By Lindsey Brigham (in a blog post here):
The disproportion between preparation and presentation dislodges our priorities to sharpen our dulled values. Our cultural context presses us to prioritize the moment of satisfaction and to scorn the time of waiting. We celebrate Christmas without Advent and wish for instant Thanksgiving dinner.
…The depth of our appreciation for any expression of beauty … is always disproportionate to the labor pressed into its making. Which work of art, even one that you have studied deeply and been shaped by profoundly, have you contemplated with the attentiveness or time poured into its creation? How long do the lovely wildflowers take to germinate, sprout, grow, and blossom before you deign to give them a second’s appreciation while zipping down the interstate? The [star] light that you only rarely even notice … how many years or lifetimes does it travel through galaxies to rest for one brief instant upon your eyes?
I do not think this disproportion originates from our fallenness, but our finitude; we simply have not the capacity for awe proportionate to all the wonders amongst which we live and move and have being. Wonder itself, perhaps, is the consciousness of the disproportion.
…Here, perhaps, we get to the heart of the vision and the mystery, as the table is the heart of human life. Every table images an altar set with sacrifice, for it is by sacrificial death that we live. Yet for how many minutes in any day do you contemplate the daily deaths of plant and animal which sustain the life of your body, the deaths-to-self of your neighbors and family that sustain the life of your spirit—the death of the immortal, eternal, infinite Son of God to sustain the life of your soul? Each moment of your living, each object of your experience, represents the self-giving of more being than you can comprehend.
Dickens had in his buffoonery and bravery the spirit of the Middle Ages. He was much more mediaeval in his attacks on medievalism than they were in their defences of it. It was he who had the things of Chaucer, the love of large jokes and long stories and brown ale and all the white roads of England. Like Chaucer he loved story within story, every man telling a tale. Like Chaucer he saw something openly comic in men’s motley trades. Sam Weller would have been a great gain to the Canterbury pilgrimage and told an admirable story.
…It would be hard to ﬁnd a better example of this than Dickens’s great defence of Christmas. In fighting for Christmas he was ﬁghting for the old European festival, pagan and Christian, for that trinity of eating, drinking and praying which to moderns appears irreverent, for the holy day which is really a holiday. He had himself the most babyish ideas about the past. He supposed the Middle Ages to have consisted of tournaments and torture-chambers, he supposed himself to be a brisk man of the manufacturing age, almost a Utilitarian. But for all that he defended the mediaeval feast which was going out against the Utilitarianism which was coming in. He could only see all that was bad in mediaevalism. But he fought for all that was good in it. And he was all the more really in sympathy with the old strength and simplicity because he only knew that it was good and did not know that it was old. He cared as little for mediaevalism as the mediaevals did. He cared as much as they did for lustiness and virile laughter and sad tales of good lovers and pleasant tales of good livers.
From G.K. Chesterton’s book on Dickens.
Glorious Nicholas, the holy preacher of Christ,
you are the great and fervent protector of those in danger,
those on land and sea, far off or near;
for you are a most compassionate and mighty intercessor.
Therefore, as we assemble, we cry aloud://
“Pray to the Lord that we may be delivered from all danger!”
…What crowns of praise shall we weave the Bishop?
Although he lived in Myra,
he reaches out in spirit to all who sincerely love him.
He is the consolation of all in affliction, the refuge of all in danger,
the tower of godliness, the champion of the faithful,//
for whose sake the greatly merciful Christ has laid low the arrogance of
…You that love the feasts,
let us gather and sing the praises of the fair ornament of bishops,
the glory of the Fathers, the fount of wonders and the great protector of the faithful.
Let us say: “Rejoice, guardian of the people of Myra,
their chief and honored counselor and the pillar that cannot be moved!
Rejoice, light filled with brightness!
You make the ends of the world shine with wonders.
Rejoice, divine delight of the afflicted,
the fervent advocate of those who suffer from injustice!
And now, all-blessed Nicholas, never cease praying to Christ our God//
for those who honor the high feast of your memorial with faith and love!”
now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen.
From the “Propers for the Feast of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker, Archbishop of Myra in Lycia” (Orthodox Church of America).
The soul of leisure, it can be said, lies in “celebration.” Celebration is the point at which the three elements of leisure come to a focus: relaxation, effortlessness, and superiority of “active leisure” to all functions. But if celebration is the core of leisure, then leisure can only be made possible and justifiable on the same basis as the celebration of a festival. That basis is divine worship.
…There is no such thing as a feast “without the gods”—whether it be a carnival or a marriage. That is not a demand, or a requirement; it does not mean that that is how things ought to be. Rather, it is meant as a simple statement of fact: however dim the recollection of the association may have become in men’s minds, a feast “without gods,” and unrelated to worship, is quite simply unknown. (56-57)
…Divine worship, of its very nature, creates a sphere of real wealth and superfluity, even in the midst of the direst material want. …Thus, the act of worship creates a store of real wealth which cannot be consumed by the workaday world. It sets up an area where calculation is thrown to the winds and goods are deliberately squandered, where usefulness is forgotten and generosity reigns. Such wastefulness is, we repeat, true wealth; the wealth of the feast time. And only in this feast time can leisure unfold and come to fruition. (59)
…The celebration of divine worship, then, is the deepest of the springs by which leisure is fed and continues to be vital—though it must be remembered that leisure embraces everything which, without being merely useful, is an essential part of a full human existence. (60)
From Leisure: the Basis of Culture by Josef Pieper (1952).