We often see pictures of Pope Francis with his head thrown back in laughter. That made me wonder if there are any pictures out there of Pope Benedict XVI laughing, or Pope John Paul II laughing.
I posed this question on Facebook, and there were some wonderful posts, including a picture of a young Pope John Paul II shaking with laughter while watching a silly clown performance. How endearing!
And some great shots of Pope Benedict. And there was even a smiling picture of Pope Pius XII. If I had the time I would post them.
Anyway, came across this piece on First Things on laughter and how it has been viewed by Church Fathers and its role in bringing in Modernity.
Christians have long worried over laughter. Church fathers pointed out that Jesus wept but never laughed, and even mild endorsements of laughter were qualified with warnings that laughter must be moderate, never excessive.
The fact that laughter, like sexual passion, is untamable is evidence of original sin. Commenting on Ecclesiastes, Gregory of Nyssa described laughter as a grotesque form of madness, involving “an unseemly bodily loosening, agitated breathing, a shaking of the whole body, dilation of the cheeks, baring of teeth, gums and palate, stretching of the neck, and an abnormal breaking up of the voice as it is cut into by the fragmentation of the breath.”
The medieval Church wisely provided safety valves—Carnival, the Feast of Fools, the risus paschali or “Easter laughter.” By the high Middle Ages, stern patristic suspicions of laughter were softening. After the twelfth century, artists depicted human beings with smiles and laughs; prior to that time, only painted demons laughed. Following Aristotle, Thomas was indulgent toward humor as a social lubricant.
But it wasn’t until the age of Erasmus, More, and Rabelais that Christian laughter came into its own.