Dressed for the Occasion: The Wedding Feast (Telos Art Shop Collab)
Recently I collaborated with Telos Art Shop on the Dress for Mass Series, which is intended to inspire both women and men to think about their attire for Mass. It was reinvigorating to be able to reflect on the meaning of beauty, feminine expression, and how that is carried out in my clothing choices. Instead of writing a list of dos and donts, which we all know hardly ever goes over well, I took some time to reflect on what mass it, what it means to me, and how I can most fully participate in that.
You can the full article below, or click the link to see it on Telos Art Shop!
Dress For Mass Series
Dressed for the Occasion: The Wedding Feast
BY STEFFANI AQUILA, HIS GIRL SUNDAY
The Mass, The Wedding Feast
Of all the images used to describe the Mass, the one that speaks most profoundly to me is that of the wedding feast. Christ as the bridegroom unites Himself intimately with the Church, His bride, every time Mass is celebrated. At this glorious feast, Jesus offers Himself in superabundant love for us. Through that sacrificial offering of Himself, Christ freely gives His whole person, and we respond in exact imitation of that, body and soul, by partaking in the Eucharist. Consider this, every Sunday when we go to Mass, we are responding to Christ’s invitation to our own wedding feast. This is not just divine imagery, but a reality that we are called to fully participate in. Revelation 19:7 says, “let us rejoice and be glad and give Him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and His bride has made herself ready.” In the Sacred Liturgy, the Church embodies this verse by calling us to prepare ourselves before going to the altar of the Lord. One of the most significant ways we prepare ourselves is in how we dress.
“Let us rejoice and be glad and give Him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and His bride has made herself ready.” REVELATION 19:7
The Perfect Gown
While attending Mass every Sunday might not inspire the same wedding associations and sentiments, when I reflect on the Eucharist there are so many things about it that bring me back to my own wedding day. One of which is the way that I prepared myself both internally and externally to be an offering for my spouse. As most brides do, I spent hours going to multiple dress shop to find the dress that I felt would outwardly express that which I had been preparing inwardly for months. The time and intentionality spent on this task is not to be mistaken for vanity, but my true desire to be a beautiful gift before the Lord and my future spouse. I wanted a gown that would reflect the occasion of three people giving of themselves to the other: myself, my spouse, and God. In fact, the way that I felt in that dress brought me back to another holy day that is strikingly similar: my first communion. I have the sweetest memory of just how lovely I felt as I stood there in that satin dress with the lace veil. Just a little bride, waiting to process up to the altar to taste the precious body of Jesus that He so charitably offers me. God, in His infinite love and mercy not only gives of Himself to me like a spouse in the excitement of a wedding day or first communion, but in every single Mass. This is the lifelong continuation of the eternal wedding feast!
The Interior Matches the Exterior
The Holy Sacrifice does not substantially change or become more profound, honorable, or elevated on those specific sacramental occasions such as weddings, even though it often feels that way for us. And while I might not wear a long white gown to Mass every Sunday, I still try to dress as if I am attending my own wedding feast. Growing up in the South this was also culturally expected. I was not to wear jeans, anything low cut, short, or tight, and absolutely no shorts. Sunday best meant that you were to dress in the nicest outfit that you had in the closet because you are going to Church to worship God. With that perspective I learned very quickly that Mass was about giving all that we had to God, it was not about me or getting dolled up to be seen. In fact, I do not really feel any different when I approach getting ready for Mass versus getting ready to attend a friend’s wedding. And we really should not, because every Sunday we are accepting an invitation to the Heavenly wedding banquet that is being shared with us on earth. With that being said, I know from experience that this can sometimes be easier said than done! It is very tempting on a sleepy or chaotic Sunday morning to make common objections to wearing something nice. Things like, personal convenience, comfort, “God does not care what I have on as long as I’m there”, “the parish I am attending is casual”, etc. all begin to take a hard stand in my mind. While some of those thoughts might be true, there is something that is even more true: Jesus Christ is fully present, body, blood, soul, and divinity before me in Mass. If I really believe in the real presence of God in the Eucharist, offering His whole self to me, then I want to respond to the King of my heart in a similar manner with my whole self, including my outfit. In a way, this has less to do about appearance and more to do with what is in our hearts. Not every wedding dress has the same cost, but remember in the Gospel of Mark (12:41-44) the widow’s two coins given with a humble and loving heart are worth more than the fashionably dressed who give large sums only from their surplus wealth.
Dressing for the Occasion
More concretely, this does not look the same from Sunday to Sunday. And as I got older, I learned that getting dressed up for Mass is not always going to receive the same amount of effort and attention either, and that is okay. There is however one thing that cannot change, and that is whatever it is that I decide to wear from week to week, should have the same amount of expressed reverence. I liken it to my years as a pre-professional classical dancer. I would have never shown up to a class or audition in anything but the correct ballet attire. I was also taught by strict dance instructors to never wear that same ballet attire anywhere else but the studio. Essentially, I was trained to understand that there is a time and a place for what I wear, and this goes for Mass too. By dressing modestly, beautifully, and reverently I am not only expressing my belief, but also signaling to myself my interior state of readiness for Christ. This is what the occasion demands, out of respect for God, when I go to Mass to give worship, praise, thanksgiving, and sacrifice to our Lord. I am responding to my own wedding invitation, by offering my beloved the very best I have to give.
Steffani Aquila is a Communications Director for a parish and school, Catholic blogger, and ballet dancer. She is the owner of His Girl Sunday, a small business which seeks to provide families and parishes with resources to reinvigorate Catholic tradition. When she’s not doing those things, you can find her reading theological books, hosting parties for family and friends, or dancing down the aisles of Hobby Lobby. She has a B.A. from the University of St. Thomas and a Master of Arts in Theology from St. Mary’s Seminary.