Leisure in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass
In the book, Leisure the Basis of Culture, by Josef Pieper, society is described as one of that which is leaning towards the worker. The worker is described as someone who, “does not work to live; one lives to work” (Leisure the Basis of Culture4). Pieper points out that this work has encompassed our culture since the French Revolution. The average person thinks that leisure is idleness, but Pieper disagrees. The worker is constantly wrapped up on servile work, while the person who practices leisure practices interior transformations and contemplations. The book deals with the questions as to how society can bring back true leisure. Josef Pieper finally concludes that the ultimate form of leisure is divine worship through, “the sacramental sacrifice of the Christian Church,” (52) and this is achieved by bringing back the Christian cultus to society.
The claim that Pieper makes, that idleness is like acedia, is something that does not sit well with those in the world today, for they see idleness as relaxation and synonymous with leisure. This is far from what is described in the book. Leisure is when man, “acquiesces in his own being, whereas the essence of acedia is the refusal to acquiesce in one’s own being” (27). These two go together because the vice of acedia is when people busy themselves with work and idleness so that they cannot have any time to worship God or give their souls a break. Pieper describes this as sleep for the soul and that it is necessary in order to relax the mind rather than what people are used to doing by relaxing thier bodies with a break from work. The only reason people have breaks is because of work. Breaks are only necessary because people are tired of their work and have to stop working, but this break is simply another part of work. In order to bring back leisure to our culture, Pieper proposes that a certain work that is also uplifting of our soul is necessary. This uplifting work, or labor, is the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, where we are, “’transported’ out of the weariness of daily labour into an unending holiday, carried away out of the straightness of the workaday world” (53). The question still remains as to why the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is the ultimate form of leisure and why simply relaxing the mind and contemplating is not.
Divine worship begins with the lowest levels of prayer. Vocal prayer leads then into meditative and contemplative prayer. The higher forms begin with ecstasy. Pieper shows this comparison by saying, “In leisure…man oversteps the frontiers of the everyday workaday world… as though lifted above it in ecstasy,” (53) and he continues by saying about the Eucharist, “man is ‘carried away’ by it, thrown into ‘ecstasy’ (53). The Mass is not simply a break from our work, but the ultimate contemplation for our mind and soul. It is an impossible visible sign of the invisible. The Mass carries away the worker into complete leisure in a way that is far from idleness, for there is no wasting of time, nor vice of acedia, when it is for the divine worship of God. Everything in this world through utilitarianism seems to have some useful purpose, yet this ruins the meaning of the objects and rituals that do have an important purpose such as chant, stained glass, iconography, and ultimately, the Eucharist. The Eucharist is leisure available for every man to take part in if he converts and desires It. This “activity which is not ‘work,’” (43) allows man to escape the daily toil of servile acts and replaces it with the ultimate act of leisure while at the same time ridding him of all his idleness.
The world has been caught up with progress and success, but this has always been the case. Due to the industrial revolution and a false sense of enlightenment, the recent centuries have exploded with wage-earner workers and have led to the destruction and breakdown of the family. People have always been caught up with their wealth and success. God has been pushed to the side and with modern technology, idleness takes up every free second of the day. From video games to television series, the modern man spends all of his time working and thinks that his idle breaks to destress are leisure. Their minds do not ever get a break to sleep. The mind needs silence and serenity from the hustle and bustle of daily life. As the ancient Greeks and Romans understood it, there is no work. There is only “to be unleisurely” (5) and this term of unleisure is so far removed in modern culture that Microsoft thinks it is a spelling error. There is only one place where a man can go where he does not be concerned with the world. This place is the Church. The world has always sought money and success, but the Church is not of this world, for Christ is not of this world. In order to escape not only all the toils of work in daily life, but to literally escape the world is the magnificence of the Sacrifice of the Mass. The Eucharist is the bridge between this world and heaven and the ultimate contemplation is the ecstasy a soul can receive when consuming omnipotent God resulting in the ultimate form of Leisure.