My blogging neighbor, Leah Libresco sets out to review Gary Wills’ book on the priesthood “Why Priests? A Failed Tradition”. I haven’t read the book, But I’ve heard enough about it and him to know that I don’t want to.
Leah addresses Wills’ critique of vestments:
A priest doesn’t vest to draw attention to himself, but to what he does. In vestments, priests become a little anonymous. The sacraments work ex opere operato, from the work done, not the merits of the person carrying it out. The ornate robes tell us what work the priest is prepared to do, just as oxygen tanks and helmets mark out firefighters.
The uniform of a first responder is functional and battered. But Willis is correct to note that vestments are superfluously beautiful. They are more than seems necessary, more than we would ask for ourselves. They are meant to remind us of grace.
Boy. Leah gets it. I remember getting ready for my first Mass and thinking about what vestment I would wear. In the end I decided on one that was gold with an appliqué of a crowned “M” in honor of the Blessed Mother. I do admit, the vestment is ‘loud.’ But it is also stunningly beautiful. I didn’t wear it to make myself look better, but rather to direct our attention to the beauty of the liturgy and of God Himself. The chasuble I wore for my first Mass was a gift from my Mother and Step-Father. I’ll always have it. And when I do wear it I’m reminded just what Leah wrote of… That I’m entering into something sacred, something special, something other worldly.
Make sure to go and read Leah’s whole post. It’s great.