Our Catholic Faith Is A Celebration!

I love how my Catholic faith celebrates Creation.  Every Mass is filled with the sights, sounds, smells, touches and tastes of the things of the world.  For us, it’s all good.  Just like the Creation story in Genesis tells us.  After each day of His work, God took a look at what He’d made and “saw how good it was.”  I love that.  He calls us to embrace the world He made for us and to see Himself and His glory in it.  And we Catholics do that in a serious way. Just take a look at the Sacraments Jesus instituted.  In Baptism, for example, we use water and oil, candles and white clothing, the laying on of hands and tracing the Sign of the Cross.  We hear the words of the priest, the responses of the person being baptized and anointed and the gentle sound of the water pouring into the font.  We sing.  We pray. We burn incense.  We stand, we sit, we kneel, we bow—all while sunlight streams through stained glass windows and a choir sings praise to God.  It’s a real feast for the senses.  And God knew that from the very beginning, since He made us sensual beings.
 
That word “sensual” has gotten a bad reputation in our modern usage.  It just means “using the senses.”  How else do we first know the things of the world except through our senses? It’s only when we allow our senses to overrule our human dignity that we misuse them.  If your senses are making the choices in your life, you’re in trouble.  But tempered with sound intellect and faith, our senses allow us to fully appreciate the goodness of God’s creation.  A look at Jesus’ own life reveals how He used the ordinary matter of this world to glorify His Father.
 
His first miracle was transforming water into wine for a wedding reception.  He mixed His spittle with dirt to cure a man’s blindness.  He loved eating and drinking with His friends, especially the unsavory ones.  And when there wasn’t enough fish and bread to feed the crowds, He made more for them.  Just listening to His words evoked cures in people of faith.  He healed by touching and by allowing Himself to be touched.  He sought the waters of John’s Baptism in the Jordan river.  He knelt to write in the sand when he spoke about the woman caught in adultery.  He taught the Good News with stories about sheep and wheat, fig trees and mustard seeds.  He describes the Kingdom of God as a wedding feast—a truly sensual experience.  Good food and wine, music, dancing, singing, laughter, all in celebration of relationships.  In an earthly wedding feast, we celebrate the joining of a man and a woman and the merging of two larger families.  In the Kingdom, we celebrate our relationship with God, with one another and the immersion of His Church into the Love of the Holy Trinity.  It doesn’t get much more sensual than that.  So it’s no wonder that the Church He founded celebrates His love in the simple stuff of water, oil, bread, and wine.  We bathe, anoint, eat, drink, sing and marry, heal and reconcile together.  We praise in gesture and in vesture, in “the smells and the bells.”  At our best, we are especially devoted to coming together for a good party–practicing for the one that will never end.
 
“Where e’er the Catholic sun does shine, there’s music and laughter and good red wine.”

 

                                                          —Hilaire Belloc (1870-1953)
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