Holidays and Holy Days

What are we to make of this year’s overlapping holidays and holy days? Lent began February 14th, Valentines Day with Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday will coincide with April Fools Day. (Technically, April Fools is not a holiday. But perhaps we should rethink that and consider making it Federal holiday.)

Ash Wednesday and Valentines Day would seem at odds with each other. Some priests even encouraged their parishioners to perform their amorous displays on the day before so as not to interfere with the appropriate attitude of repentance and sorrow for sin when receiving the ashen mark on their foreheads. Even so the Gospel reading prescribed for the day enjoins us to ‘not look gloomy’ while performing our fast. Sacramentality asks us to see and experience the inexplicable union of spirit and flesh whose source is the Incarnation and whose end is subsumed in the Resurrection. No doubt there is a tension between the secular understanding and expression of Valentines Day and the Christian self-examination and humiliation in hearing ‘remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return’. But it is a good tension, the kind Kierkegaard likened to the tension of the stings of a musical instrument. Without it there would be no music, no love songs or hymns like the Dies Irae.

Risking sacrilige, how might the combining of the great Easter feast of the Resurrection and the rather goofy pranks of April Fools Day be viewed together? St. Paul provides a  segue in the first letter to the Corinthians chapter four when he upbraids some of those in the church of Corinth for their haughty manner and rivalry saying that he and the other Apostles “…are fools for Christ…to this very hour we are hungry and thirsty, we are poorly clad, we are brutally treated, we are homeless. We work hard with our own hands. When we are vilified, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; when we are slandered, we answer gently. Up to this moment we have become the scum of the earth, the refuse of the world.” Then St. Paul privides fatherly advice to his arrogant children in the faith…”I urge you to imitate me.”

Shall we?

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