The notion of the secularisation of (Western) society is a fascinating subject in its own right, with both supporters and detractors of its central thesis; that our society is no longer concerned with religion the way it used to be. Secular, from saeculum (generation, or age) in its Christian Latin usage denotes ‘the world’, as opposed to sacred, from sacer (holy), that which is consecrated to God. Back in 1966 Bryan Wilson called it “the process in which religious thinking, practice and institutions lose social significance”, and Anthony Giddens, more recently as “the process where religion loses its influence over the various spheres of social life”. Or, as Max Weber more imaginatively called it, “the disenchantment of the world”.
The dinner spectacle John describes for us in his gospel, even though remote, still manages to offend us (though not as much as the original guests), but, we’re not quite sure how—or, why, we are offended. We can determine this however, that the story gives us a picture of extravagant devotion.