Bucharest, Romania, August 23, 2011
Humour has saved me more than once. Next to prayer it has been indispensable in helping me get through some of the more difficult days and has more than once stopped me from bayoneting myself on self-pitying introspection. “Humour” writes one of the most beloved Christian apologists C. S. Lewis (1898-1963), “involves a sense of proportion and a power of seeing yourself from the outside.” It is important whatever our circumstances to try and find something of the amusing even during the testing times. The positive effects of humour on our disposition and temperament have been well proven. Discernible elements of humour are certainly not absent from our religious literature, including the New Testament itself often through its use of “exaggeration or hyperbole”.
If we look deep enough the realization of the absurd will almost always bring a smile to our face. And, yes, there will be things for when this approach might not be the right way, but then context is rarely wrong. On the other hand affected ‘piety’ in religious folk is terrible. I have seen it destroy people’s joy for life and compassion for their neighbour. It is comical in men who attempt to suppress their natural reactions and responses to things. Conversely, it is especially sad in women who grow unfriendly and cold. I have not forgotten a telling admonition from one of the monks at Saint Sabbas [Mar Saba] monastery in Palestine, the iconographer eremite Father Theophanes. A pilgrim was taking an inordinately long time in the ‘hellishly’ hot midday hours of the desert prostrating before the icon of the patron saint. The tall and imposing middle-aged monk with the deep-set dark eyes, who bore a striking resemblance to Fred Gwyne of ‘Munster’ fame, turned to me and whispered: You know, brother, it’s the ‘piety’ which gets us in the end.
-Is the devil ‘pious’? I whispered back.
-Is he ‘religious’? The monk responded.
-Does worship of the ‘self’ count as a ‘religion’?
-It could I suppose, what do the books say?
When it comes to the overly zealous pilgrim, it could with some small qualification, be as simple as those famous words of the incomparable Miss Piggy, “Never eat more than you can lift.”
 C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters