Saturday, May 19, 2012
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...