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Column: Dressing for Mass with respect and reverence

“Alison, you need to write a column about how to dress for Mass.”

This was my grandmother’s request a few weeks ago. It’s a good idea, as summer approaches and the thought of throwing a T-shirt over a swimsuit and stopping by Mass en route to the beach becomes more tempting.

In fact, as the weather warms up and the weekends get busier, just getting to Mass can be a challenge. Why should it be a priority?

The Catechism of the Catholic Church echoes the words of Lumen Gentium stating that the Eucharist is “the source and summit of the Christian life.”

When I had this on a PowerPoint for an eighth-grade confirmation class, it was actually an
adult who read it and asked, “Why do they make things so complicated?”

I chuckled, and then attempted to explain. To say the Eucharist is the source of the Christian life is to acknowledge that it is through the Eucharist that we receive the graces we need to follow Christ.

The “summit” is the highest point of something — in this case, our life as Christians. So our whole life should be oriented towards the moment when we will receive the Eucharist, our
source of grace.

What does this look like, at a practical level? It means that we orient our prayer, thoughts, words and deeds anticipating the moment that we will receive Christ in the Eucharist. When we are tempted to impatiently snap at the slow barista on a Tuesday morning, we recall that
we have received Christ and will receive Him again. This gives us grace to be patient, to be Christ-like.

Our prayer throughout the week is nourished by the knowledge that we have received Christ and directed towards the moment that we will receive Him again. This is easier said than done, but hopefully we already know how to prioritize.

Consider what we do when we’re meeting a good friend we haven’t seen in a while: we mark it off on our calendar to avoid timing conflicts. We arrive early. We turn off our cell phone and give them our undivided attention, staying until the conversation is over. We most certainly wear an outfit that says, “I took time and effort to prepare for this meeting.”

It’s true that God loves us regardless of our wardrobe, but when we give the Eucharist — the Sacrament through which Christ becomes physically present to us — the same attention and honor we’d give to the meeting of a good friend — we are allowing God greater intimacy
into our daily lives, and forcing our human nature to accommodate the Divine.

In the words of St. Irenaeus, “Our way of thinking is attuned to the Eucharist, and the Eucharist in turn confirms our way of thinking.”

Dressing with respect and reverence, arriving on time, giving Mass our undivided attention and staying to give thanks when it concludes is not something we do for God — or even Grandma — as much as ourselves, to help us draw closer to Christ on earth and anticipate our
eternity with Him in heaven.

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