Au Temps d’Harmonie (La Joie de Vivre – Dimanche au Bord de la Mer),
Painting by Paul Signac (1863-1935),
Painted between 1893 and 1895,
Oil on canvas
© Mairie de Montreuil, Montreuil, France / Wikimedia

Au Temps d’Harmonie (La Joie de Vivre – Dimanche au Bord de la Mer),
Painting by Paul Signac (1863-1935),
Painted between 1893 and 1895,
Oil on canvas
© Mairie de Montreuil, Montreuil, France / Wikimedia

Gospel of 19 May 2022

I have told you this so that my own joy may be in you and your joy be complete

John 15:9-11

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you.

Remain in my love. If you keep my commandments you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love.

I have told you this so that my own joy may be in you and your joy be complete.’

Reflection on the painting

In our Gospel reading today we read how Jesus desires joy for his disciples. He says ‘…that my own joy may be in you and your joy be complete’. Jesus doesn’t talk about joy in general, no: he says that ‘my own joy’ may be in you. It is a very specific joy that he desires for us: a joy that is deeply rooted in Jesus. Remember, these words were spoken on the night before he was crucified. Jesus could talk about joy on the eve of the terrible events that were to unfold, as his joy was rooted in the great conviction that his Father loved him infinitely. Realising that we too are infinitely loved by God should bring us joy.

The joy Christ wishes for us, is more than just a simple joie de vivre. According to the nineteenth century French historian Jules Michelet ‘la joie de vivre is a harmonious state, a peaceful existence within nature’. We associate this ‘joy of living’ with all those things that make life fun, enjoyable and worthwhile. This earthly joie de vivre is vibrantly depicted in our painting by Paul Signac. Using his pointillist style (a technique of painting in which small, distinct dots of colour are applied in patterns to form an image), he depicts families and friends enjoying a day out at the beach. People are sailing on the sea, a man is painting a canvas, in the distance people are dancing, women are playing with their children, men are playing boules, etc… the full title of the painting reads ‘In the Time of Harmony. The Golden Age is not in the Past, it is in the Future’.

I think it would be fair to say that in the Gospels, joy appears as 'the' characteristic mark of the Christian. It is the visible result of being filled with the Holy Spirit and is among the main fruits of the Christian life.

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