Mardi Gras

My friend Austin, at his blog, Risking Reality, included this absolutely stunning quote from Pope Benedict. I will share it with you here and then embed three videos I took at the Endymion parade Saturday evening. What fun, as we combated demons that night with the sober intoxication of Christian laughter!

It seems incongruous to speak of Mardi Gras in a theological meditation, because it is at best only indirectly a time in the Church year. But are we not somewhat schizophrenic in this regard? On the one hand, we are only too ready to say that it is precisely in Catholic countries that Mardi Gras is most at home; on the other hand, we nevertheless ignore it both spiritually and theologically. Is it, then, one of those things that as Christians we cannot condone, but as humans we cannot deny? In that case we should ask: Just how human is Christianity?

Granted, Mardi Gras is heathen in origin: fertility cult and exorcism merge in it. But it was the Church that had to step in and speak the exorcism that banned the demons who do violence to men and destroy their happiness. Then, after the exorcism, something unexpected, something new, appeared – a merrymaking that is wholly exorcised.

Mardi Gras is to Ash Wednesday a time of laughter before the time of penance, a time of lighthearted self-irony, whose laughter speaks a truth that may well be closely akin to that of the Lenten preacher.

Thus Mardi Gras, when it has been exorcised, reminds us of the words of the Old Testament preacher: “…a time to weep, and a time to laugh” (Ecclesiastes 3:4). For Christians, too, it is not always a time for penance. There is likewise a time for laughter. Yes, Christian exorcism has routed the masked demons and replaced them by the laughter that has been exorcised.

All of us know how far removed from this ideal our present Mardi Gras often is; how frequently it is mammon and its henchmen that reign there. This is why we Christians do combat, not against, but in favor of, laughter. To struggle against demons and to laugh with those who laugh – these are inseparably united. The Christian has no need to be schizophrenic: Christian Faith is truly human.


4 comments on “Mardi Gras

  1. Jennifer says:

    Just lost a massive comment I had typed out on Austin’s blog. Grrr. Thanks for directing me over. He’s brill.

    What a great quote! Thoughts of the human-ness of laughter have been bouncing around my brain since I watched possibly the most fantastic lecture of my life Sunday. Christianity is fully human, and humans laugh and love and know joy! Thanks be to God!

    (Oh e-Pope Benedict! How I love thee…) Happy Mardi Gras to you and your people. As we don’t do massive Mardi Gras parties ’round here I am savouring my last hit of caffeine and glutting myself on blogs and Facebook today in lieu. Ha ha.

    A blessed, deepening, falling-in-love-ever-more-with-Him Lent to you all. God bless you!

  2. And this year Mardi Gras is 47 days away from my Catholic Birthday. The time I was received into the Church and fully participate in Mother Church. Let us maintain our ability to smile and laugh in the more serious times of Penance. As we know, the Lord will Rise and redeem even these things.

  3. Judy Svendsen says:

    Thanks for sharing! I miss Mardi Gras! Our oldest didn’t like going to parades after we moved. I remember she commented on wanting the toys and beads. It’s hard to believe we’ve been gone for over 20 years. Enjoy the day!

  4. Nos says:

    Oui,oui,oui, laissez les bons temps rouler. ! ! ! P.B.W.Y.A.A.

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