Light Mind



There is an interesting book titled “The Name of the Rose”, written by Umberto Eco. It tells the story of a 14th century Franciscan monk who comes to a monastery which is plagued by a series of murders. Of course, William of Baskerville is a brilliant mind and he has to solve the murders.

The reason for the murders is most interesting. Apparently, someone had brought in documents that contained the “New Teaching”; that is, the writings of Aristotle. These writings had been forbidden by the Vatican to be distributed or taught. In the story, Benedictine piety forbade humor or laughter because they believed that it produced light-mindedness and irreverence. Benedict said, “For it is a fool who lifts up his voice in laughter.” Aristotle, on the other hand, taught that laughter was a good thing and most helpful in moral living. The Benedictine hierarchy could not allow this to get out, so when monks read the documents, murder occurred to stop them from telling others what they had read.

Is humor and laughter unspiritual? As most of you know, from painful personal experience, I tend to look at the humorous side of things. I suppose that this makes me more Aristotelian than Benedictine. Now, I recognize that humor can go too far, that it can be demeaning and even used as a weapon against others. Yet, I often find it helpful in establishing relationships, in overcoming barriers, or in illustrating a point. Of course, I’m sure that it soothes my ego and makes me feel good about myself, but I also believe that there is a difference between enjoying good humor and being light-minded.

In the Gospel of St. Matthew, Chapter 22, Jesus tells the story of a great king who goes to great pains to create a wonderful banquet. What a wonderful, incredible, and terrifying thing it must be to attend such a feast. Most of us have been to parties, but few of us have been invited to dine with a king. You can just picture the setting, the richness of the food, the aromas, and the fine wine.

Now, imagine getting an invitation to such an event, and then refusing to go. How could they have refused a King? Jesus said that they “made light of it.” Made light of it? How could you make light of such an invitation. After all, not only would it have been the best feast ever, the King was all powerful and his word was law! To refuse such an invitation could have dire consequences. How could anyone make light of such an invitation?

On the first read, it is clear that the Jews understood that the story applied to them. Yet, haven’t you and I been invited by the great King to his feast? And I am sure that you and I would never make light of it. In the story, the people went to their farms or their merchandise. Well, don’t we excuse ourselves when any demand of life and family, any chance of entertainment or diversion comes our way? We may not make jokes about the things of God, but in truth we are very light-minded about them.

You might object that you make it to church quite often; therefore this story does not apply to you. Oh, not so fast. Being light-minded doesn’t always result in being absent. In the story, the King asks the man why he had no garment. In ancient days, a King would have garments available for his guests, so that no one would feel ashamed because they were under-dressed. So, there was no excuse and the King had his servants show the poor man the door. We can show up for Church, but we are improperly dressed. In our light-mindedness, we are most naked.It always surprises the King when he sees us in attendance and so unprepared.

How can we properly dress for the Feast? We can pray the Prayers of Preparation. We can read about the saint or feast that is being celebrated. We can read the Scripture lessons for the service and study them. We can attend Vigil (or Vespers and Orthos) and make our confession so that our garment is clean and ready for the Feast. Above all, the Saints tell us that the most prominent feature of the Wedding Garment is that it is made of love. Yet this is not the light-minded love of the world, it is love that forgives enemies and seeks to be a servant to everyone.

The alternative is to stand in Church with a light mind –with little idea of what is being said or chanted. We fail to enter into the richness of the feast because with no wedding garment, we did not dare approach the Banqueting Table. We leave little better off than when we came. It’s as if the King told his servants to bind our minds, and we walk out into the dark world “where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Someday, this story will take on a frightening reality when the King returns and we find ourselves with no garments to wear.

Dear brothers and sisters, the invitation is still open. The Feast has been prepared. Wedding garments are still available.

Got something better to do?

PS:  the picture is Clem Kadiddlehopper, a character played by the great comedian, Red Skelton. I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Skelton in the 1980s when I attended Duke University. We sat and talked for over an hour. He was a real gentleman, and a funny, funny man.

One Response to “Light Mind”

  1. Father Nectarios Says:

    One of my favourite movies is The Name of the Rose and it is impossible for me to think that God does not appreciate a sense of humour, I mean He did create the Platypus didnt he 🙂 ?

    Have a wonderful week before the Exaltation of the Precious and Life Giving Cross

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