A Liturgy of Thanksgiving at the Return of Joy


This week, we are grateful to share a liturgy from Douglas McKelvey’s upcoming Every Moment Holy, Vol. II: “A Liturgy of Thanksgiving at the Return of Joy.” You can now view the full text for the liturgy as well as a special reading from Rebekah Lyons.

For a long season, O Lord,
I considered as an impossibility
what I now know as unshakeable truth:

That after loss, pain, tragedy, tears,
sorrow, doubt, defeat, and disarray,
I will hold a more costly and precious joy
than any I have held before;
and this not in denial of my loss,
but manifest in the very wreckage of it.

And so I know this unexpected joy
is no glib and passing fancy.
It is rather the diamond-hard treasure
unearthed and recognized
only when lesser hopes have collapsed.
It is the knowledge of your unwavering
faithfulness, O Christ, now experienced
and owned. It is the bright beacon
of your promises blooming in the night
like signal fires upon mountain peaks.

I came to the end of my own hope, O God,
and found that your hope held me still.
I saw through the ruin of my own happiness
that your better joy stood firm—
an unassailable fortress that even death
could not throw down.
And you have lifted me from where
I lay wounded on war-torn fields, and have
planted my feet solidly upon your ramparts.

[If one experiences any sense of guilt at the prospect of delighting in life again, include the following:

O God, guard my heart against
any tendency to transmute this joy
into the guilt of a survivor, as if to delight
in your good gifts were somehow
a betrayal of my love for the one I lost.

No, my Lord, let me never believe
such a lie. This sense of returning joy
is no offense against their memory—
indeed, it blooms from the very seed
of the hope of a world made new,
and encompasses the expectation
of their resurrection, and of my own,
and of our jubilant reunion.]

And so I will celebrate your goodness in
the land of the living. I will delight in this life,
even as it is lived in the shadow of death,
for a day will come when all of your children will
rise eternal, taking joy together
in these created spaces.

Yes, in this age I will mourn with all my heart.
And that is right. And yes, I will rejoice
with all my heart as well. For that is also right.

You, O Christ, have faithfully shepherded me,
your child, through the passages of a world
broken and fraught with separation and loss,
and you have guided me again to the bright
remembrance of joy—even of a joy that
wells up within my sadness.

You have lifted my eyes to the sight of
sunlight shafts piercing the darkest clouds,
gracing in gold a distant hill to which
I will inevitably one day come.
You have whispered to me again and again,
that the end is not the end.
And I have begun to believe it—
not just in my head, but in the blood and
bones and heart of my own experience.

This surprising joy is like the aroma
of a wedding feast prepared and awaiting
my arrival in some verdant wildflower meadow.
It is the substance of all secret hopes.

It is the assurance that all lost things
will be found, that grief will be upended, that all
spaces hollowed by sorrow will become eternal
repositories of glories untold, and that all things
will one day be revealed as mysteries of
mercy and grace, designed for your glory,
O God, and for the great good of your people,
your bride, your beloved.

O my soul, water this joy with your tears,
and bathe all remaining tears in streams of joy,
for this joy is no small and passing thing.
It is the very spring of eternity bursting
from the parched soil of your sorrow,
flowing forward into eternity. Deep has
called to deep, and deep has answered.
This joy will not be quenched!

Take joy! O my soul,
take everlasting joy, and drink!

Click here to download the full liturgy at the Every Moment Holy website.

Click here to watch Annie F. Downs’s reading of “A Liturgy for Embracing Both Joy & Sorrow”here to watch Kristyn Getty’s reading of “A Liturgy for Seasons of Uncertainty,” and here to watch Andrew Peterson’s reading of “A Liturgy for Those Who Have Suffered a Miscarriage or Stillbirth.”

And click here to pre-order Every Moment Holy, Vol. II: Death, Grief, and Hope at the Rabbit Room Bookstore.

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