffer, such a man always rejoices. Hear what Luke said, that “they returned from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to be scourged for His name.” (Acts 5:41.) If scourging and bonds, which seem to be the most grievous of all things, bring forth joy, what else will be able to produce grief in us?
“Again I will say, Rejoice.” Well, he repeated it. For since the nature of the things brought forth grief, he shows by repeating, that they should by all means rejoice.
“Let your gentleness be known unto all men.” He said above, “Whose god is the belly, and whose glory is in their shame,” and that they “mind earthly things.” (Phil. 3:19) It was probable that they would be in opposition with the wicked; he therefore exhorted them to have nothing in common with them, but to use them with all forbearance, and that not only their brethren, but also their enemies and opposers. “The Lord is at hand, be anxious for nothing.” For why, tell me? Do they ever rise in opposition? And if you see them living in luxury, why are you in affliction? Already the judgment is near; shortly they will give account of their actions. Are you in affliction, and they in luxury? But these things shall shortly receive their end. Do they plot against you, and threaten you? “Be anxious for nothing.” The judgment is already at hand, when these things shall be reversed. “Be anxious for nothing.” If you are kindly affected toward those who prepare evil against you, yet it shall not at last turn out to their profit. Already the recompense is at hand, if poverty, if death, if anything else that is terrible be upon you.
“But in everything, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God.” There is this for one consolation, “the Lord is at hand.” And again, “I will be with you always, even unto the end of the world.” (Matt. 28:20) Behold another consolation, a medicine which heals grief, and distress, and all that is painful. And what is this? Prayer, thanksgiving in all things. And so He wills that our prayers should not simply be requests, but thanksgivings too for what we have. For how should he ask for future things, who is not thankful for the past? “But in everything by prayer and supplication.” Wherefore we ought to give thanks for all things, even for those that seem to be grievous, for this is the part of the truly thankful man. In the other case the nature of the things demands it; but this springs from a grateful soul, and one earnestly affected toward God. God acknowledges these prayers, but others He does not know. Offer up such prayers as may be acknowledged; for He disposes all things for our profit, though we know it not. And this is a proof that it greatly profits, namely, that we know it not.
“And the peace of God which passes all understanding shall guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus.” What does this mean? “The peace of God” which He has brought to men, surpasses all understanding. For who could have expected, who could have hoped, that such good things would have come? They exceed all man’s understanding. For His enemies, for those who hated Him, for those who determined to turn themselves away, for these, he did not refuse to deliver up His Only Begotten Son, that He might make peace with us. This peace then, that is, the reconciliation, the love of God, shall guard your hearts and your thoughts.