– said by myself, about myself; 10pm last night.
It’s Holy Week over here in Christianity, and as my place of work is rather permissible about dress code, I’ve been wearing a black nightgown since Sunday.
Sometimes it’s called a cassock, and at the Cathedral, they’re rarely worn (ours is not a particularly stuffy diocese), but I love the frippery and was inspired to wear my black pajamas throughout Holy Week by a Lutheran pastor friend in upstate New York (it occurs to me that he may wear his cassock morning-to-night throughout Holy Week because he serves something like four different parishes, and it’s just impractical to take it off every time he gets in the car to drive to the next church for a service, nevertheless).
I was struck yesterday when a colleague joked with me, “and where’s your big wooden cross?!” And now you, dear readers, may have a laugh: I hadn’t thought of the cassock as a symbol of suffering or asceticism until that very moment. Then I realized, of course!–many might see and assume that I was shaming myself, covering my body with black so to be clearly marked as sinful and dead.
My motivation is quite, quite different, however: it’s been my understanding that part of the reason priests have worn cassocks throughout history is to remind themselves that they are dead to themselves (this notion takes stark form when priests lie on the ground during the first set of prayers at their ordination to the priesthood) and alive in Christ (Romans 6:11).
For one, it’s been a bit warm in South Carolina this week, and reminding myself of the moment I laid on a cold stone floor on a December evening is a relieving memory indeed.
For another, wearing a big black dress cuts down on the whistles directed at me while walking down the street. People stop seeing Emily as an object or a skinny blonde (brunette?) and instead see me as a curiosity, or maybe even as a person.
Finally and mostly, I am a priest, called to point to Jesus in front of others (just as we’re all called to do!), and Holy Week gives me the push I need to drag the beautiful drama of the relationship between God and people out into the world. We put on special clothes when we go into the sanctuary to worship, clothes that remind us of what we believe we’re doing. For this week, I’ve gathered up the courage to dance around Columbia’s public streets in those clothes, marching my belief in Jesus as the Son of God into every place I walk.
For whatever reason, I flourish on contradiction; I am addicted to irony. I joyfully prance around in dark, trench-coat-like clothes, knowing that the death of my ego is the beginning of my real life. My church growing up didn’t allow women to be spiritual leaders, but instead of leaving the whole project behind, I held onto my Evangelicalism for dear life and became a minister anyway.
Isn’t the biggest (and best) irony of all time that God came to earth to be a human, and if that wasn’t enough, he lived as a poor servant, and if that wasn’t enough, he allowed himself to be unjustly put to death–and if that wasn’t enough, HE CAME BACK TO LIFE! (but I’m getting ahead of myself–it’s not Sunday yet, people.)