Tuesday, November 15, 2011

WWJW: What Would Jesus Wear?

One of the many benefits of getting a brand-spanking-new translation of the Mass is that there will be an opportunity for everyone at the liturgy to gain a deeper sense of appreciation and reverence for everything that is happening around them. The Mass - being what it is - should already hold captive all of the appreciation and reverence that we can muster, but with the universal Church now saying things like "through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault," our dependence on God should hit even harder and faster. What we say, especially when new and foreign, should cause us to think, reflect, pray, and enable us to praise God more through our words.

But another way to praise and respect God is by how we dress at Mass. What we wear for Mass has degraded into the same attire we'd wear to the movie theatre. These days, we dress up for weddings, for graduations, for dinner parties, and for a night out at the symphony. Great, wonderful events, for sure. But they all pale in comparison to Almighty God being made sacramentally present to us during the Mass. We dress up for an event because, on one level, what we are witnessing demands a certain amount of respect. And I'll be damned if I don't respect God. Sure, dressing up for a family dinner is nice, but dressing up for the Maker of the Universe? Surely it's a necessity?

The whole thing about dressing up for Mass though, boils down to what the Church teaches about the human person. We are not a spirit trapped in a body. We ARE spirit and we ARE body. As the Catechism states,

"The human person, created in the image of God, is a being at once corporeal and spiritual...the human body shares in the dignity of 'the image of God': it is a human body precisely because it is animated by a spiritual soul, and it is the whole human person that is intended to become...a temple of the Holy Spirit. ...It is because of its spiritual soul that the body made of matter becomes a living, human body; spirit and matter, in man, are not two natures united, but rather their union forms a single nature" (362-366).

Unfortunately, since The Fall, our nature has been negatively affected, and so instead of being in harmony, soul and body are often at odds with each other (though still united). But that does not change the fact that as a human person, soul and body, outward appearances should reflect inward dispositions.

The body is the only way that the spirit can be perceived - Blessed John Paul II went so far as to say that the human person is an embodied spirit, or a spiritualized body. Because both soul and body make up one nature, what happens to one affects the other, and one reflects the other, even in our fallen state. Just as an emotional experience can present itself physically (falling to our knees, for example), so too can a physical  experience present itself spiritually. What we do, whether in body or in spirit, is begging the other part of our nature to be a co-author. If we truly believe in our hearts that the actual Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ is there on the altar, and if we can feel it flowing through spirit, then we should show it flowing through body, and consequently in how we dress, making the best of our current financial situations.

Some people might say, "okay, so outward appearances should reflect inward dispositions. But sometimes I just can't comprehend what is going on in Mass. Sometime I feel like a complete failure, so shouldn't I wear something sloppy to show that?" Hmm. "Sometimes the Eucharist confuses me. So wouldn't it be better to wear flip-flops, ski pants, and a sweater vest?"

While wearing that combination of clothing would definitely let me know that you are confused, it would be missing the point. Yes, outward appearances should reflect inward dispositions. But not necessarily inward dispositions as they are; rather, inward dispositions as they ought to be. I might find it to be the biggest hassle in the world to drop my sister off at work every other day, but the more I do it, the more I find myself wanting to do an act of charity. The physical act affects the spiritual disposition. The real question is, SHOULD we feel like a complete failure? SHOULD we be resisting faith and reason? Or should we be letting God reign in us completely? Of course the latter. So whether it is spirit or body that is resisting, we should at all times be striving, as much as we can, to unite ourself, so that we can unite to Him. It's not too much to ask. Christ said, "Be perfect therefore, as your Heavenly Father is perfect" (Matthew 5:48).

Jesus must've really known what He was doing. I have to trust that, because otherwise nothing makes sense - besides all the theology, a big reason that people don't feel like they need to dress up is because the Mass is so humble - it still just looks like bread and wine. If Jesus were to make it that every time the Eucharist is exposed, a sudden bright light would appear, the choirs of heaven would burst through the church ceiling, and tongues of fire would land on every person's head while a man would sit above the altar wearing a crown, I'm sure people would put on their "Sunday Best", stand up straight, and pay attention. Heck, I'm willing to bet they'd never leave.
Kinda like this.
Maybe the Mass is the way it is, veiled in signs, so that we have an opportunity to align ourselves properly; to fight and yearn for the best, with faith. Now we have an even better opportunity to strive for this unity with the new translation. Let's show Christ some reverence, with our words, with our actions, and with our whole self!

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