Thursday, September 9, 2010

Labor Day, as Artificial as a Maypole

This past Monday we celebrated Labor Day, where everyone gets a day off of work to spend time in rest.  it is a celebration of thanksgiving for all the work that Americans do.  According to Wikipedia, Labor Day is celebrated with, "A street parade to exhibit to the public 'the strength and espirit de corps of the trade and labor organizations,' followed by a festival for workers and their families."  It was established by President Grover Cleveland and Congress.  It was in response to a massive worker strike.  It is a secular festival and celebration, a rather new incarnation of a holiday.  It is secular man's attempt to replace actual festivals which have their "roots in divine worship."  (Now don't get me wrong I don't believe that that was Grover Cleveland's intention.  I would say he was rather a product of his secular culture.)  Since Cleveland, presidents have been in the habit of making many days special days to celebrate the earth, or war veterans, or dead presidents, or social rights activists.  "In point of fact, the stress and strain of giving them some kind of festal appearance is one of the very best proofs of the significance of divine worship for a feast; and nothing illustrates so clearly that festivity is only possible where divine worship is still an act--and nothing shows this so clearly as a comparison between a living and deeply tradition feast day, with its roots in divine worship, and one of those rootless celebrations, carefully and unspontaneously prepared beforehand, and artificial as a maypole."

Festivity is rooted in celebration, which is divine worship.  Fall festivals were created to thank the gods and God for a fruitful harvest.  The Torah lavishly outlines festivals the Hebrews are to celebrate in worship of the LORD.  Saints feast days, Holy Days of Obligation, and Marian Days hold great importance to us as Catholics.  The Muslims have special days and months for special worship.  Our calendar is riddled with names that honor Roman dieties.  All throughout, festivals are related to divine worship.

Now we honor man.  We honor men, such as presidents, veterans, workers, mothers, fathers, and particular great men such as Martin Luther King, Jr.  Secular holidays quietly reinforce secular humanism.

At least here in New Orleans many of our biggest holidays, despite their possible current secular character, are rooted in divine worship.  Mardi Gras comes from a preparation for the austerity of Lent by joyously giving praise to God for the gifts of food and family.  Having a large Irish population, St. Patrick's Day is celebrated.  We thank God for his life and his bringing Christianity to the pagan Celts on  Ireland.  We also celebrate St. Joseph's Day.  Altars are built and meals are prepared to thank God for answering our prayers by way of the intercession of the foster father of Jesus.  Because of the powerful influence of the secular culture, the two former feasts have become, for many, no more than parties of drunkenness and debauchery.

I'm almost positive this theme will be taken up by Ratzinger in The Spirit of the Liturgy.  I can't wait to see what he says.

a reflection on Chapter V of Leisure: The Basis of Culture

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