Sometimes we unwittingly begin to approach a familiar event in a manner that shows we no longer regard it with the special significance it requires. Dressing for Mass can be like that. Psalms 29:2 and 96:9 (depending on the translation) say to worship the Lord in holy splendor, holy array, or holy attire, which implies in a way that is set apart or that stands out in a special way in relation to God. Now it isn’t often (maybe never) that we consider something we wear as being holy, but we need to see the importance of the psalmist’s words in our worship life and how best to adhere to it.
Priests, deacons, and altar servers, wear special vestments for Mass, much different than those worn for the beach, to play sports, or to work in the garden. Their vestments are set aside for a special purpose, and involve much tradition. Since most of our wardrobes don’t allow for clothes to be set aside for mass attendance only, what guidelines are appropriate? Notice that we are encouraged to come to worship not in new and/or expensive clothing, but rather in a holy way. For those of us in the congregation, perhaps it is just a matter of dressing so as not to distract or offend others. We are at mass to worship the Lord, not to call attention to ourselves.
We acknowledge and accept that even some everyday places such as schools, golf courses, restaurants, and other places of business won’t admit entry unless we are properly dressed. And, most of us wouldn’t think of going to a special celebration wearing unsightly or unkempt clothes. In the parable about attending a wedding feast (Matt. 22:1-14), even Jesus indicated that there is a time when proper dress is expected. Our preparation and personal presentation at Mass should be regarded in a similar manner. While an official dress code may be difficult to define, it’s important to be prudent in this regard. For all age groups, clothing that is distracting or offensive in any way, whether because of the way it fits, what it reveals, or the symbols or wording that appear on it, needs to be avoided.
Since each week we come before the Lord to worship Him using holy vestments, vessels, prayers, and songs, so also should we come before him with a holy attitude and, conscious of the special event that is taking place, dressed in a manner reflective of holy attire.