Pastor of the United Protestant Church of France, Lyon
Enter the celebration
"Celebrate God! This call resounds again and again throughout the biblical writings, particularly in the book of Psalms, where it is addressed to the people gathered in the temple. The roots translated into French by this verb are diverse. They give rise to a veritable symphony, rich in varied nuances. I will try to translate what I hear.
Entering into this movement of celebration means entering into a movement of recognition, in both senses of the word: recognising and being grateful.
Recognising and being grateful takes us to the deep root of events. To do this, the first act is to stop. To stop and take the time to look. God himself was the first to enter into this movement. From the second day of creation, in the first chapter of Genesis, he took the time to look at the beauty and goodness of what had come into being. To celebrate, then, is to stop together and take the time to look at the work of our hands and discover its beauty/goodness. This does not happen without some displacement. Because when we do this, our constructions are decanted, and little by little we rediscover the deep root that lies at their origin: the very presence of God, God the Creator and Saviour. We are moved in a salutary way to make room for the Other, present beyond what we imagined: “Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labour in vain” (Ps 127:1). To celebrate is to recognise the One who really provides the foundation for all our work. We are then off-centred, even divested of what we are engaged in: it all makes sense only through his discreet presence. From then on, this song rises up in us: “Not to us, SEGNEUR, not to us, but to your name give glory, for your faithfulness/goodness, for your loyalty” (Ps 115:1). Without it, all our energy would be in vain. This praise is also adoration. Returning in this way to the source of all our work gives it back its true strength and meaning.
Returning in this way to the source of every work gives it back its true strength and meaning.
If we don’t take the time to step back, we run the risk of becoming idolised. When we no longer take the time to stop, our work surreptitiously becomes «our work», an extension of ourselves. The image of God is reduced to the result of our work. Paul Beauchamp in L’un et l’autre Testament has some illuminating pages to evoke this temptation. “Their idols are silver and gold, made with human hands: they have mouths and do not speak; they have eyes and do not see… Let their makers be like them.” (Ps 115:4-8) Let us remember that God himself, on the seventh day of creation, stops and dissociates himself from his work. That’s the whole point of the Sabbath. By making the Sabbath, God makes room for humans, male and female, for the whole of creation. And we, when we stop to celebrate, make way for God himself: the immense mystery of the covenant on which rests the very meaning of the history of our humanity, of the history of creation itself.
Acknowledging the presence of others
By taking this step to the side, we allow God to reveal to us the essential presence of others, of so many others. A presence that reveals a new, unsuspected beauty: even where we might have seen certain people as clumsy, dangerous, insignificant, or as obstacles, the Spirit helps us to see their place. He helps us to discover how the hands of God have given shape to this work from all that each person brought, just as they were, with their fragility and their sinfulness. At the same time, it opens us up to the beauty/goodness of the Trinity itself. From the very beginning, in Gen 1:1, this diversity exists in God: the breath of God hovered over the surface of the waters, and the Word – the Word made flesh, as John’s Gospel puts it – gradually brings creation into being. We are led to the primary source of fraternity: what links us to one another is above all the essential bond each of us has with God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
This is true for our journeys in the Church, in our communities, between Churches, between countries, as well as for our personal journeys. Paul would proclaim it: “But now in Christ Jesus you who were far off have been made near by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace: he has made the divided into the one. In his flesh he has broken down the dividing wall of hatred” (Eph 2:13-14).
This awareness gives rise to the profound joy that is part and parcel of all genuine ecumenical and even interfaith encounters, of all genuine intercultural encounters. Recognising the place of others in this way opens us up to praise for all the men and women God has given us along the way, and more broadly for every man and woman. Without all of them, what we build together would not be what it is.
If we don’t take the time to enter into the celebratory movement, we run the risk of exclusivism: devaluing those who are outside our circle, our Church, our community, those who don’t look like us, or who don’t interest us. Let’s remember how difficult it was for the first Judeo-Christian communities to consider pagan converts as brothers and sisters in their own right. Let us remember all the anathemas pronounced, all the caricatures between different people that have marked our history. In another form, it means taking the risk that our only hope is that everyone else will come to look and act like us. In reality, this is just another form of idolatry.
As I develop what it means to enter into this movement of celebration, I realise that the text “Principle and Foundation” by Saint Ignatius says nothing different: “Man is created to praise, respect and serve God our Lord, and thereby to save his soul”.
The fruits of this celebratory movement
Celebrating, and thus going back to what underpins and sustains our work, also produces in us a letting go. For in this new perspective, we are also given to realise all our attitudes, our expectations, our actions that have come and still come to disturb and complicate this construction of which God himself is the foundation and of which God alone gives the true meaning, the true direction. We can then let go of the things that needlessly encumber us, our unfounded expectations, our vain actions that try to force the future in our direction, our annoyances with this or that person… Celebrating purifies us.
The fruits produced are succulent and for the benefit of all! They are the fruits of the Spirit, as Paul speaks of them in his letter to the Galatians. He speaks of the fruit – in the singular – of the Spirit: “Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, self-control” (Gal 5:22). In celebration, our work rediscovers its strength, its simplicity and its purpose: not in the service of our own glory or dreams, but in the service of God’s love for the world. In this way, celebrating reopens our worksites and our commitments, giving a renewed place to God’s initiative and to the men and women he gives us and will give us as companions on our journey, whether close or not. Yes, it is good to celebrate the Lord for all his works!
Recognising the place of others in this way opens us up to praise for all those God has given us along the way.
Cet article fait partie du numéro 78 de la revue FOI
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