Word Magazine April 2000 Page 14
CLOTHES MAKE THE MAN
By Very Rev. Stephen Rogers
“Clothes make the man.”
That old adage aptly states that what we wear goes a long way towards determining how we perceive ourselves and are perceived by others. Billions and billions of dollars are spent each year in this country on the garments we wear. From formal wear to beach wear, shopping for clothes has become the national religion, with the shopping mall serving as the cathedral. We use our clothing to cover up our imperfections and to draw attention to our finer points. We wear clothing to identify with a sports team, a culture, a lifestyle or an economic class. What we wear says who we are, or more honestly, who we would like to be.
On the Sunday preceding Holy Week, the Glorious and Brilliant Entrance of our Lord Jesus Christ into Jerusalem (Palm Sunday), we read in the Gospel of Matthew of a different use of clothing. “At that time, when Jesus drew nigh unto Jerusalem and was come to Bethpage unto the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples saying unto them, ‘Go into the village and you shall find an ass tied and a colt with her; loose them and bring them to me’.” And further in the Gospel, as Jesus entered Jerusalem we read, “And a very great multitude spread their garments in the way and others cut down branches from the trees and strewed them along the way.”
What a contrast to the tragedy of Adam in the garden. We read in Genesis 3 that Adam, after disobeying God and eating of the forbidden fruit, hid himself from God, being ashamed of his own nakedness. And when Adam was forced from Eden, we read that God made clothing of skin for Adam and Eve for they had lost their innocence.
Ever since that tragic fall, man has attempted to hide his true self from God. We clothe ourselves in self-righteousness, in pious words, in works of charity, concentrating on our external appearance and not what lies within. We “adorn” ourselves in good causes and external niceties to give the outward appearance of righteousness while covering up the slander, anger, hatreds and resentments we harbor internally in our hearts.
But here on the threshold of Holy Week, at the beginning of that final procession to the cross and empty tomb of Christ, our Lord makes His entry, His appearance. How shall we greet Him? Shall we cover ourselves in outer finery or shall we cast off the garments we hide behind so that they may be trampled underfoot by our King?
Shall we remain outwardly adorned, dutifully attending services and fulfilling our religious obligations because that is what we want people to see? Or shall we cast aside those externals that mask our true selves and say to our Lord, “Here I am as I really am,” unadorned, blemished, spiritually naked before God? Shall we stay “true to form” or be transformed? As God approaches shall we attempt to hide as Adam did or shall we greet our Lord with “Hosanna!”
If we desire truly to be transformed by the power of the cross and empty tomb of Pascha, if we seek truly to meet this King that approaches on Palm Sunday and be “clothed with our habitation which is from heaven” (2 Cor. 5:2), then let us strip away the pretenses we cover ourselves with and cast them down before our approaching King so that He may enter in. Let us offer ourselves as we truly are, in humility and contrition, and He will clothe us in righteousness. Let us offer ourselves and cry out, “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest.”