Today’s prompt is dramatic, and there are several ways I could choose to interpret that. I could talk about some of the ways that God chooses to call us – many of them powerful, dramatic, and ultimately life-changing – or I could talk about the way our Christian rituals can be dramatic. I think, ultimately, I’d like to discuss the second option, if only because I think so much of the real meat of our Sacraments is lost in today’s world. In our rush to get everything done fast, we sometimes blow through incredible life events with only the barest understanding of what is truly taking place.
Like many folks, I attended Mass this morning at my parish church. Today was not a very good day for me on the pain scale, so I was forced to wear a comfortable set of pants today and a loose t-shirt to avoid aggravating anything. Typically, I make an effort to wear “dressy” clothes to church – a skirt or office pants with a blouse or long-sleeved shirt, or even a modest dress. This is not my normal wear, and I try to keep it that way. The Eucharist is a miracle; it is a weekly (or daily, if you are able) reminder of Christ’s sacrifice for us and our salvation. It is a sign of my respect for, and acknowledgement of, the incredible gift I witness that I separate it from my norm by changing things up.
In addition to dressing up, I have also begun to wear a traditional mantilla to church as well. While as far as I can see this is definitely abnormal in the Anglican sense, it’s a tradition I have admired from afar for a long time, and truly respect. It is an outward acknowledgement of my belief in the presence of God and Jesus at the Mass, and it also links me to my role models of the past, who, without any doubt, wore veils or hats to church as a sign of respect. While I am the only one in my parish who chooses to veil, I am fortunate that it is accepted without question, and it has made my transition into observing this beautiful tradition that much easier.
However, it is definitely a dramatic shift in perception to do even small things like dress up or wear a veil. In today’s world, so many will go to church dressed for it as any other day. They simply sit in the pews and listen, and don’t absorb the whole of what is really taking place at the altar. The Eucharist is a gift that was so dearly bought for us, and I like to think that Christ’s sacrifice deserves two hours of wearing something nice and modest. Like so many of our Sacraments – which have both inward and outward symbols – surely clothing can be the same way. It represents an outward acknowledgement that we understand that something important is happening that day, and we change ourselves and our habits accordingly.
The Eucharist is just one of our Sacraments where so many don’t seem to truly grasp what’s going on. Baptism is often just seen as something on a large laundry list of things to get done when one has a child. There’s no real discussion of how momentous an occasion it truly is; it’s just something that the family says needs to happen. I often hear from many New Age-y friends that Christianity lacks deeper mysteries, and I think that is furthest from the truth as anything could be. Christianity has an incredible depth – what it lacks is appreciation from many congregations when it comes to its rituals and mysteries.
Don’t make Mass, and your faith, just another something that happens in your life. Make every Mass you attend special in some way. Wear a nice shirt. Do your hair differently. Fast before receiving the Eucharist, as people used to do. Heck, arrange for a parish brunch every week following the service, if that’s what it takes. But whatever you do, don’t become complacent, and take our Lord’s sacrifice for granted. It is special. The Mass is special. Our traditions matter. Become a beacon of faith for those who don’t yet understand what we do, and become closer to God as a result.