As I read yet another story about Pope Francis breaking with a tradition of his predecessors in the name of humility, I am reminded of a key section in Peter Kreeft’s chapter on aesthetics in his The Philosophy of Tolkien, where Kreeft quotes C.S. Lewis from A Preface to “Paradise Lost”:

In an age when every one puts on his oldest clothes to be happy in, you must re-awake the simpler state of mind in which people put on gold and scarlet to be happy in. Above all, you must be rid of the hideous idea, the fruit of a widespread inferiority complex, that pomp, on the proper occasions, has any connexion with vanity or self-conceit. A celebrant approach the altar, a princess led out by a kind to dance a minuet, a general officer on a ceremonial parade, a major-domo preceding the boar’s head at a Christmas feast – all these wear unusual clothes and move with calculated dignity. The does not mean that they are vain, but that they are obedient. … The modern habit of doing ceremonial things unceremoniously is no proof of humility; rather it proves the offender’s inability to forget himself in the rite. …

We moderns may like dances which are hardly distinguishable from walking and poetry which sounds as if it might be uttered ex tempore. Our ancestors did not. They liked a dance which was a dance, and fine clothes which no one could mistake for working clothes, and feasts that no one could mistake for ordinary dinners, and poetry that unblushingly proclaimed itself to be poetry. What is the point of having a poet, inspired by the Muse, if he tells the stories just as you or I would have told them? … When we are caught up into the experience which a “grand” style communicates, we are, in a sense, no longer conscious of the style. Incense is consumed by being used.

Advertisements