Orthodox GQ


It never ceases to amaze me. Whenever you walk by a magazine rack, it is simply filled with the faces and bodies of women. Obviously, the female form sells products. Yet, I know that many women feel intimidated by these images of models with perfect face and form. But ladies, you are not alone-men get anxious as well when they thumb through the pages of magazines like Gentlemen’s Quarterly, or GQ. In those pages, the men are handsome, athletic, confident, well groomed, and perfectly dressed. Now, if a man is dressed fashionably, someone will say, “That guy is really GQ.”  I will use this phrase, GQ, a lot. When you hear it, think, “perfectly dressed.”

 I don’t think that there has ever been a time when I was GQ. I’ve always had this odd body shape and nothing ever seemed to fit me. In fact, among many childhood memories, one of the most consistently unpleasant experiences of my youth was going shopping for new clothes. My irritation and embarrassment grew with each new pair of pants that just didn’t seem to fit. There was one moment in time, when dressed in my Beatle boots and Nehru shirt, I thought I looked GQ. Others did not share that assessment.

 Orthodoxy has resolved the problem for me. Now, all I have to do is choose from either the gray or the black podrosnik (robe or cassock). Add black socks and sandals, pull my hair into a ponytail, and I am perfectly GQ. I should say that I am perfectly Orthodox GQ.  Precisely, I am Orthodox priestly GQ.

 What should Orthodox Christians wear to church?

 The parable of the wedding feast (Matthew 22:1-14) has a greater impact on me than before. When my daughter  got married,  my wife and I had to be the hosts and financiers of the wedding feast. It was a wonderful, happy, and joyous time. Everyone was dressed very GQ. It would have been very boorish to have had people show up in tank tops, t-shirts, and ragged jeans!  So, I  wondered about the guest in the parable who was not dressed properly, and was asked to leave. Apparently, he was not GQ and he paid dearly for it. The language is fierce. He was bound and cast out into the darkness. Well, then, since we also have been called to this wedding feast, we should get a clear idea of the  garment that makes for a well-dressed wedding guest. How can we be sure that  we are Orthodox GQ?

 We talk about putting on a new garment at  our baptism., Its important but that is how we get into the feast.  It is in fact our invitation and our entry into the banquet. Once inside, there is another garment to put on. I read somewhere that in ancient times, a king or some wealthy person would actually provide garments for guests. That reminded me of a time when I was invited for dinner to a country club. I was dressed well, but the head waited informed me that I must have a coat and tie. So, he brought me one. What could this wedding garment be?

 St. Gregory describes Orthodox GQ: “What then must we understand by the wedding garment but love? That person who enters the marriage feast is present in the holy church but without wearing a wedding garment, He may have faith, but he does not have love. We are correct when we say that love is the wedding garment because this is what our Creator himself possessed when he came to the marriage feast to join the church to himself.” (From the Forty Gospel Homilies, 38.9)

 So, the wedding feast is the Church and love is the garment that we must wear when we enter. It sounds pretty simple. I mean I love “love” and I’m all for it. The problem is that we can get pretty sloppy about it. I can say I love my wife and in the next breath talk about how much I love my new car. We think more of love as a feeling, and certainly our poetry and music reinforce that idea. So, if we feel it, all is well. If the feeling is gone, then love is gone, or so we think

 St. Paul was not so romantic about love:  “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, and always perseveres.” (1 Corinthians 13)  In Galatians 5, he tells us that the kind of love we are talking about is not a biological function, or a temporary hormonal imbalance. It is the fruit of the Holy Spirit.   Notice that there is not one word about feelings. Instead, St. Paul speaks of how love acts. For example, if love does not keep a record of wrongs, then there must have been wrongs committed, but no record was kept. If love is not easily angered, then there must have been reasons for getting angry. If love perseveres, then there must have been something challenging that invited love to quit and give up.

 When it comes to love, I’ve found it easier to talk the game than to walk it. The garment of “love” that I wear to church is a rag, filled with holes of pretension, and stained with feigned affection. I don’t think it will pass inspection. If God is love, as St. John says, then I am to be clothed in God. I am to “put on Christ” (St. Paul), and in such a garment there is no pretense. Love, for Jesus, was not a nice feeling or a pretty poem or even a deep philosophical discussion. The way Jesus lived demonstrated his love for us.  Jesus said it very plainly. “He who loves me keeps my commandments.”

 Love.  Its what the best dressed Orthodox are wearing this year. It is what keeps you in the bright light of the wedding party. It’s really Orthodox GQ!



One Response to “Orthodox GQ”

  1. John Swensen Says:

    Father John bless, I loved this! What other garment could clothe us properly than love for God and our neighbor.
    Kissing your right hand,
    I remain your humble servant,
    John Swensen

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