CAUTION! These are easily the most insulting series of Articles the Rev. Know-it-all has yet written.)
The Rev. Know-it-all’s guide to how to behave in Church Part 6
And a few more issues.....
“Worship the Lord in holy attire. Tremble before Him, all the earth.” (Psalm 96:9)
This doesn’t mean clothes that are full of holes, even designer ripped blue jeans. Clothing is important. It says something. I am reminded of the story of a man, who, long after the current binge of informality was in full swing, always wore a suit and tie to church, even in the dog days of August. His children tried to get him to loosen up reminding him that nobody got dressed up for church any more.
He glared at them and said, “I‘m not Nobody. I’m Somebody and I will continue to dress like somebody.”
When we fail to dress appropriately for a gathering of people who deserve our respect, we are not just saying I’m nobody, we are saying that they are nobody. Still worse we are saying that God is nobody. If it’s true that every Mass is the heavenly wedding feast of Christ and His Church, why should we pay more attention to how we dress for a wedding party in this passing world?
It is a biblical principle that what is covered is sacred. The Ark of the Covenant was veiled. The Holy of Holies was veiled. Even the face of Moses was veiled. That is why we always used to veil the chalice and it is still recommended that we do so. That is why women used to wear a veil or head covering in church. We had the silly, archaic notion that women and feminine beauty was sacred. (Again, note to the humor impaired; this is sarcasm.) Now of course we know that the beauty of women is just an advertising gimmick, to be flashed at the super bowl. There’s nothing special about women now and their ability to be, like the holy ark, unique vessels for the creative presence of God. If, in this modern age, you still think that you are special in the sight of God and that the human body is sacred, please wear something a little less revealing. This applies to men and women, young and old alike.
There are two ways to dress inappropriately for Mass. One can overdress and one can under dress. Overdressing usually happens at Easter, at weddings or at funerals. Perhaps it is imprecise to call it overdressing because, in certain instances, it seems to involve very little actual cloth. It is amazing to see people dress seductively for Easter or for a wedding, but to see someone dressed seductively at a funeral borders on the morbid! One should be thinking of the brevity of life, not the brevity of the lector’s skirt. The other extreme is when a man or a woman comes in dressed like a parade float at Mardi Gras. At least they are covered I suppose, but the whole spectacle is a little intimidating.
One is reminded of the conversation between Mae West and a young starlet. Ms. West descends a spiral staircase wearing a diamond necklace that could blind the incautious onlooker. The starlet gasps, “Goodness!” Ms. West shoots her a look and says, “Goodness had nothin’ to do with it!”
Well, there are those who dress very formally for Mass for whom goodness has nothing to do with it either. Mass is Calvary and the Resurrection all at once. In a sense, it is both funeral and wedding. You shouldn’t outshine the bride, nor for that matter the deceased. Weddings, funerals and Masses are not about you and who you are trying to impress, or, for that matter to seduce. A person should dress at Mass in a way that honors the Lord and His Bride, the Church, and not in a way that draws attention away from the Lord or the Church. Mass is about God and not about me or you!
In our times it is not usually overdressing, but under-dressing that is the problem. Heaven forefend that we should be uncomfortable. Many of us come dressed for the beach, not for the wedding of the Lamb that is attended by untold numbers of saints and angels. When we go to Mass we are taken to the heavenly throne of God whether we know it or not. Christ is the same yesterday today and tomorrow. For God all times are now, all places are here.
There is only one Mass in all of history. The upper room, Calvary the inn on the road to Emmaus, the early weekday Mass and the 5PM Vigil Mass on Saturday evening are all the same thing. You aren’t just lounging in the 3rd row from the back near the closest door to the parking lot. You are standing before God’s throne in the presence of untold billions of saints and angels. Perhaps you can’t see them, but they can see you, and I think I hear some giggling among the smaller cherubs.
There you stand at the most exalted gathering in all of human and angelic history, wearing old plaid gym shorts a ripped T-shirt and flip flops. I suggest wear something a little more presentable. The seraphim and the patriarchs don’t think your knobby knees are quite as attractive as you do. It’s all about being comfortable, isn’t it? It’s a big enough bother to have to go to Mass anyway, God should be grateful just to see me there! And now you want me to wear actual clothing?
If the president were to invite you to the white House for dinner, would you wear flip flops and a T-shirt? The White House is small potatoes compared to Mass.
“You have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.” (Hebrews 12:22-24).
All the powers of Heaven and all the saints of Earth are there even if you can’t see them. And they are looking at you. And they think that outfit you’re wearing is ridiculous.