It’s Festival time in Wexford again. Festival transforms our town into a global village, reminding us of another time when many languages were to be heard on our narrow streets.
Festival is a form of escape from reality. We know it won’t last, and that makes it all the more enjoyable. Festival creates a sense of belonging and celebrates the joy of living, joie de vivre.
There is no big agenda, it’s all about celebration, festivity, fun and fantasy. The rest of the year has enough seriousness, festival time brings some welcome colour into our darkening autumn days.
It comes at the ebb time of year, and for a few short days and nights, it holds back the dark and bridges the gap between Summer and Christmas. I warmly welcome all our visitors, especially the artists and musicians, who brighten our nights and lighten our hearts at Festival time.
We look forward to your coming each year and we hope you enjoy your time here. Religion and festival are kindred souls because they are both expressions of the human spirit.
They both speak to the human heart in a language not dependent on words. They have the ability to carry liturgy and life to a place which is beyond words.
The priest and the artist are closer to each other than either knows.
I believe that creativity and spirituality are cut from the same fabric, the invisible and the intangible are the roads they travel and explore.
Colour, music, and song are an integral part of all religious expression. They are used to move people into a devotional space and into union with God.
Music is a constant companion on our journey through life. It is present in our celebrations, marking passages and milestones along the way, strengthening and encouraging us.
It should not surprise us that music has played, and continues to play, a central role in the life and liturgy of the Church.
Indeed praying through music allows us to express our highest calling—to come together as a community to worship and praise God—in a way that no other art can.
Painting, sculpture and architecture may move and inspire us but none can unite us quite like music.
This kind of language, more usually associated with religion, reveals the common grammar of religion and art, in so many ways we speak the same language.
It’s all about exploring and expressing the condition of being human, of being alive, whether we do it through worship or music, words or painting, we share the same space.
When we do it well something magical happens, we go beyond ourselves and we break free of the limitations that words and convention impose upon us.
Our Readings today have a festival touch about them; Jeremiah urges us to ‘shout for joy’ in the psalm we read ‘ then was our mouth filled with laughter, on our lips there were songs……….what marvels the Lord worked for us, indeed we were glad……….they go out full of tears……..they come back full of song.’
As we journey through life we need the presence of music and laughter, not the thoughtless laughter which doesn’t notice the pain around us, but the healing laughter which helps us to bear it.
Living in a world scarred by war and violence, by terrorism and forced migration, where we see human nature at its most noble and most despicable, we are indeed blessed to have these days of music and song.
Music brings us together and gives voice to our prayers, as Augustine said ‘’ he who sings prays twice.’’ If Augustine is correct a lot of prayers will be said in Wexford during these festival days!
I finish with some lines from the Irish play-write Sean O’Casey which also have a Festival flavour about them;
Laughter is wine for the soul, laughter soft or loud, and deep, tinged with seriousness.
Comedy and tragedy step through life together, arm in arm, out along.
Once we can laugh, we can live.
It is the hilarious declaration made by man that life is worth living.