I must be the only Catholic in the English-speaking world who was blissfully ignorant of the Met Gala, or that its theme this year had something to do with Catholicism. That was until 45 minutes ago when I woke up and started reading my favourite Catholic blogs. Both Patheos and Facebook this morning are a spectrum of reactions to the event–or more accurately, how celebrities dressed for this event.
My own reaction as a Byzantine Catholic, now that I have been made aware of the Met Gala, remains that of mild disinterest. Somehow I feel I should be more interested because everyone else in Catholic social media is interested.
The one exception are those stating Gigi Hadid stole the show modelling a gown inspired by traditional European stained-glass windows. I have no idea who Gigi Hadid is or what the full line up of celebrities and fashion was, but I agree hers was a stunning–and tasteful–work of art.
Certainly, I am not surprised by the rest.
One of my favourite works as a Byzantine Catholic is For the Life of the World: Sacraments and Orthodoxy. This work is authored by renown Eastern Orthodox theologian Fr Alexander Schmemann.
Two of Fr Schmemann’s ideas come to mind as I consider my immediate reaction to Met Gala. The first is the following:
Man is a hungry being. But he is hungry for God. Behind all the hunger of our life is God. All desire is finally a desire for Him. To be sure, man is not the only hungry being. All that exists lives by “eating.” The whole creation depends on food. But the unique position of man in the universe is that he alone is to bless God for the food and the life he receives from Him. He alone is to respond to God’s blessing with his blessing. [Emphasis mine]
In short, God created humans as hungry beings. We hunger for relationship with God. Everything else in the material world feeds our inner spiritual impulse to seek relationship with the Divine. Whether one finds the Met Gala fashions tasteful, tacky, or sacrilegious, each celebrity and designer is expressing their natural hunger for God.
Which brings me to Fr Schmemann’s second idea in For the Life of the World that I find applicable to Met Gala. It is that modern secularism is not the denial of God so much as it is the denial of humankind’s natural impulse to worship God publicly.
Here Fr Schmemann writes:
All rational, spiritual and other qualities of man, distinguishing him from other creatures, have their focus and ultimate fulfillment in this capacity to bless God, to know, so to speak, the meaning of the thirst and hunger that constitutes his life. “Homo sapiens,” “homo faber” … yes, but, first of all, “homo adorans.”
In short, when humans are discouraged from fulfilling their spiritual need to worship God, they will find other ways to express this hunger. Met Gala seems to be one such attempt.