“Rejoice in the Lord”, said St Paul (Phil. 3:1). And he was right to say, “in the Lord”.
For if our joy is not in the Lord, not only do we not rejoice, but in all probability we never shall.
Job, as he described the life of men, found it full of every kind of affliction (cf. Job 7:1-21), and so also did St Basil the Great.
St Gregory of Nyssa said that birds and other animals rejoice because of their lack of awareness, while man, being endowed with intelligence, is never happy because of his grief; for, he says, we shall not been found worthy even to have knowledge of the blessings we have lost.
For this reason nature teaches us rather to grieve, since life is full of pain and effort, like a state of exile dominated by sin.
But if a person is constantly mindful of God, he will rejoice: as the psalmist says, “I remembered God, and I rejoiced” (Ps. 77:3. LXX).
For when the intellect is gladdened by the remembrance of God, then it forgets the afflictions of this world, places its hope in Him, and is no longer troubled or anxious.
Freedom from anxiety makes it rejoice and give thanks; and the grateful offering of thanks augments the gifts of grace it has received. And as the blessings increase, so does the thankfulness, and so does the pure prayer offered with tears of joy.
Slowly the man emerges from the tears of distress and from the passions, and enters fully into the state of spiritual joy.
Through the things that bring him pleasure, he is made humble and grateful; through trials and temptations his hope in the world to come is consolidated; in both he rejoices, and naturally and spontaneously he loves God and all men as his benefactors.
He finds nothing in the whole of creation that can harm him. Illumined by the knowledge of God he rejoices in the Lord on account of all the things that He has created, marveling at the care He shows for His creatures.
The person who has attained spiritual knowledge not only marvels at visible things, but also is astounded by his perception of many essential things invisible to those who lack experience of this knowledge. Thus he looks with wonder not only on the light of day, but also at the night.
[…] In the words of the psalmist, “As you lie in bed, repent of what you say in your heart” (Ps. 4:4. LXX), that is, repent in the stillness of the night, remembering the lapses that occurred in the confusion of the day and disciplining yourself in hymns and spiritual songs (cf Col. 3:16).
Peter of Damascus (?12th Century): Twenty -Four Discourses: XXII – Joy; Text from G.E.H. Palmer, Philip Sherrard, and Kallistos Ware (trans. and eds.) The Philokalia: The Complete Text, vol. 3 (Faber & Faber, London & Boston: 1979ff), pp. 260-261.
**The translators of the Philokalia say the following about the word “intellect” as used in this passage from Peter and by other Greek authors: INTELLECT (nous): the highest faculty in man, through which – provided it is purified – he knows God or the inner essences or principles of created things by means of direct apprehension or spiritual perception. Unlike the dianoia or reason, from which it must be carefully distinguished, the intellect does not function by formulating abstract concepts and then arguing on this basis to a conclusion reached through deductive reasoning, but it understands divine truth by means of immediate experience, intuition or ‘simple cognition’ (the term used by St Isaac the Syrian). The intellect dwells in the ‘depths of the soul’; it constitutes the innermost aspect of the heart (St Diadochos). The intellect is the organ of contemplation, the ‘eye of the heart’ (Macarian Homilies).