instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Sunday, August 16, 2015

As St. Paul teaches, let's get drunk!

You know the famous Elbow Passage from Ephesians ("Wives should be subordinate to their husbands...Husbands, love your wives"), so called because of the elbowing in the pews that occurs when it is read during Mass. It follows what could be called the Dodged a Bullet Passage, which is today's second reading:
Watch carefully how you live,
not as foolish persons but as wise,
making the most of the opportunity,
because the days are evil.
Therefore, do not continue in ignorance,
but try to understand what is the will of the Lord.
And do not get drunk on wine, in which lies debauchery,
but be filled with the Spirit,
addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs,
singing and playing to the Lord in your hearts,
giving thanks always and for everything
in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father.
The bullet we dodged is, of course, the first part of verse 19, which I've highlighted. Can you imagine if this had been absolutized, and we could only communicate with each other in song? What would donuts after Mass be like?
And I will pour a cup of free trade joe,
Bear it to the sugar bowl,
Make it too sweet, then give my son
A sticky piece of ciiiiin-namon bun.
Or the church parking lot?
All drivers in this lot, it's noon!
Out of my way, the game starts soon!
Would it improve the tone of on-line dialog? Maybe not.
Tantrum? Ergo, my responses
Can't be answered by your side.
And the ancient customs tell us
I just whupped your sorry hide.
Crawl back in the hole you came from,
You defective creep, and die.
But what particularly interests me in this passage is verse 18:
Do not get drunk on wine, in which lies debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit.
What's that "Do not get drunk on wine" doing here?

Yes, of course, don't get drunk is sound moral doctrine, and getting drunk is something foolish people do in evil days. But I don't think the function of that phrase in this passage is simply to illustrate or stress one vice to avoid. I think it contrasts with "be filled with the Spirit" in the same way "as foolish persons" contrasts with "as wise" in verse 15.

More precisely, "Be filled with the Spirit" has the effect on wise Christians that "Get drunk on wine" has on fools. The words "on wine" are there, not to give an out for getting drunk on beer or whiskey, but to parallel "with the Spirit."

St. Paul tells us to get drunk, not on wine, but on the Holy Spirit.

Those who are drunk on the Spirit might very well address one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. Singing and playing to the Lord in your heart is just the sort of thing a spiritual drunk would do.

The Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God Who is also the Spirit of Jesus Christ and the Spirit of the Church He founded, is the new wine that Christians are to drink too much of. When you're drunk on wine, you lose your reason, the faculty that makes us like God. When you're drunk on the Spirit, the foolish of these evil days will think you've lost your reason, but it's the very way we've been given to become, not just more like God, but His own children.

Drink up!