Vatican City (AsiaNews) – Love towards God and one’s fellow man is the “garment” with which we will appear to the feast in the sky.” And “clothing yourself with Christ” was the thread around which Benedict XVI weaved his homely for the Chrismal Mass, devoted largely to the symbolism of the liturgical vestments which ultimately represent divine love. Because only God’s love “may cleanse our unclean vestments” and, “despite our darkness, transform us in ‘light in the Lord’, someone without love is dark inside. The external darkness mentioned in the Gospel only reflects the heart’s inner blindness.”
The Chrismal Mass, which begins the Easter Triduum, involves the renewal of priestly vows and the blessing of the oil of the catechumens, the infirm and the Chrism. Contained in big silver vessels—the one with oil for catechumens was carried by two soon-to-be-baptised young Japanese—the “Holy Oils” were blessed by the Pope.
It is a ceremony performed today in all the cathedral churches of the world, a moment in which priests renew their vows. In St Peter’s Basilica thousands of priests dressed in white took part in the service.
“Saint Paul,” the Pope told them, “explicitly uses the image of clothing when it comes to Baptism: ‘For all of you who were baptised into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ,’ (Gal 3: 27). Here is what we do in Baptism: We clothe ourselves with Christ. He gives us His clothing which is not something external for it means that we enter in existential communion with Him so that His and our being come together compenetrating one another.”
“Christ wore our clothes, the pain and joy of being man, his hunger, thirst, weariness, hopes and disappointments, fear of death; all our anguish till death. And he gave us His ‘clothes’.”
“This theology of Baptism,” Benedict XVI said, “comes back again with new insistence in the priestly ordination. As in Baptism, which entails an exchange in “garments, in fate and a new existential communion with Christ, the priesthood also means an exchange. In administering the Sacraments the priest acts and speaks in persona Christi. In the sacred mysteries he does not represent or speak for himself but speak for the Other: Christ.”
As the priestly ordination is performed, “the Church externally makes visible and touchable this reality of ‘new garments’ by dressing priests in liturgical vestments. This external gesture makes evident the internal event and the tasks that it entails: Clothing yourself with Christ, giving oneself to Him as He gave Himself to us. This event, ‘Clothing yourself with Christ,’ is re-presented again and again in each Holy Mass when we wear the liturgical vestments. Wearing them is much more than an external action; it means answering again ‘Yes’ to our task.”
“When we approach the liturgy on behalf of Christ we realise how far we are from Him; how much uncleanliness exists in our life. Only He can give us garments for feast days, make us worthy to preside His table, to remain in His service.”
For a “right celebration” of the mass, the Pope spoke about the “discipline of the senses and thoughts.” He said: “My thoughts should not wonder hither and thither as daily concerns and expectations would have it. My eyes and ears should not be attracted by what I see in the church. [Instead,] my heart should quietly open up to the Word of God and gather in the Church’s prayer so that my thoughts can be directed by the words of the annunciation and prayer. My heart must turn to the Lord who is in our midst. This is what ars celebrandi means: the right way to celebrate. If I am with the Lord as I listen, speak and act I shall draw people into the communion with Him.”
But “with the clothing of light that the Lord gave us in the Baptism and, in a new way, in the priestly ordination, we can also think about the wedding dress which He talks about in the parable of the banquet of God.”
In quoting Matthew’s version, the theologian Pope said that “when the king came in to meet the guests he saw a man there not dressed in a wedding garment [and had him cast] into the darkness outside. Unfortunately, among those guests to whom he had given a new garment, the king saw that some were not wearing the crimson colour of the dual love for God and fellow man. Someone without love is dark inside. The external darkness mentioned in the Gospel only reflects the heart’s inner blindness (cf Hom 38: 8-13).”
Finally, the Pope said, “let us ask the Lord to remove all hostility from our inner self and ban our sense of self-sufficiency; let Him truly clothe us with the garment of love so that we may be luminous people, far from darkness.”