Thursday, May 5, 2011

Christianity: A Religion of Hope

I've sung in churches where "Joyful, joyful, we adore Thee, God of glory, Lord of love...," gets sung as if it's a funeral dirge.

'Gloominess is Next to Godliness?'

I think some dreary 'church' music has more to do with the technical challenge of playing accompaniment for a congregation, than theological issues. And some communities just aren't all that comfortable with singing - in my opinion.

Still, I also get the impression that a fair number of folks feel that 'gloominess is next to Godliness.' Here in America, at least.

Solemnity, Worship, and the Wedding at Cana

Being gloomy isn't quite the same as being solemn - although the concepts are related:
  • Gloomy (adjective)
    • Depressingly dark
    • Filled with melancholy and despondency
    • Causing dejection
    (Princeton's WordNet)
  • Solemn (adjective)
    • Dignified and somber in manner or character and committed to keeping promises
    • Characterized by a firm and humorless belief in the validity of your opinions
    (Princeton's WordNet)
Is there a place for solemnity in my Catholic faith?

There'd better be: Month before last, we celebrated the "Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord." Here in Minnesota, that is. The state I live in is in the United States - and the bishops who run this region decided that we'd have quite a few solemnities each year:
"...the National Conference of Catholic Bishops decrees that the holy days of obligation to be observed in the United States are the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God; the Solemnity of the Ascension; the Solemnity of the Assumption; the Solemnity of All Saints; the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception; the Solemnity of Christmas. The Solemnity of the Epiphany shall be transferred to the first Sunday following January 1; the Solemnity of Corpus Christi shall be observed on the second Sunday following Pentecost..."
(Canon 1246, USCCB)1
Dignified seriousness is part my faith. I worship "God, the Father almighty, Creator of heaven and earth ... Jesus Christ, His only Son, ..." and "the Holy Spirit...." - like we say in the Apostles Creed. That's pretty serious stuff.

Does that mean that I've got a "humorless belief in the validity" of my faith?

Hardly. I'd have a hard time keeping a straight face, if I tried to be 'religious' that way.

I think the "humorless" approach to religion misses an important facet of human nature. Which was, I'm convinced, designed by God. Who, as I've said before, doesn't make junk.

Humor, America's cultural quirks notwithstanding, has a place in Christian faith. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1676)

It's Okay to be Happy??

Despite the impression I've gotten from a few folks, God doesn't disapprove of folks being happy.
"The desire for God is written in the human heart, because man is created by God and for God; and God never ceases to draw man to himself. Only in God will he find the truth and happiness he never stops searching for:
"The dignity of man rests above all on the fact that he is called to communion with God. This invitation to converse with God is addressed to man as soon as he comes into being. For if man exists, it is because God has created him through love, and through love continues to hold him in existence. He cannot live fully according to truth unless he freely acknowledges that love and entrusts himself to his creator.1"
(Catechism of the Catholic Church, 27)
Another way to look at where the Church stands, on "humorless belief" is the example set by my Lord. There's that bit of hyperbole in the otherwise-serious "stop judging" remarks. (Matthew 7:3) I'm not sure if my Lord's reference to "the street called Straight" was intended as humor - but I've gotten the impression that literally straight streets were a rarity in the first century, which might make it a bit of irony. (Acts 9:11)

Then there's my Lord's first miracle.

I worship the Savior whose mother had him get drinks at a wedding feast. Nothing unusual about that, by itself - except that Jesus didn't go out for drinks. (John 2:1-8) Was it 'really' wine? I'm inclined to think so, considering what the headwaiter told the bridegroom:
"...'Everyone serves good wine first, and then when people have drunk freely, an inferior one; but you have kept the good wine until now.' "
(John 2:10)
What happened after the wedding at Cana was about more than someone getting drinks for a party, and the Catholic Church has something to say about that. Not what you might expect, though. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1613) And that's yet another topic.

I also think it's a mistake to assume that the sort of 'happiness' offered by the Church is a sort of misty, gray, dreamy thing. Pope John Paul II, for example, said the rosary is "a true doorway to the depths of the Heart of Christ, ocean of joy and of light, of suffering and of glory."2

Hope: A Virtue

Hope is very much part of my Catholic faith:
"Hope is the theological virtue by which we desire the kingdom of heaven and eternal life as our happiness, placing our trust in Christ's promises and relying not on our own strength, but on the help of the grace of the Holy Spirit....

"...The virtue of hope responds to the aspiration to happiness which God has placed in the heart of every man; ... Buoyed up by hope, he is preserved from selfishness and led to the happiness that flows from charity...."

