"Happy is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God..."
Psalm 146:5
I have been thinking a lot about happiness the last few days. By the time you read this, I will have officiated at two burial services during this “Season of the  Coronavirus .” The services were outside, those attending were few and they were social distancing; there were not what any of us would call normal exchanges, handshakes and hugs.
And yet, those who attended were, for lack of a better word, “ happy .” There were tears, yes, but there were smiles as well. There was grief, of course, but there was also comfort–if even from afar. My hunch is that this happiness came from the hope we all share in God. I visited with both of the people whom I buried before the end of their lives here. We knew this transition was coming. We knew death was certain and yet, there were smiles. There was happiness. Why? Well, I think these two dear saints knew exactly what the writer of Psalm 146 knew: happy is the one who has God as one’s help and as one’s hope.
These days of isolation we now share give us an opportunity to ponder not, “ How happy am I ?” Because my hunch is many of us might say, “ Not very happy! My favorite restaurant is closed. I can’t circle up with friends.  I can’t even go to Church!”  The better question to ask is, “ How am I happy?”
See the difference? “How happy am I ?” is about the now; the circumstances right now, and let’s be honest, the circumstances ain’t for the weak of disposition! However, “ How am I happy ?,” gets to the deeper, more crucial question.
Leo Tolstoy once wrote,  “If you are not happy with your life, you can change it in two ways: either improve the conditions in which you live or improve your inner spiritual state. The first one is not always possible, but the second is because that is often up to the choices we make and the pattern we live our life.”  
Those whom I buried, with whom I visited before their deaths, were–well–happy, but they were not from the outside in. They were happy from the inside out.
The French philosopher and Christian, Blaise Pascal, who died in 1662, wrote,  "It is quite certain that there is no good without the knowledge of God; that the closer one comes, the happier one is, and the further away one goes, the more unhappy one is."

Again, once more, to turn to my friends, they were happy in this life and they were happy at the end because they not only knew, but experienced the happiness that comes with being closer to our Lord.
My friends, as long as we cannot “be together” in Church, I still want us to “be together” and this is one way we can do that. I have asked my sister, Dr. Suse McBay, to coordinate a “ Daily Word”  from your Clergy. This is the first of those “daily words” and it will not be a surprise that this one is a bit longer than those that follow!
I am so grateful to my brother and sister Clergy members and to you as well for your faithfulness and your prayers. We all, now, have more time to pray, to read, to think and to consider “ How am I happy?”  And if the secret to that happiness is to draw nearer to the One Who actually surrounds us on every side, then let us make the time and space to do that.
We may have to practice “social distancing” for a while, but this I know: there is not a smidge of distance between God and those who open their heart to him–no distance at all. Wow! That makes me happy. How about you?

Humbly and Happily, your Rector,
The Rev. Dr. Russell J. Levenson, Jr.