We’ve all heard the phrase, “putting on Christ.” It’s been around for a long time. St. Paul started it, in his letter to the Romans:
Let us then throw off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the desires of the flesh. (Romans 13: 12, 14; emphasis mine)
So how, exactly, do we go about following St. Paul’s advice? For me, this verse always brings to mind other things that are “put on.” We put on our clothes, our shoes, a theatrical play, our make-up, or a happy face. Some people put on airs, or a brave face, or their thinking caps, but St. Paul is obviously speaking of wrapping ourselves in the light of Christ, in order to be adequately protected from the darkness. I interpret all of these other “put-ons” as merely surface attire. Our clothes, our shoes, a happy face – these things don’t penetrate to the interior. They’re for corporeal modesty and protection, or adornment. In this fallen world, “put-ons” are often used to make an impression on others, or possibly even to deceive.
Paul’s exhortation might be better understood by using other verbs in place of “putting on.” We could enrobe, wrap up, veil, shroud, cover, enfold, shield, or mantle ourselves with (or in) Christ. (On a side note, mantle is the English translation of mantilla, which is another name for the chapel veil used by women, most often in the Traditional Latin Mass. Learning that little tidbit gave me a better understanding and appreciation of this once cast-aside practice, which is swiftly gaining acceptance once more.)
When we put on Christ, as St. Paul implores the early Christians, our relationship with Christ becomes a very intimate and submissive relationship. As Pope Benedict XVI said, in his World Youth Day message of 2011:
Christian faith is not only a matter of believing that certain things are true, but above all a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. It is an encounter with the Son of God that gives new energy to the whole of our existence. When we enter into a personal relationship with him, Christ reveals our true identity and, in friendship with him, our life grows towards complete fulfillment.
It’s a decision we must consciously make, to allow ourselves to be fashioned into the image of Christ. When we do so, we also wear the armor of Christ, with His protection from the powers of darkness. And just like putting on clean clothes every day, we have to voice our commitment to Jesus on a daily basis, by prayer and other daily devotions, and by calling on the intercession of our Blessed Mother to keep us strong and faithful to Her Son. She, and the canonized saints of the Church, are the exemplary models for truly “putting on” Christ.
The whole idea of it sounds so beautiful to us, until we fully grasp the truth, and then, quite naturally, we get a little nervous, because a life lived in submission to Christ Jesus means standing within the shadow of His cross. Suffering will come our way, one way or another, but being united to Christ gives meaning and purpose to our suffering, while drawing us ever closer to Him. With Christ as the raiment of our bodies and souls, we will have ready access to God’s abundant grace, which is sorely lacking now in the hearts of men. That grace will always be sufficient to our situation, no matter how weak and overwhelmed we feel, when we are immersed in our Savior. As St. Paul reveals,
(The Lord) said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” I will rather boast most gladly in my weakness, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me. (2 Corinthians 12:9)
Pope Benedict’s address to the youth in 2011 continued with these encouraging words:
Try each day to follow Christ’s word. Listen to him as a true friend with whom you can share your path in life. With him at your side, you will find courage and hope to face difficulties and problems, and even to overcome disappointments and set-backs. You are constantly being offered easier choices, but you yourselves know that these are ultimately deceptive and cannot bring you serenity and joy. Only the word of God can show us the authentic way, and only the faith we have received is the light which shines on our path.
Take a closer look at your “spiritual outfit” as you begin each day. Do you take the time to clothe yourself in Christ each morning, or does the hurried pace of life make you forget the most important part of your wardrobe? Christ is the essential element. Put on Christ! Wrap yourself up snugly in His Light and Love, let go of the things of this world and fear not, and everything else will fall into place.
Copyright 2020 Charlene Rack