Our Lady and Sheen

Mardi Gras!

Recently I was down in southern Louisiana for the end of the Mardi Gras season, and I had a great time! It was one of the best trips that I have taken in a while!  I celebrated with friends and strangers for the weekend before Mardi Gras and Lundi Gras.  I saw five parades, played lots of games, enjoyed New Orleans twice.  Drank a bit, ate a whole huge sampling of king cakes over the weekend, probably 6 different kinds, and enjoyed getting into the “season.”

Mardi Gras has a huge stereotype about drunk, crazy, and sinful encounters.  And… it is true.   That happens a lot, but, in certain parts of the city it’s just a small increase over the normal.  It also has a LOT of family togetherness.  I met so many of my friend’s family that I can not keep them straight in my head, not to mention all the friends and friends’ friends who opened their doors (or their bathrooms) to us.  It is a joyous celebration in the guise of getting ready for Lent.

But wait! On Thursday, just two days later, I was sitting in the Abbey of Subiaco and it dawned on me that all of Lent is looking towards Easter. It probably dawned on me because of a reading, homily or passing comment by one of the holy monks.  Here, on my left hand, we have Mardi Gras.  A celebration with names like “Bacchus” and “Proteus” and “Rex” and “Isis” and other idol names, parades in which beads, coins, toys, and various other things are thrown to the people who are out watching their friends, community and strangers parade.  Looking at these “gods” we see the anticipation of what all the Faithful look forward to: gifts from our God.

Mardi Gras ends and the Faithful fast, abstain, and pray for Lent.  Even the non-believers will sometimes take Lent as a time where “giving something up” sounds like a good idea.  To quote Archbishop Sheen about philosophies of life: There is the Christian philosophy which says, “First the fast, then the feast;” The world’s philosophy is, “First the feast, then the hangover.”  When we look at Mardi Gras as a secular celebration, we harken back to the days before the Eternal Gift of the Cross, when our pagan and heathen ancestors worshiped trees and themselves.  “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die,” as 1 Cor 15:32 tells us.

So, where are we?  Looking at the microcosm of February-April, we see first the celebration, missing the mark… the Lord.  Then, we have the great fast of Lent, the purging of ourselves, the turning toward God, the anticipation of the Victory over the Dead.  Then, on the other side of that forty days, looking  across the rich wasteland of the desert journey we see the True Feast… the true reason for joy and hope… we have Easter.  A feast dedicated to true celebration, focused not in some pagan afterthought, but rather, rooted in the Hope of Christ.  Salvation.  For we know the dead will be resurrected to Eternal Life or eternal death, and we have seen the first fruits.

Easter is a purified Mardi Gras, so to speak, because it is in redirecting our purpose that we find Truth: not in beads thrown from floats, but in beads given to us by Our Mother; not in drink poured from bottle or can, but in Drink poured from the veins of our Savior;  not in king cakes made of sugar and fillings, but in the Bread of  Life given by our King; not in crying out, “throw me something, mister,” but in crying out, “Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, HAVE MERCY ON ME, A SINNER!”  And finally, not a feast followed by a hangover is this Lent and Easter, but rather, a fast followed by the Feast, as this life will be when we enter into the Heavenly Banquet.



February 25, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment