The Festive Prophetic – A “Both/And” Spirituality
I’ve been thinking lately about the phrase “festive prophesy” that I ran across in some writings by Fr. Virgilio Elizondo several months ago. He talked about how the Mexican-American identity embraced not just sorrow but also joy, and held the two in tension well. He made the point that Hispanics were able to display joy in festivity even in the midst of trial and struggle.
Something in me really connected with that thought because in the white evangelical community I grew up in, I often heard that joy and sorrow could not co-exist with one another. I learned early on in my Christian life that if I was sad that meant I wasn’t joyful, and God told me I was supposed to be joyful. It was always difficult for me to live that out and to even understand how the two were mutually exclusive. When I ran across Fr. Virgilio’s description of my culture being one that embraced both joy and sorrow simultaneously, I felt so validated and understood. It wasn’t strange that these two seemingly opposite emotions could exist alongside one another in my heart. It was actually a beautiful unique part of being Latina, and I was moved by the revelation.
Since then, I’ve started to wonder if maybe white culture is one that is bent towards living in dichotomy. Things are either/or rather than both/and. I think the opposite is true for Latino culture. We aren’t as drawn towards that kind of worldview. Much of the Christian life is a both/and kind of a life (God’s sovereignty and human responsibility, Jesus is fully God and fully man, Believers are sinners and saints). I believe another example of this is in the area of joy and sorrow.
While scripture does command us to be joyful, there is still room for grieving as a believer. One can experience real depth of sorrow without being in sin to the command to “rejoice always”. In fact, it is the presence of joy in the life of the Christian that really allows us to face our sorrow without fear that we will be lost in its darkness if we do. Our pain has an end to it and points us to our desperate need for God to finally restore all things to Himself.
I recently read a blog by Matthew Soerens that talked about how the story of Christmas is one of joy but also terrible tragedy. In Matthew we read that Herod murdered every child under the age of two in the town of Bethlehem after Jesus was born. Jesus’ birth broke the silence of God and brought in the kingdom, but that kingdom has not come to its fullness just yet. We still live in a time of struggle when the world isn’t as it will be or should be. New life has begun, but the whole world has yet to experience fullness of joy.
It is in this reality that I think my culture has it right. We can celebrate the kingdom that has come with sincere joy in the present. We can fully embrace festivity in our lives here and now. But we do so with both feet in reality knowing there is a deep ache that exists in all of us for what is still to come. There is a reason Revelation talks about every tear being wiped away. Sorrow is real now. There is injustice, poverty, and brokenness in our world, and anytime my life intersects with those things, I experience deep sadness and longing for His kingdom that is still coming. That is just as real to me as the joy found in my salvation.
I believe God is calling all of us from every culture to live in the festivity of the present- with the ability to be a prophetic voice for how the world right now is not as it should be. Let us all be people of the festive prophetic and let us make room in our ministries for Latinos to embrace a world that is both/and.
photo courtesy: canopic