Wednesday, June 13, 2007

C.S. Lewis on 'Unusual Dress'

...the very fact that pompous is now used only in a bad sense measures the degree to which we have lost the old idea of 'solemnity'. To recover it, you must think of a court ball, or a coronation, or a victory march, as these things appear to people who enjoy them; 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, fruit of a widespread inferiority complex, that pomp, on the proper occasions, has any connexion with vanity or self-conceit. A celebrant approaching the altar, a princess being led out by a king 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. This does not mean that they are vain, but that they are obedient; they are obeying the hoc age ["do this, apply yourself to what you are about"] which presides over every solemnity.

The modern habit of doing ceremonial things unceremoniously is not proof of humility; rather it proves the offender's inability to forget himself in the rite, and his readiness to spoil for everyone else the proper pleasure of ritual.
— C.S. Lewis, from A Preface to Paradise Lost (1942)


  1. Thank you for finding this oh-so-apt quote, especially as we in St. Louis prepare for a great solemnity this Friday--the ordination in the Latin rite of two new priests. I intend to revel in the pomp!

  2. What a wonderful quote by C.S. Lewis, I certainly won't forget my birreta this Friday.

  3. well said ..... excellent quote indeed.....can't wait to see the pomp showforth by ICRSP tomorrow ... with Msgr Wach and his court...