Do We Take The Liturgy and Preaching Too Seriously?
13 Whoever acts without mercy will be judged without mercy but mercy can afford to laugh at judgement.
James 2:13 (NJB)
In the Baroque period the liturgy used to include the risus paschalis, the Easter laughter. The Easter homily had to contain a story which made people laugh, so that the church resounded with a joyful laughter. That may be a somewhat superficial form of Christian joy. But is there not something very beautiful and appropriate about laughter becoming a liturgical symbol?
Therefore as in the preceding verses the passion and death of Christ are prophesied, so in this verse his resurrection is predicted, though by a somewhat obscure allusion. Who would have thought, while Christ was suffering and the Jews triumphing, that God was laughing at them all the while! So also while we are oppressed, how shall we believe that God is holding our adversaries in derision, when it seems to us as though we were held in derision both by God and men? What a power of faith is required in all these words!
In my office hangs a copy of the painting entitled Jesus laughing.
I often thought of it as a reaction to something Peter said, or when some well-meaning rabbi complimented Him on His understanding of scripture.
The words of Luther gave me another insight–as the Father endures watching the Son endue the cross…there is a slight grin on His face, a grin like the A-Team’s Colonel as he says, “I love it when a plan comes together.” In that same moment, as Jesus screams it is finished, a victory cry through the pain can be slightly heard…
The God who tells us to rejoice without ceasing himself rejoices without ceasing.
This attitude needs, no, it has to invade our liturgy, to invade our preaching. The joyous laughter that knows that no matter what, the plan of God will succeed, and the people of God are His. We are HIS!
That is why when Pope Benedict XVI, one of the greatest theologians and teachers on the liturgy brings up laughter, but only from his own perspective. He brought up the history of the liturgy, and the fact that the rubrics required laughter in the homily! For the very reason that this was a celebration–a time when laughter is more than appropriate!
Do you think Simeon, when holding the baby Jesus, knowing He was the Messiah, wasn’t giggling with laughter? Do you not think the disciples were laughing and crying in the upper room when Jesus appeared? That Thomas, on His knees, wasn’t smiling–even as Jesus said he could touch his wrists and put his hand in Jesus’ side.
This is part of our minsitry, this odd, paradoxical sense of humour in the midst of complete reverence and awe of the God who comes to us, to die for us, to use all of His power to save and re-create us… which brings God the greatest joy, and glee.. and laughter!
Joseph Ratzinger, Behold The Pierced One: An Approach to a Spiritual Christology, trans. Graham Harrison (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1986), 119–120.
Martin Luther and John Sander, Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year (Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern, 1915), 391.
Posted on October 18, 2023, in Augsburg and Trent, Joseph Ratzinger/Pope Benedict XVI, Martin Luther, Theology in Practice, Worship and tagged Benedict XVI, humor, laughter, life, liturgy, Martin Luther, Ministry, preaching. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.