Solemness and joy


One of the things I’m confused about with regards to the mass in general and Easter in particular, is the interaction between solemness and joy. I understand the need for solemness in the mass due to the greatness of God and to signify the difference between the mass and, say, spending a lazy summer evening at a barbeque. But what I struggle with is these feelings of great joy that I have from time to time when worshiping, especially at Christmas and even more so on Easter. I find myself inclined (should it be socially and doctrinally acceptable, but it is not) to leave my seat, clap, sing and dance when I feel this joy, this gratitude that God has sent His son to us to conquer death.

I guess what I struggle with is that it seems like solemness and joy are diametric opposites at times, and yet sometimes I do feel both. And, further, while I understand why solemness is required, I do not seem to understand why these acts of joy and frowned upon.

So, I firstly want to understand why these acts (or feelings, or both) seem to be frowned upon by Catholics within the mass. I secondly want to understand why these acts (or feelings, or both) are frowned upon by Catholics outside of the mass.

Thank you.


I have those feelings of joy at moments of solemnity, and it can be a little conflicting. I’m, too, ‘tempted’ to raise my hands, dance, clap, sing…but I don’t. Why? Because at most Masses that would bring attention to me, and I’m not there to be the center of (or any part of) attention. Those feelings are great and wonderful, but acting out in that way may be inappropriate. Don’t think that the ‘dark side’ won’t tempt us at times we may not be aware of it, even disguised as ‘good’ but in other ways, attention gathering, and distracting.

There are Masses that do include those expressions of joy (raising hands, saying AMEN during the Homily, etc) within the Catholic Church; you might just have to dig deep to find them.

We returned to God and to the Faith just over a year ago, a few days before Lent. The joy in my heart was so abundant, it was hard to be solemn. It still can be.

Let the joy shine from your heart, but not to distract those around you during Mass. You are not alone! These feelings can lead to even more intense feelings and gifts. God bless you!




Solemnness is not the opposite of joy.

I’ve said this over and over again on CAF–a lively and loud song/hymn may be very solemn. I’ve also said that a hymn in rock style can be very solemn.

Somehow we have the idea that “solemn” means unsmiling, slow, quiet, gray/black, etc. Not true!

One of the many dictionary definitions of the word “solemn” is “awe-inspiring.” This doesn’t necessarily mean “quiet” or “sad.”

Another dictionary definition is “majestic.” Again, this certainly doesn’t necessarily mean “quiet” and definitely doesn’t mean “sad.”

What “solemn” means to me is being aware,as much as is possible for humans, of WHO God is.


I see what you mean. I know this is different from a religious experience but it reminds me of the time I saw my favorite band in concert for the first time, after waiting nearly a decade. Their music is very powerful, stirring. Being there in the crowd, surrounded by other fans, experiencing it live… it was such a moving experience. We were loud and ruckus but also there was that solemn feeling as well.

But then to get back on topic, why does it feel like many interpret it to mean “quiet and sad” like you say?

Another dictionary definition is “majestic.” Again, this certainly doesn’t necessarily mean “quiet” and definitely doesn’t mean “sad.”

What “solemn” means to me is being aware,as much as is possible for humans, of WHO God is.

I like that.


The solemnity and joy you feel aren’t two sides of the same coin. They are both on one side, because they are strong passions and belong together. The other side of the coin is lukewarmness and apathy.

I know these passionate feelings seem somewhat opposed, but they are your mind and spirit reaching out and receiving graces from God.

You cannot tell of the Resurrection without knowing of the Passion, and hear of the Passion without hoping for the Resurrection. This story of extremes is one story.

When you feel sorrow, your spirit is calling for mercy. When you feel joy, your spirit is full of gratitude. Your intense feelings may be a type of prayer all its own, and how you worship internally.

To help you to put these feelings in context, when you feel one extreme, balance it with a thought of the whole Passion and Resurrection story together. And when you are in a pique of emotion one way or another, please pray for your brothers and sisters here on CAF. :slight_smile:


Well said.

I often feel like I’ll burst with joy at Mass, when I hear solemn old chants.

I often feel the same way when approaching the rail for Holy Communion, though I might look grave even


I wondering if some Catholics feel uncomfortable with the idea that “joy” is part of “solemn” because of their training while growing up, either with parents/grandparents, and/or in parochial school.

Because of their immaturity, which is perfectly normal, BTW, children have a difficult time discerning and acting upon appropriate limits.

If adults teach them that it’s good to show joy during Mass, many children would not be able to correctly interpret what the boundary is–they might laugh out loud, giggle, wiggle, etc. and then get confused and question or even defy the adult who tells them, “that behavior is inappropriate for church.” The children aren’t being deliberately naughty or defiant–they just aren’t mature enough to discern when they are being inappropriate in church.

So instead of giving them the option of showing their joy, their parents and teachers teach them that it is never OK to laugh or show their joy on their faces during Mass. That’s a more black and white teaching that children can grasp and act upon, and leads to a more peaceful Mass for everyone, especially in school crowds.

When they are older, some children eventually learn that it isn’t so black and white, and that it’s GOOD to show joy in the Mass.

But other children never learn this for various reasons, and they grow up believing that it’s “wrong” or “sinful” to smile during Mass, or to feel any kind of exhilaration or joy during Mass. In other words, it’s yet another manifestation of false Catholic guilt, which is a subject that I wish that several learned and trustworthy modern Catholics would write books about! :slight_smile:

Make sense?

As a Protestant, I didn’t grow up with any of this. We were taught from babyhood that JOY is the natural result of experiencing Jesus Christ’s love, and we were taught to SHOW that joy on our faces, in our singing, our praying, in our verbal reactions to the preaching and singing (“AMEN!” Hallelujah!" Preach it, brother!" “Sing it, sister!”), and in our testimonies.

One of the first church songs that I ever learned as a child was called “Heavenly Sunshine”–“flooding my soul with glory divine, Hallelujah! Jesus is mine!” And of course, there’s that great little children’s song, “I’ve Got the Joy Joy Joy Joy Down in my Heart,” “Where?” “DOWN IN MY HEART TO STAAAAYYY!”

As more and more Protestants come into the Catholic Church, I think Catholics will be challenged by their joyful countenances and outward expressions of that joy!


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