Monday, December 17, 2012
The usual attire. . .
In a secularized and tendentiously materialistic society, where even the external signs of sacred and supernatural [not meaning spooky stuff but that which is "above nature"] realities tend to be disappearing, the necessity is particularly felt that the priest – man of God, dispenser of His mysteries – should be recognizable in the sight of the community, even through the clothing he wears, as an unmistakable sign of his dedication and of his identity as a recipient of a public ministry. The priest should be recognizable above all through his behavior, but also through his dressing in a way that renders immediately perceptible to all the faithful, even to all men, his identity and his belonging to God and to the Church.
Twenty years old and still pretty to the point, I think. Of course, Rome can speak about such matters with an authority and rule that Lutherans do not have nor desire... but. The point made in this paragraph is, to my mind, very persuasive. The clothing worn by the Pastor should be an unmistakable sign of his identity as a recipient of a public ministry... dressing in such a way that renders immediately perceptible who he is.
This means that such clothing, when it is not the cassock, should be distinct from the manner in which laymen dress, and in conformity with the dignity and sacredness of the ministry. Apart from entirely exceptional circumstances, the non-use of clerical clothing on the part of the cleric can manifest a weak sense of his own identity as a pastor completely dedicated to the service of the Church...
At a winkel we spoke of the role of the chaplain, well described by one who is an ATF chaplain. He spoke of the need for the chaplain to police and fire services to maintain the expectation of holy conversation and behavior. So, for example, when service members would say to him "Oh, geez, I better watch what I say cause the chaplain is here," he would say "You bet you need to clean up your act." At first I thought that might be off putting but the more I thought about it, the more I resonated to it. Where the Pastor goes, he ought to engender some self-control and attention to holiness of life and speech just by his presence. That does not mean he is unapproachable but that he is not some guy on the street either. He is the one who is called by God and on whom the Church has conferred the authority of the office. He bears the office wherever he goes and the clerical dress he wears signifies that office. He is a man of God -- not by virtue of personal holiness as an achievement but as the one through whom God speaks His Word, imparts His forgiveness, and bestows His sacramental grace. Dress ought to recognize this calling.
My wife the CCU nurse has often recounted stories where guys show up in the hospital to visit members saying they are clergy but dressed like bums off the street (no offense to the bums meant). If we want to be recognized as Pastors, if we are not embarrassed by or ashamed of our calling, then let us dress the part. I honestly do not get what the big deal is against this. Unlike the ordinary rules of Rome, this paragraph directs in charity and reasoned eloquence why clerical dress is both important and desirable. What is so hard about this?