I was 7 and indignant, stomping up the street on my way to Sunday Mass, keeping a disdainful distance from my mother, and the queue of little ones she was shepherding up the hill, my straw Sunday hat dangling by its elastic from my fingers.
It was that very elastic that had fueled the argument with my mother moments before we walked out the door. At the august age of 7, I contended, I no longer needed an elastic band to keep my hat on my head, even in the prairie winds. My mother was clear, if the hat were on my head, the elastic would be under my chin. Period.
I still stand in awe of my parents, who could get six rambunctious, and occasionally willful, kids under the age of 10 washed, dressed, shoes tied, hats secured and out of the house to walk to Mass on a Sunday morning — and arrive on time. There was a rhythm to it, a bit of ritual. And with our Saturday night baths and the special garments to wear — the almost imperceptible scent of baptism mingled with that of my father’s shaving cream as he gave our faces one last scrub before we headed out the door.
All these years later, I am left with an enduring sense that Mass was something you prepared for, calmly, and with a bit of forethought. And when I dress for the Sunday Eucharistic, I still hear faint echoes of my own baptism, and those of my siblings and sons.
In a recent reflection on how to dress for Mass, theologian Kimberly Belcher suggests we begin by considering not our wardrobes, but our baptism: “I will wear my baptismal garment, which is not my own but was entrusted to the Church by Jesus and worn by my brothers and sisters through the ages. I will wear the eschatological garment, washed in the blood of the Lamb, which doesn’t seem to fit me all that well yet.”
Holding up our metaphorical baptismal garment in front of the mirror, to see how it fits, is one way to orient our preparations. We come to Eucharist because we were baptized; we see here our beginnings. We come to Eucharist as a foretaste of what we will find in heaven; we see here our end. We come to Eucharist as pilgrims; we see here our path, following those who went before us, leading those who will come after, walking with those who are here with us now.
What does this mean in practice? How can we get ready for Mass each week in the light of our baptism? Here are three different ways to wear your baptismal garment to the Eucharist. Give one or another a try this week, I promise there is no ironing required!
* Look to our beginnings, to salvation history. Read through the readings for the week. Spend five minutes mulling them over with God. What one line speaks to you? Let it shape your prayer for the week, listen for it at Mass.
* Taste what we long for in heaven. Pick one of the Eucharistic prayers, pray through it slowly and reverently. What do you hear that you hunger for most? Let that be your intention for Mass this week, bring that hunger to the table of the Lord.
* Consider what you are carrying on your pilgrimage. Spend 15 minutes with God seeing where you missed the mark this week. What is it that cries out for God’s healing touch during the penitential rite? Bring your small missteps to mind when we cry, “Lord, have mercy!” on Sunday.
Sunday may still find me tapping my feet on the driveway, waiting for a straggler, or tensely watching the minutes tick by at the light on Lancaster and Pennswood, but by shaking the wrinkles out of my baptismal garment earlier in the week I’m ready to celebrate when I arrive.
Prof. Kimberly Belcher’s reflection (http://bit.ly/ONOxh9)
The Mass readings (http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/)
The Eucharistic Prayers (http://old.usccb.org/romanmissal/order-of-mass.pdf