Wednesday, 9 October 2013
Cardinal Ratzinger on Mass Vestments
Cardinal Ratzinger makes clear in his work 'The Spirit of the Liturgy' that liturgical vestments do not express simply the splendour of creation but convey something far more profound about our condition as wayfarers and our hope of incorruptibility.
''The liturgical attire worn by the priest during the celebration of Holy Mass should, first and foremost, make clear that he is not there as a private person, as this or that man, but stands in place of Another - Christ. What is merely private, merely individual, about him should disappear and make way for Christ. ''It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.'' (Gal. 2:20)...It is not he himself who is important, but Christ. He makes himself the instrument of Christ, acting, not from his own resources, but as the messenger, indeed as the presence, of Another - in persona Christi, as the liturgical tradition says. Liturgical vestments are a direct reminder of those texts in which St. Paul speaks of being clothed with Christ: ''For as many of you were baptised into Christ have put on Christ'' (Gal 3:27). In the epistle to the Romans, the image is connected with the opposition between two ways of living. To those who waste their lives in immoderate eating and drinking, in debauchery and licentiousness, St. Paul shows the Christian way: ''But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires'' (Romans 13:14). In the epistles to the Ephesians and Colossians, the same idea is interpreted in an even more fundamental way in relation to the anthropology of the new man: ''Put on the new nature, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness'' (Eph 4:24). ''You have put on the new nature, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator'' (Col 3:10f)...The goal is the inward renewal, his real assimilation to God...The image of putting on Christ is, therefore, a dynamic image, bearing on the transformation in Christ, and of the new community that is supposed to arise from it. Vestments are a challenge to the priest to surrender himself to the dynamism of breaking out of the capsule of self and being fashioned anew by Christ and for Christ. They remind those who participate in the Mass of the new way that began with Baptism and continues with the Eucharist, the way that leads to the future world already delineated in our daily lives by the sacraments.
In his two epistles to the Corinthians, St Paul gives further elaboration to the eschatological orientation of the image of clothing. In the first epistle he says: ''This perishable nature must put on the imperishable, and this mortal nature must put on immortality'' (15:53)...Paul describes the body of this earthly time as an ''earthly tent'', which will be taken down, and looks ahead to the house not made with human hands, ''eternal in the heavens''. He is anxious about the taking down of the tent, anxious about the ''nakedness'' in which he will then find himself. His hope is to be, not ''unclothed'', but ''further clothed'', to receive the ''heavenly house'' - the definitive body - as a new garment. The Apostle does not want to discard his body, he does not want to be bodiless. ..He does not want flight but transformation. He hopes for resurrection. Thus the theology of clothing becomes a theology of the body...The liturgical vestment carries this message in itself. It is a further clothing, not an ''unclothing'', and the liturgy guides us on the way to this ''further clothing'', on the way to the body's salvation in the risen body of Jesus Christ, which is the new ''house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens (2 Cor 5:1)''