Diving into my closet has lately required that I first elbow a long, white garment bag out of the way. Like a giant cocoon, the bag houses an unworn wedding dress. It had been intended for October 10th, but like many other events of 2020, my fiancé’s and my wedding was postponed to a future date.
It was hard some days to look at that dress and not feel the subtle gnaw of disappointment. A lot of work had gone not just into planning the wedding day, but into preparing the wedding dress alone. There were bridal shop visits, alteration appointments, and months of waiting until I could finally carry it home. Now that it was in my closet, I had the responsibility of keeping it clean and free of dust, not to mention disciplining my weight so that I could still fit in it on the rescheduled date.
Why the big fuss over a dress that I would only get to wear for a few hours anyway? I suppose a lot of girls grow up dreaming about feeling like a princess for a day. Personally, I always preferred practicality and would have liked to wear something simple with a pair of my comfy sneakers hiding underneath. My Catholic faith, however, taught me that what I was about to celebrate was about way more than just me. It was a sacrament and a solemn covenant that my future husband and I would make in front of God and all of our family and friends. What I wore on the outside would say a lot about my interior attitude and preparation. This was an occasion which demanded reverence, and at the very least a little more than throwing on the same shoes I wore to work every day.
When the weekend of October 10th came around, I was struck by the Sunday Gospel and what God Himself has to say about dressing up for a wedding:
Then he [the king] said to his servants, 'The feast is ready,
but those who were invited were not worthy to come.
Go out, therefore, into the main roads
and invite to the feast whomever you find.’
The servants went out into the streets
and gathered all they found, bad and good alike,
and the hall was filled with guests.
But when the king came in to meet the guests,
he saw a man there not dressed in a wedding garment.
The king said to him, 'My friend, how is it
that you came in here without a wedding garment?'
But he was reduced to silence.
Then the king said to his attendants, 'Bind his hands and feet,
and cast him into the darkness outside,
where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.’”
Turns out God takes the wedding garment very seriously. In fact, He has a lot more to say about it throughout Scripture:
“Can a young woman forget her ornaments, or a bride her wedding attire? Yet my people have forgotten me, days without number. How well you pick your way when seeking love! In your wickedness, you have gone by ways unclean!” (Jeremiah 2:32-33)
“I also saw the holy city, a new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.” (Revelation 21:2)
“Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready. She was allowed to wear a bright, clean linen garment. (The linen represents the righteous deeds of the holy ones.)” (Revelation 19:7-8)
“I will rejoice greatly in the Lord, My soul will exult in my God; For He has clothed me with garments of salvation, He has wrapped me with a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.” (Isaiah 61:10)
“Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the Church and handed Himself over for her, to sanctify her, cleansing her by the bath of water with the Word, that He might present to Himself the Church in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.” (Ephesians 5:25-27)
To me this is a reminder that God cares about what I wear on my wedding day, too. However, He is also concerned about how I dress interiorly, and how I dress for the wedding that is both “now and not yet.” The Catechism talks about this mystery, calling the sacrament of the Eucharist “the wedding feast” (CCC 1617). Each time I walk down the church aisle for Holy Communion, I should actually be wearing my “wedding garment”; that is, a clean soul. At the same time, we are taught that the Eucharist “anticipates the wedding feast of the Lamb in the heavenly Jerusalem” (CCC 1329). So I should also always be ready to enter the next life with a clean soul, which means that I should be living every day with anticipation and as one dressed for a wedding. I should be aware, too, that I am not only a guest at this wedding, but as a member of the Church, essentially I am the Bride. The significance of my earthly wedding day comes from the significance of my call to first be a Bride of Christ.
How much effort and attention had I been putting into this wedding lately? Was I awaiting it as anxiously as I await my earthly wedding? Was I letting my “wedding garment”, my soul, gather dust instead of turning to prayer? Was I staining it with sin, by indulging in self-pity, envy, materialism, or sloth? Was I surrendering and letting God make alterations, especially in this time of waiting, by cutting away my selfishness and control?
The dress hanging up in my closet, well past its date of intended use, has suddenly become a cause not for disappointment, but an opportunity for grace. It serves as a visible reminder of the greater wedding that I should fix my eyes upon and for which God is helping to prepare my soul. We are all invited to this wedding feast. Hopefully we opt for effort instead of comfort, bringing a beautiful wedding outfit instead of settling for our old sneakers.
Kendel Jordan is a Florida native with degrees in Theology and Psychology. She serves as a parish director of youth and young adult ministry and is currently learning how to navigate this role at a new parish and in a new town during the time of COVID. As if this wasn't exciting enough, she is also planning a wedding and rediscovering her love for writing. She always finds that God is writing a way more exciting adventure for her life than she could have ever written for herself. She is choosing to hope that this will all make for a cool saint bio one day.