Sunday, April 1, 2012
Laughter and the Lord
According to secular calendars, today is April First, a time when it is acceptable to play pranks, hoaxes, practical jokes and other good natured humor. The origins of April Fools Day can be traced to the Nun’s Priest’s Tale in Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales (1392) when Chaucer described as “Syn March bigan thritty dayes and two” (meaning March 32, or April 1), but there may be some roots in the Roman festival of Hilaria (March 25th) as a feria stavia when masquerades and amusements were allowed. But some might question whether comedy is suitable to commingle with spirituality.
In Umberto Eco's "Il nome della rosa" (The Name of the Rose, 1980), the Italian academic spins a medieval murder mystery that a palimpsest of the plot was made into a major Hollywood film (1986). The premise of the novel involved a Franciscan friar William of Baskerville along with his novice sojourning to a Benedictine monastery in Northern Italy in order to investigate a theological disputation as to whether Christ laughed.
There were hidden power that be in the monastery who wanted to conceal a lost volume of Aristotle's Poetics about comedy, as that threatened their weltanschauung that laughter is diabolical thus not belonging in the spiritual life. Admittedly, there are strong currents in the monastic tradition (Pachomius, Anthony, Augustine and Benedict) which frowns up laughter in the spiritual life.
However, there are many instances in the Old Testament in which humor unlock the hidden meanings of seemingly contradictory truths in scriptural wordplay.
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