Some church leaders are wonderful, but intimidating. Some might want lunch with Saint Augustine, but I would be afraid of looking like I was enjoying it too much. Gregory the Great is great, but a very powerful personality. That is why I am glad there is a church leader who was given and kept the name Euthymius.
Yesterday when praying, and reflecting on the saint of the day, I realized that his name must mean something like “happy hearted” and that all the prayers for his day centered on how he brought cheer. I looked up the backstory for this man and sure enough, he was a bringer of cheerfulness. Evidently his mother could not have children and then came baby: good cheer!
This is a great name and a good aspiration for this year. He lived an extraordinary life, standing up to bad ideas, teaching traveling tribes the truth. Through it all he carried his name and so every time he was mentioned: good cheer.
Euthymius was no weakling. He had opinions and expressed them boldly. This is not so rare. We have made jeremiads easy, see Twitter, without requiring the love for his people that Jeremiah had. Jeremiah had solidarity with the sinners and suffered with them, even when they ignored him. Tough words go down better with love, but also with at least the hope for good cheer.
There is nothing worse than forced cheerfulness. As a parent, I would take my children to the park and observe that some days they did not wish to be happy. This was fine. They were sad and had to be allowed to be sad. Still there was always, during that play time, the hope or possibility of good cheer.When Euthymius had to confront heresy, he could not control the reaction. Sometimes the good news was received badly! As he preached, however, surely some of the listeners were reminded that cheerfulness was out there. Sorrow over sin is not the future of the cosmos, God is making all things whole. Joy, happiness, flourishing is where we are going, even if (as someone who struggles with depression) I am not there yet.
I have needed (God have mercy) to repent of my sins and harms I have done, but then life continues. Is there hope?
There is hope. True teaching, wisdom, comes from a God who creates people like Euthymius, bringers of cheer. Mercy is there. Hope is coming. I have not always felt that way, but so it is.
We were lucky to live next to Disneyland when annual passes to the park were still pretty inexpensive. We used them for our children as our birthday present for them and then we would visit. Some days when we could visit, the park was crowded, but we learned to “take what the park gives us.” Some visits one child was cranky and another had great fun, so it goes. Sometimes Hope needed a break from our house, full of college students, and so would spend part of her work day with our kids at the Park. This was not playtime, but a safe place to be that, if you found the right corner, quiet. Yet magic was always possible. She would not go with the kids to have fun, yet magic would happen. Disney magic was waiting for them when they were ready for it.
So I think it is with really holy people: they force us to face our (many!) problems, but good cheer is around the corner. There is always hope. We work, but good cheer is waiting.