The Sarabite: Towards an Aesthetic Christianity

There is a continuous attraction, beginning with God, going to the world, and ending at last with God, an attraction which returns to the same place where it began as though in a kind of circle. -Marsilio Ficino

Friday, July 07, 2006


Could it be true that in jesting we are contemplating? As all who jest, in jesting we contemplate. One jests because one wants to contemplate.


Thank God for the remote control! I was watching music videos on VH1 this morning (most of them are crap, but there are some good ones). During a commercial, I channel-surfed to CNN, and I caught the larger part of a story about some South African preacher who uses "holy laughter" in his ministry. Nothing too offensive there. But when he tried to get into the "theology" (if you want to dignify it by calling it that) behind what he does, he went into the now obligatory rant against other organized Christian bodies. According to him, all we traditional Christians want to do is make people sad and make them feel guilty so they keep coming back Sunday after Sunday. We are sad people, according to this religious innovator, crying guilty tears into our Prayer Books, Catholic missals, or icon stands.

Guilty, I would say, but not totally. I for some reason remembered some anecdotes from the lives of St. Seraphim of Sarov and St. John Maximovitch. The former used to crack jokes at the kliros during services to lift up the brethren's spirits, the latter used to jest with his altar boys during Pontifical Liturgies (though never in the altar). Again, here we have the old question of balance. Our misguided preacher is applying a good principle, but as all postmoderns, he applies it badly, and does things for all the wrong reasons.

In church, we must have the spirit of children ("unless you become like this little child...."). But as the parents who read this blog will know, childhood is not all fun and games. Children have to behave, learn respect, and learn that life is sometimes painful and sad. I find liturgy fun; having served and sang in many venues, I always end up joking around with the priest and fellow singers. A smile in choir or at the altar goes a long way, I have found. But real fun is like real life, full of hardship and sorrow as well as joy and release. To suffer and find joy is the essence of humanity. It is also the essence of liturgy, and thus how we need to behave in church.