Wedding Garment (Matthew chapter 22 verses 11 and 12)
09-02-2007, 01:56 PM
That's an interesting question.
The idea of 'being clothed' and 'putting on' is found in much of the New Testament, which explains and explores what Christ spoke of.
Here are some of the passages which seem relevant:
Quote:For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven: If so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked. For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened: not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life.
This speaks of our human physicality as being a 'tabernacle' or tent, and that it will be changed for something more permanent, an eternal building made by God Himself for us. This seems to me to describe something which is still physical but even more real than our present reality, just as a house made of bricks and stone is more solid than a tent.
And this passage speaks about the longing for something more real that many or most of us feel as we struggle with illness, weakness, sin and various other deficiencies in our present condition - but our new life will not be 'naked', we are not called to be purely spiritual beings, but it is the will of God for us that we be completed with a physicality, but a better and more substantial one. Heaven is not a ghostly sitting on clouds - as far as I can see from the Scripture and my reading of the Fathers - but we will have a new physicality that is described as 'life', even while our present physicality is described as 'mortality'.
So I think this passage would allow us to understand the 'wedding garment' as a new physicality which is filled with divine life, in every sense. Yes, indeed, filled with a Holy and Divine Fire, which in our present state is rather hidden, and manifested only occasionally as a glorious and uncreated light, but which in that state will be openly revealed, just as a wedding garment is the best and most expensive set of clothes a guest has.
Quote:He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels.
This passage suggests to me that the imagery of clothing uses whiteness, and this fits in which the traditional clothing of candidates for baptism who wear white, and in the West the clothing of those being confirmed is also white, and in recent times the dress of the bride at a wedding.
This passage suggests to me that those who are clothed by God are those who persevere in faith and life. I sense that this is important to Orthodoxy. The Christian Faith is not about intellectual acceptance of certain propositions, but about entering into life and persevering in life. I drive past a Baptist Church near my house and I notice that many of the things that they have on their posters are propositions about faith, not faith in Christ Himself as a person. Ultimately, though I do believe that right belief is necessary because like taking medicine, if we have wrong ideas we may harm ourselves or make ourselves ill, nevertheless we have a relationship with Christ, the Son of God, as we have a relationship with a doctor. We do not get health by believing propositions about our Doctor.
What I think I am trying to say is that the ones in white garments are not those who go to Church a lot, they are not those who believe that Jesus died for their sins as a mere proposition, rather they are those who entered into life, divine life, and persevered in that life and these garments are reflective of that life, and are white as a sign of the purity and holiness of this life.
Quote:I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent. Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.
Here again is another interesting passage which ties together 'overcoming' and 'white raiment'. There is also the idea of not being naked, which came up earlier. And there is the idea here also that these who are clothed are those who have invited Christ to become the centre of their life, the root and foundation, they are those who share His life and share their life with Him.
If we take a look at some of the passages which talk about putting on clothing we find:
Quote:And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light.
This opposes one type of clothing 'works of darkness' with another type of clothing 'armour of light'.
This suggests to me that our 'spiritual clothing' is not only something in the future but is something we should have a care for right now. Can the angels see how we are spirtually dressed, even if we can't? I wonder if I am dressed in dark and dreary tatters or if I begun in some small sense to prepare for the wedding banquet?
Quote:For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. (1 Corinthians 15:53-54)
This is another good passage with a clothing connection. As the first passage spoke of mortality and putting on life, so this passage speaks of corruption and incorruptibility, mortality and immortality. And I suggest that death, which shall be utterly defeated and eliminated is found in our corruptibility and our mortality, it is not merely the cessation of breath and heart-beat, or the separation of the soul from the body for a time, but it is all of the weakness and burden of our present state. This is death. But we shall be clothed with life.
Quote:For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. (Galatians 3:27)
And how do we 'put on' this new life? We are taught that it is through baptism, and this then leads to a need to understand what is meant by baptism in the Orthodox perspective. Not a mere ritual, but a renewal of our spiritual being and the beginning of the renewal of our physicality. We become a 'new man'. Indeed we become Christ, in that we share His life, and the word Christian does mean 'little Christ'.
All of this, all of these analogies, are far removed from the idea that a Christian is someone who goes to Church, believes things about God, or has a merely intellectual relationship with faith. To cover our nakedness it is not enough to 'know about' clothes. It is not enough to have owned a piece of clothing at some time in the past. It is not even enough to spend a lot of time in clothes shops! We need to put some clothes on and be in intimate connection with them such that all that we do our clothes do with us. In the same way we must put Christ on, not know about Him, not merely visit places where others have a relationship with Him, not even have prayed to Him at some time in the past. We need to be in an intimate relationship with Him, as close as between clothes and the one who wears them.
One last passage, and there are many others
Quote:And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. (Ephesians 4:24)
This is what I think the wedding garments are. They are the 'new man' we receive in baptism and must then 'live out' in the rest of our lives. This 'new man' only grows to maturity in a living and sacramental relationship with Christ. It can become stained and need renewal. It can become weak and need strengthening. It is a new principle of life within us which we must discover and live out from. (Indeed I have become recently interested in the ideas of the Society of Friends in regard to the indwelling light, which I think echo the traditional Orthodox descriptions of the spiritual life).
Even here though there is a linking of the new man with a change of life. The garments are white - holy and pure - and we do not receive new life so that we have an excuse to continue in sin. But this white garment is a gift from God without any obligation on His part. We do not receive this garment because we are good enough, because we are never good enough, we receive it so that we can begin to share in God's life, now and in the life to come.
Back to your question...
I think that the wedding garment IS related to the spiritualised body which we will receive, but also that it is related to our becoming spiritualised persons even now, since the source of our being has been spiritualised by union with Christ in baptism.
I hope some of this is useful, it certainly helped me to consider these passages.
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Wedding Garment (Matthew chapter 22 verses 11 and 12) - Mark Fletcher - 09-02-2007, 11:20 AM
 - admin - 09-02-2007 01:56 PM