When God brings our nature back to the first state of man by the resurrection, it would be pointless to mention such matters [i.e., all the contextual details that influence our behavior in this lifetime] and to suppose that the power of God is hindered from this goal by such obstructions. He has one goal: when the whole fullness of our nature has been perfected in each man, some straightway even in this life purified from evil, others healed hereafter through fire for the appropriate length of time, and others ignorant of the experience equally of good and of evil in the life here, God intends to set before everyone the participation of the good things in Him, which the Scripture says eye has not seen nor ear heard, nor thought attained. This is nothing else, according to my judgment, but to be in God Himself.
…When our nature will have its tabernacle pitched again by the resurrection, and all the corruption which has entered in connection with evil will be abolished from the things that are, then the festival around God will be inaugurated in common for those who are covered by the resurrection, so that one and the same joy will be set before all. No longer will rational beings be divided by different degrees of participation in equal good things. Those who are now outside because of evil will eventually come inside the sanctuary of divine blessedness. …The apostle says this more plainly, expounding the agreement of the universe in the good: ‘To Him every knee will bow’ of heavenly, earthly, and subterranean beings, and ‘every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.’ …He speaks of angelic and heavenly beings, and by the rest he signifies the creatures which are ranked next after them, namely us, for all of whom one harmonious festival will prevail.St Gregory of Nyssa, called “Father of Fathers” by the Seventh Ecumenical Council, in chapter 10 of On the Soul and the Resurrection.
I am delighted with Diogenes, who, when he saw his host in Sparta preparing with much ado for a certain festival, said, ‘Does not a good man consider every day a festival?’ and a very splendid one, to be sure, if we are sound of mind [nous]. For the universe is a most holy temple and …into it man is introduced through birth as a spectator, not of hand-made or immovable images, but of those sensible representations of knowable things that the divine mind, says Plato, has revealed, representations which have innate within themselves the beginnings of life and motion, sun and moon and stars, rivers which ever discharge fresh water, and earth which sends forth nourishment for plants and animals. Since life is a most perfect initiation into these things and a ritual celebration of them, it should be full of tranquillity and joy, and not in the manner of the vulgar, who wait for the festivals of Cronus and of Zeus and the Panathenaea and other days of the kind, at which to enjoy and refresh themselves, paying the wages of hired laughter to mimes and dancers. …By spending the greater part of life in lamentation and heaviness of heart and carking cares men shame the festivals with which the god supplies us and in which he initiates us.Plutarch, De Tranquillitate Animi, ch.20: 1936-9, vol. 6, p. 239. [Quoted in Ancient Mediterranean Philosophy by Stephen R.L. Clark.]
This passage links to many others that I’ve posted include this one by C.S. Lewis in which he says: “The motions of the universe are to be conceived not as those of a machine or even an army, but rather as a dance, a festival, a symphony, a ritual, a carnival, or all these in one. They are the unimpeded movement of the most perfect impulse towards the most perfect object.”
The soul of leisure, it can be said, lies in “celebration.” Celebration is the point at which the three elements of leisure come to a focus: relaxation, effortlessness, and superiority of “active leisure” to all functions. But if celebration is the core of leisure, then leisure can only be made possible and justifiable on the same basis as the celebration of a festival. That basis is divine worship.
…There is no such thing as a feast “without the gods”—whether it be a carnival or a marriage. That is not a demand, or a requirement; it does not mean that that is how things ought to be. Rather, it is meant as a simple statement of fact: however dim the recollection of the association may have become in men’s minds, a feast “without gods,” and unrelated to worship, is quite simply unknown. (56-57)
…Divine worship, of its very nature, creates a sphere of real wealth and superfluity, even in the midst of the direst material want. …Thus, the act of worship creates a store of real wealth which cannot be consumed by the workaday world. It sets up an area where calculation is thrown to the winds and goods are deliberately squandered, where usefulness is forgotten and generosity reigns. Such wastefulness is, we repeat, true wealth; the wealth of the feast time. And only in this feast time can leisure unfold and come to fruition. (59)
…The celebration of divine worship, then, is the deepest of the springs by which leisure is fed and continues to be vital—though it must be remembered that leisure embraces everything which, without being merely useful, is an essential part of a full human existence. (60)
From Leisure: the Basis of Culture by Josef Pieper (1952).
Now the highest form of affirmation is the festival; among all its characteristics, Karl Kerenyi tells us, is “the union of tranquility, contemplation, and intensity of life.” …The feast is the origin of leisure, and the inward and ever-present meaning of leisure. And because leisure is thus by its nature a celebration, it is more than effortless; it is the direct opposite of effort. (43)
From Leisure: the Basis of Culture by Josef Pieper (1952).
German Catholic philosopher Josef Pieper opens his essay “Leisure: The Basis of Culture” with these two quotations:
But the Gods, taking pity on mankind, born to work, laid down the succession of recurring Feasts to restore them from their fatigue, and gave them the Muses, and Apollo their leader, and Dionysus, as companions in their Feasts, so that nourishing themselves in festive companionship with the Gods, they should again stand upright and erect.
Have leisure and know that I am God.
-Psalm lxv, 11.
Many thanks to a colleague for reminding me of this book containing Pieper’s essays. Forward by T.S. Eliot.