De­cem­ber is a sea­son of cheer

Greenwich Time - - NEWS - PER­SPEC­TIVES By the Rev. Arthur Mol­len­hauer The Rev. Arthur Mol­len­hauer is the for­mer pas­tor at St. Roch’s Par­ish in Green­wich and cur­rent pas­tor of St. James Church in Strat­ford.

Many peo­ple con­sider De­cem­ber as a month of cheer. We as­so­ciate the word cheer with many dif­fer­ent ex­pres­sions. When we see some­one down­cast or with a frown on their face, we say “Cheer up!” We call the hol­i­day time a sea­son of “good cheer,” mean­ing a time of mirth or hap­pi­ness. We “cheer for some­one” by giv­ing them them ap­plause or a shout of en­cour­age­ment. At a birth­day or a spe­cial an­niver­sary, it is cus­tom­ary to give a toast and say “Cheers!” We do good deeds or of­fer gifts to oth­ers to “cheer their heart.”

We have other ex­pres­sions — happy go lucky, happy camper, happy place, happy trails, many happy re­turns, happy fam­ily, happy days, etc. Th­ese echo sen­ti­ments of de­light or plea­sure and are also as­so­ci­ated with cheer.

We em­ploy other phrases, too, that ex­press our glad­ness or joy around this time of year, es­pe­cially: Happy Hol­i­days, Happy Hanukkah, Merry Christ­mas and Happy New Year, among oth­ers.

What is cheer? Cheer is that sen­ti­ment of joy we ex­pe­ri­ence from some thing, some thought, some word or ac­tion re­lated to other at­ti­tudes of grat­i­fi­ca­tion or sat­is­fac­tion. The sen­ti­ment of cheer could be one of two types.

It could be psy­cho­log­i­cal, de­pend­ing on sen­so­rial de­light or plea­sure. This sen­ti­ment is usu­ally of short du­ra­tion since the im­pacted senses are af­fected for a lim­ited space or time and the ef­fect dis­si­pates quickly. That is why per­sons who re­ceive their so-called hap­pi­ness from ma­te­rial things need more and more and greater and greater stim­uli over time to keep up their spir­its. The Latin philoso­phers used to call this type of joy, laeti­tia.

Then there is the spir­i­tual sen­ti­ment that de­pends, not on ex­ter­nal stim­uli, but on in­ner de­light. Since in­ner de­light does not de­pend on tran­si­tory and flash-in-thepan ex­pe­ri­ences, the im­pact is far deeper and longer last­ing. That in­ner de­light rests on deep spir­i­tual ex­pe­ri­ences that have pro­foundly im­pacted our heart and soul. The Latin philoso­phers used to call this type of joy, gau­dio.

Most of our world, as we know it, is con­tent with a more shal­low cheer­ful­ness. When ba­sic plea­sures and de­sires are ful­filled, most are “happy” or “de­lighted.” We are moved on a daily ba­sis, es­pe­cially through mass ad­ver­tis­ing, to place the source of our cheer on short-lived and ephemeral stim­uli: a new car, a new item of cloth­ing, a tan­ta­liz­ing meal, etc.

The deeper, more last­ing cheer, how­ever, does not rest on the whims and fan­cies of per­sons or on sur­prise cir­cum­stan­tial events. It is not de­pen­dent on glad­ness brought about by mo­men­tary sat­is­fac­tions or tran­si­tory moods. It is a de­light at­tain­able only through some­thing deeper, more per­ma­nent, more mean­ing­ful to our soul.

Can any­thing take away our cheer? Yes and no. Psy­cho­log­i­cal cheer may come and go in our lives, de­pend­ing on per­sons, events, cir­cum­stances and other stim­uli in our lives. Un­for­tu­nate events or tem­po­ral dis­graces could take away our psy­cho­log­i­cal sen­ti­ment of cheer. How­ever, no one nor any­thing can or should take away our spir­i­tual sen­ti­ment of cheer. There’s a say­ing that goes, “You are not what you think you are. What you think, you are.” There is some truth in this. Proverbs 23: 7 says, “For as one thinks within him­self, so he is.” In other words, if we want to be joy­ful, we can. The only one who can steal our deep spir­i­tual joy is our­self. If we choose to lose or be robbed of our cheer or joy, it’s our own fault.

How do we keep cheer? Our life is what we make of it. A joy­ful ex­is­tence is one that es­pe­cially in­volves em­pa­thy and love. Reach out to oth­ers. Re­mem­ber that cheer is con­ta­gious. We must share our joy with oth­ers. We must also help oth­ers to be joy­ful. “Come! Let us sing joy­fully to the Lord! Let us shout for joy to the rock of our sal­va­tion.” (Psalm 95: 1)

The Rev. Arthur Mol­len­hauer

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