By Carson Weber
The English term “culture” is derived from the Latin cultus: worship or reverence. It’s a mode of being, a way of life, a world view, a paradigm. Like the air you breathe, your culture influences the way you dress, the manner in which you treat your neighbor, the food on your table, and all the rest. It is an inescapable lens through which you view the world, and it shapes your priorities.
The prevailing culture stems from what a society worships or gives worth to (i.e., worth-ship). A contemporary example rests in the manner professional sports fans spend their discretionary income and leisure time. Reverence of the San Francisco Giants translates into action. Businesses shut down for the day to give employees ample time for the liturgical procession along Market Street, adorned with the festive colors of black and orange.
We are wired for worship, and we will stop at nothing to fill that inner trajectory of the human spirit for the infinite. In the post-modern, secular, materialist culture we find ourselves situated within, this orientation has brought us to adore the work of human hands. The high feast day of the liturgical calendar of this thing-centered cult-ure is Black Friday. Millions of American lives center upon inanimate objects, which devour our limited time and treasure.
The early Christians’ liturgy of the word consisted of synagogue worship on Saturday. Before Sunday sunrise, these followers of the Way would gather in the dark to sing hymns to the Christ and consume his flesh and blood in the liturgy of the Eucharist as daylight broke (cf. Pliny’s Letter to the Emperor Trajan, A.D. 112). In like manner, American consumers pay reverent attention to the word proclaimed by multicolored mailers in the days leading up to the great pre-dawn gathering, wherein chants of “open” give way to the great consumption of goods.
Amidst our overcrowded and efficiency crazy American work schedule, we are graced with a blessed holiday (etymology: holy-day), and how do we choose to spend it? By spending it. We shackle ourselves anew to the work of rising before dawn to trample our brother in hopes of attaining more stuff. The insatiable craving of the soul has no end. Or does it?
Thank God for Moses who gave us Saturday and Jesus who gave us Sunday. Also, thank God for my employer who graciously gifted me rest from work this Thanksgiving Thursday and Friday. You’ll find this overachiever lounging with a good friend over a cold glass of Guinness, enjoying the warmth of family life, and warming a pew at a Cathedral Mass – far away from the mass of bling-bling – gifting back praise to the Almighty, who truly satisfies.
Now don’t get me wrong. I might just have to hop onto Apple.com for ten minutes to satisfy my thirst for things temporal and possibly land a sweet deal. But, that’s for later. Priorities first.
Carson Weber resides in Sacramento and is the author of the Understanding the Scriptures Podcast at CatholicBoard.com. He holds a BBA from Texas A&M University and an MA in Theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville.