Saturday, May 19, 2012

Strange choices...

There are those, some in my own parish, who think it odd that the Pastor wears vestments.  Others think that the vestments should be simpler and more plain in appearance.  There is a false sense of humility that betrays such aversion to vestments.  There is also a mistaken sense of the value and witness of being casual in appearance and demeanor.

It is funny that in the Church the Pastor vests in what might be described as rather elaborate clothing for what is in essence the simplest of meals -- bread and wine (hiding behind their earthly appearance the body and blood of Christ).  In contrast, we eat elaborate feasts while dressed in the most ordinary of clothes.  Surely there is no more contrast between ordinary practice and what we see in the Church?

G. K. Chesterton has noted the seeming conflict with these words (for which I am ever grateful to the reader who sent them to me):

For instance, it was certainly odd that the modern world charged Christianity at once with bodily austerity and with artistic pomp. But then it was also odd, very odd, that the modern world itself combined extreme bodily luxury with an extreme absence of artistic pomp. The modern man thought Becket's robes too rich and his meals too poor. But then the modern man was really exceptional in history; no man before ever ate such elaborate dinners in such ugly clothes. The modern man found the church too simple exactly where modern life is too complex; he found the church too gorgeous exactly where modern life is too dingy. The man who disliked the plain fasts and feasts was mad on entrees. The man who disliked vestments wore a pair of preposterous trousers. And surely if there was any insanity involved in the matter at all it was in the trousers, not in the simply falling robe. If there was any insanity at all, it was in the extravagant entrees, not in the bread and wine.

Chesterton has it right.  The elaborate clothing is not of our determination but a reflection of the wedding garments which the host has provided to the people whom He has bidden to His meal.  The meal is His.  We cannot add or subtract to what He has promised and to what He, through his Word, prepares for us to eat and drink.  Faith responds to the bidding of the Lord and trusts in Him, the symbol of that trust is that we wear the clothing He has provided to the meal of His promise.  That is what vestments symbolize.  Far from aggrandizing the clergy, this hides and covers the man.  It is an act of humility to hide the man and wear the clothing of the office -- and a discipline not a few who enjoy the spotlight too much might think to recover!

In contrast, it has become fashionable to dress rather casually but to expect greater fare than our Lord has promised.  Instead of coming as He bids, we demand certain things for our enjoyment and pleasure -- music that sings a certain sound similar to what we listen to, fast paced action to keep our attention as we sit passively watching the show, and practical kernels of wisdom we can apply directly to our lives so that we achieve the results and obtain the goals and desires of our hearts for earthly happiness and success. 

Who is proud and who is humble?  Maybe we have it backwards...  Vestments are not the clothing of the proud and casual wear is not the dress of the humble, after all...

4 comments:

tubbs said...

I do love reading your blog, Pastor Peters, and I also love the way you love to kick up a hornet's nest every so often.

re vestments: don't forget to check out the "bad vestments" blog site every so often - always good for a laugh.

Barb Holtz said...

This morning while kneeling for communion I was noticing the vestments the Pastor was wearing. I was wondering where you get such beautiful fabric. Is there a Pastor factory that only manufactures for Pastors? Totally beautiful. Reflects God's glory!

Anonymous said...

If only people knew that vestments were originally the humble robes and stoles/sashes of the ordinary Roman citizen and that clergy wore exactly what everyone else was wearing at the time. Jesus too! (Oddly, a lot of the music in church follows this pattern too!) It wasn't until Roman fashion changed and clergy maintained the robes and stoles that this divide began. Yes vestments are beautiful but they are also strangely divisive. Something about "let their not be devisions among you" or something like that. I just wish people would know their history before they go and invent silly ideological connections like wedding garments etc. I'll stick with the first tradition of the church and let my pastor dress as the first Christian clergy did, like everyone else! Noting, of course, that Paul has some suggestions about dress in worship. But for everyone, not just the clergy.

Anonymous said...

O boy, did the OT priests dress like everyone else and who said that early Christian clergy dressed like everyone else? History will also tell you that distinct dress for the clergy was as early as creedal formation (75 AD). Why doesn't your Pastor dress like Adam, fig leaf optional? That is Biblical too.