“Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.”
― Thich Nhat Hanh
― Thich Nhat Hanh
As we continue along our Advent path we have a chance to examine the paradox of this saying by the Vietnamese philosopher, Thich Nhat Hanh. We all know that sometimes we are so filled with joy that we can’t help but smile. There are those times though when we don’t feel like smiling, when we don’t feel happy about anything. The very act of smiling is a door through which we can enter to tap into those moments of wonder, moments of joy, moments of grace.
Consider Mary’s trip to see her cousin Elizabeth. The timing was just after she was told she would become pregnant and bear God’s Son. It must have been an overwhelming experience for her. Here she was a young teenager expecting a baby without the niceties of a husband or a formal wedding. She was on the verge of being shamed in her own village. After all, who would believe the story that an angel had dropped by and told her of this miraculous birth? She probably felt her own parents’ disapproval and skepticism. She needed someone to talk to and her cousin Elizabeth seemed the best choice since they were close – and Elizabeth was experiencing her own amazing birth story.
Mary got up and hurried to a city in the Judean highlands. She entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. With a loud voice she blurted out, “God has blessed you above all women, and he has blessed the child you carry. Why do I have this honor, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” As soon as I heard your greeting, the baby in my womb jumped for joy. Happy is she who believed that the Lord would fulfill the promises made to her.”
The weight of concern overshadowing daily life – the smile of greeting – the joy overwhelming two women – the wonder of the holy births.
Thich Nhat Hanh also cautioned us: If you are not able to smile, then the world will not have peace.
That seems to be appropriate to us at this time of year when we long for the birth of the Prince of Peace. We are particularly sensitive to the continuous conflicts as we wait for Jesus’ coming. Some of those conflicts are manifested in wars and rumors of wars. Other conflicts are those that continually erupt in our interactions with one another. We want the security of everyone getting along with one another. We long for peace.
Yet we also perpetuate conflict by our uncompromising attitudes. We are ever so sure that we are correct in all things. We want peace by acquiescence to our way of thinking. Sometimes we even become mean-spirited. We become so angry we forget to smile.
Thich Nhat Hanh reminds us of the power of the smile. A smile can unleash joy. A smile is the beginning of peace. And a smile is something we can manage.
The Dali Lama tells us: A simple smile, that’s the start of opening your heart and being compassionate to one another.
Mother Teresa said: Let us always meet another with a smile, for the smile is the beginning of love.
This Advent season let us open ourselves to wonder and grace through our practicing the art of the smile.
Grace and Peace