Sunday, February 8, 2009

Is there a place for priestly vestments?

1 “Now take Aaron your brother, and his sons with him, from among the children of Israel, that he may minister to Me as priest, Aaron and Aaron’s sons: Nadab, Abihu, Elemazar, and Ithamar. 2 And you shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother, for glory and for beauty. 3 So you shall speak to all who are gifted artisans, whom I have filled with the spirit of wisdom, that they may make Aaron’s garments, to consecrate him, that he may minister to Me as priest. 4 And these are the garments which they shall make: a breastplate, an ephod, a robe, a skillfully woven tunic, a turban, and a sash. So they shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother and his sons, that he may minister to Me as priest. (Exodus 28:1-4)

Not having grown up in the Anglican Church, I have never had an appreciation for the vestments worn by the Anglican priests. This passage speaks at many levels. First, the office of priest is a male office: "Aaron", "your brother", "his sons". All these references are to male leadership in the realm of worship. Second, the priestly vestments are "holy garments ... for glory and for beauty". Each Sunday, as our Anglican priest dons differently coloured vestments, with a variety of symbols and colours appearing during different seasons of the liturgical calendar, I am growing to appreciate their assistance in thinking about the all-encompassing Gospel and its applicability to all of life. Worship is to be in the context of beauty and holiness, and the aids to worship, as symbolised by the priestly vestments, can enhance thoughts of beauty and holiness.

Symbols, without content, can become hollow, religious crutches. However, if the symbolism is expounded, they can become short-hand statements of spiritual truth. I can worship the Lord without the aid of vestments, but for a season I am enjoying worship with the aid of vestments and other church symbols. At the moment I am enjoying the freshness of the experience. When the symbols become hollow forms, then it will be time to move on.

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