July 10, 2008


Category: Theology - Liturgical :: Permalink

Almost a year ago, I quoted a passage from C. S. Lewis on the medieval word solempne and talked about the relevance of what Lewis says for our worship services today.  Now here’s Chesterton on much the same subject:

Celebrations need not be any less solemn because they are celebrations.  In fact, in the finest parts of our old English poetry and general literature the very word used for a feast is a “solemnity.”  The loss of this sense of the solemnity even of a happy festival is one of the most serious losses of our time, one of the most serious gaps in our version of the art of enjoying life.  For unless you learn to take joy solemnly you will never learn to take it joyfully. — G. K. Chesterton, “On Long Speeches and Truth,”  Collected Works 27: The Illustrated London News 1905-1907, p. 133.

Apparently Chesterton did not think that only a casual celebration, complete with flip flops, shorts, and Hawaiian shirts, could be joyful.  Nor did he think that solemnity was the same thing as gloom.  Quite the contrary.  The best and highest joy, to Chesterton as to Lewis, was a solemn joy, grand and majestic, and the best and highest celebration was a solemnity.

Posted by John Barach @ 3:20 pm | Discuss (1)

One Response to “Solemnities”

  1. Kenny Anderson Says:

    Great post, there has been a little discussion on this at our church lately. Maybe a new beatitude could be “Blessed are the cool and casual for they shall see joy.” I think a lot of the Sunday apparel reflects the “spontaneous equals spiritual” mentality.

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