Thursday, August 19, 2010

Vestments, Judas, and Joy

A parishioner recently ordered a new vestment for the church in memory of her late husband. The chasuble arrived while I was on vacation, and so we opened it today. Beautiful. And confusing. For many folks, worship is a beautiful but dubious priority. Remember Judas thinking that the oil might be sold for the good of the poor rather than "wasted" at the feet of Jesus. But few things are sadder than stingy Christians, and the arrival of this beautiful vestment recalled me to these words from Alexander Schmemann about the beauty and extravagance of worship. (As an added bonus, here are the vesting prayers traditionally used by clergy in preparation for worship.)

"...from its very beginning Christianity has been the proclamation of joy, of the only possible joy on earth...It is only as joy that the Church was victorious in the world, and it lost the world when it lost that joy, and ceased to be a credible witness to it. Of all accusations against Christians, the most terrible one was uttered by Nietzsche when he said that Christians had no joy."

"And they worshipped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. " (Lk 2:10)

"Enter thou into the joy of the Lord" (Mt 25:21). And we have no other means of entering into that joy, no way of understanding it, except through the one action which from the beginning has been for the Church both the source and the fulfillment of joy, the very sacrament of joy, the Eucharist."

"...the Eucharist is the entrance of the Church into the joy of its Lord."

"...when, expecting someone whom we love, we put a beautiful tablecloth on the table and decorate it with candles and flowers, we do all this not out of necessity, but out of love. And the Church is love, expectation and joy."

From Roman Guardini, quoted by Schmemann:
"[The life of the liturgy] is clothed in colors and garments foreign to everyday life....It is in the highest sense the life of a child, in which everything is picture, melody, and song. Such is the wonderful fact which the liturgy demonstrates: it unites act and reality in a supernatural childhood before God."

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