"...In every circumstance, each one of us should hope, with the grace of God, to persevere 'to the end'93 and to obtain the joy of heaven, as God's eternal reward for the good works accomplished with the grace of Christ....
"Hope, O my soul, hope. You know neither the day nor the hour. Watch carefully, for everything passes quickly, even though your impatience makes doubtful what is certain, and turns a very short time into a long one. Dream that the more you struggle, the more you prove the love that you bear your God, and the more you will rejoice one day with your Beloved, in a happiness and rapture that can never end.95 "
(Catechism, 1817-1821)
"Hope" as a Christian virtue even shows up in dictionary definitions:
  • Hope (noun)
    • A specific instance of feeling hopeful
    • The general feeling that some desire will be fulfilled
    • Grounds for feeling hopeful about the future
    • Someone (or something) on which expectations are centered
    • Bob Hope, Leslie Townes Hope (United States comedian (born in England) who appeared in films with Bing Crosby (1903-2003))
    • One of the three Christian virtues
  • Hope (verb)
    • Expect and wish
    • Be optimistic; be full of hope; have hopes
    • Intend with some possibility of fulfillment
  • (Princeton's WordNet)
Hope, or at least a wildly-optimistic view of what the future would hold, was very much part of American secular culture - until a little after the middle of the 20th century. I can remember the trailing edge of that era.

More recently, sneering at hope and moaning about how we're doomed, doomed, DOO-OO-OOMED!! by the crisis du jure seems to have been more the fashion. I don't think that's much more sensible than the 'science, technology, and centralized economic planning will solve all our problems' was - and I've discussed that before:
Finally, here's what got me started writing this post:
"...When Karol Wojtyła ascended to the throne of Peter, he brought with him a deep understanding of the difference between Marxism and Christianity, based on their respective visions of man. This was his message: man is the way of the Church, and Christ is the way of man. With this message, which is the great legacy of the Second Vatican Council and of its 'helmsman', the Servant of God Pope Paul VI, John Paul II led the People of God across the threshold of the Third Millennium, which thanks to Christ he was able to call 'the threshold of hope'. Throughout the long journey of preparation for the great Jubilee he directed Christianity once again to the future, the future of God, which transcends history while nonetheless directly affecting it. He rightly reclaimed for Christianity that impulse of hope which had in some sense faltered before Marxism and the ideology of progress. He restored to Christianity its true face as a religion of hope, to be lived in history in an 'Advent' spirit, in a personal and communitarian existence directed to Christ, the fullness of humanity and the fulfillment of all our longings for justice and peace...."
(Pope Benedict XVI) [emphasis mine]
Related posts:
In the news:
Background:

1 The astute reader will note that it's the National Conference of Catholic Bishops (NCCB) that made that decision. 'Not' the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). Before someone goes ballistic over 'divisions' in the Catholic Church - the NCCB's website (nccbuscc.org) goes to 'virtually' the same page as the USCCB's website (usccb.org). Or did this afternoon, at any rate. I also got 64,500 results from a Google search for "National Conference of Catholic Bishops," compared to 308,000 results for "United States Conference of Catholic Bishops." Which I think is interesting, but not particularly significant. It's my Lord's Church - and thankfully I don't have to keep track of all the administrative details. Which reminds me of charisms and the Catholic Charismatic Renewal - which really is Catholic, has been recognized by two Popes - and is another topic. (1 Corinthians 12)

2 See:

2 comments:

Christianity said...

Hi Friends,

Christianity is a monotheistic religion. It may be further generally defined in terms of its practice of corporate worship and rites that include the use of sacraments and that are usually conducted by trained clergy within organized churches. Thanks a lot!

Brian Gill said...

Christianity,

Greetings: I see that alphausa.org is registered out of Bannockburn, Illinois.

My guess is that your comment was triggered by my mention of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit - without discussion of the Trinity.

As a Catholic, I am required to worship the one true God: eternal, infinite, unchangeable, incomprehensible, almighty, and ineffable. Also as a Catholic, I am required to believe that what's described in Matthew 3:16-17 is true.

"...We firmly believe and confess without reservation that there is only one true God, eternal, infinite (immensus) and unchangeable, incomprehensible, almighty, and ineffable, the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit; three persons indeed, but one essence, substance or nature entirely simple.(8)"
(Catechism of the Catholic Church, 202)

A pretty good place to start learning about Catholic teaching on the Trinity is Catechism of the Catholic Church, 232-260.


The Trinity has come up before in this blog. (May 30, 2010, April 26, 2010)

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Background:Posts in this blog: In the news:

What's That Doing in a Nice Catholic Blog?

From time to time, a service that I use will display links to - odd - services and retailers.

I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.