“The Birth of Christ is the eucatastrophe of Man’s history. This story begins and ends in joy. It has pre-eminently the inner consistency of reality. This story is supreme, and it has entered history. It is pre-eminently (and infinitely, if our capacity were not finite) high and joyous. There is no tale ever told that men would rather find was true, and none which so many sceptical men have accepted as true on its own merits. To reject it leads either to sadness or to wrath.” — J.R.R. Tolkien, “On Fairy Stories“
Last night, in our annual Advent Celebration, I defined eucatastrophe as “a catastrophe for the good.” This is how I have explained it for the nearly three decades we have read it aloud together on this occasion (also here). But that’s because I haven’t paid enough attention to Ann Voskamp.
On this third Sunday of Advent, Ann has published a wonderful meditation on joy for the lighting of the “joy candle.” Watch it and see how she interweaves three words with the prefix “eu”: eucatastrophe, eucharisteo, and evanglion (or euangelion). In each case, she renders “eu” as “joy” rather than merely “good.”
Instead of defining “eucatastrophe” as “a catastrophe for good” (what I said last night), in the future I’ll use her better translation: joy catastrophe! I think that’s much closer to the sense of Tolkien in that essay, where he defined the essence of the gospel as “news of great joy.”
Instead of gospel or good news (evangelion), from now on I’m going to say “joy news,” like Ann.
Enjoy the video and happy 3rd Sunday of Advent.