Saturday, January 05, 2019

On the Concept of Celebration

In case you have not seen the footage yet, here is a video of what occurred at Pope Francis' weekly audience on Wednesday, January 2nd, 2019:

I am beyond numb by seeing this sort of thing; it's just more par for the course. It's outrageous. It's embarrassing. It is literally the farthest thing imaginable from my mind when I think of the phrase "dignity of the See of St. Peter".

It did get me thinking about why this sort of thing happens, and I think it has to do with a fundamentally over-simplistic view celebrating. You see, at some point the modern Church got into its head the idea that Catholicism was too dour and pessimistic and gloomy. And so part of the campaign to "Throw open the windows of the church and let the fresh air of the spirit blow through", as Pope John XXIII phrased it, came this idea that Catholic worship in general needed to be more celebratory. It became commonplace to refer to the Mass as a "celebration"; priests no longer "say" Mass, they "celebrate" it; hymnals have names like Celebration and missalettes titles Celebremos!/Let us Celebrate!.

Of course, the Eucharist is a celebration and Christianity as a whole should be a joyous, celebratory religion. "May the God of hope fill you with all joy" says St. Paul (Rom. 15:13); and the Psalmist says “Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.” The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy.” (Ps. 126:2-3). A Christian ought to be joyful, and he ought to celebrate the good things God has done for him.

But the problem is that people take "celebration" in the most banal, simplistic way possible. "Celebration" is a very nuanced concept, and how people express joy is quite varied. For example, consider the following situations:

  • A ceremony in which a wounded combat veteran receives a medal in honor of his service.
  • A group of intoxicated Irishmen singing boisterously in a pub
  • A banquet held in honor of a couple's 50th wedding anniversary
  • A gaggle of peasants holding hands and dancing around a Maypole
  • A formal dinner where a toast is made in honor of one of the attendees
  • A Fourth of July parade
All of these occasions are celebratory, but you will notice the mood and atmosphere of each is very different, running the gamut of human expression from solemnly dignified to casually festive to straight up rowdy and boisterous.

The point is, there's no one way "celebration" looks. Celebration is not a fixed absolute that always appears in the same manner. Rather, it is a fluid concept which is given its form by the concrete circumstance and the nuance inherent in any social gathering.

But those in the Church who idolize the sort of nonsense we see in this video don't care what celebration really means; they are not interested in asking the question, "What kind of celebratory attitude befits the Sacrifice of the Mass?" Because for them celebration means a single thing - desacralization and profaneness. 

I know this event was not a liturgy, only a Wednesday audience. That's kind of beside the point. This post is really just about the banal, watered-down, overly-simplistic view of "celebration" contemporary Catholicism has adopted. How stupid. How utterly, utterly stupid.

Is Christianity a joyous, celebratory religion? Yes, of course. How does that celebration look? That depends; tell me the particular life circumstance you are envisioning and I will tell you what sort of celebration is fitting. 


Related Posts:

"David Danced Before the Lord" (USC, Jan. 2011)
"Excuses for Liturgical Dancing" (USC, July, 2013)