People often remark at how dazzling-white our Dominican habits are. The question they frequently ask goes something along the lines of, “How do you not get it dirty?” I usually respond to this question, “Well, it does get dirty, but we clean them often enough.” I realized that this shows the symbolism in our habits.
As consecrated religious, our habit is a sign of our total self-gift to God. But our Dominican habits also symbolize, in a certain way, the life of every Christian. Just as we are reminded of God’s presence and actions in our lives when putting on the habit each day, each Christian should remember that he has put on white garments through baptism. Christ has won us eternal life, and when we are incorporated into his body in baptism, we begin already here below to shine with the brilliance of his Transfiguration.
But as we all know, there are problems that dim this light. Sin can still soil the white habits of our souls. Just like Dominicans gathering stains from their daily duties and ministry, all Christians, being weak and wounded people, can tend to tarnish the splendor of grace that God has given to us as his adopted children. When this happens, especially if the stain is serious, we go and clean these white garments in the sacrament of confession. After absolution, our souls are restored to the splendor of grace, just like a cleaned habit.
We must also remember that, while a habit can become useless because of a bad stain that won’t come out, our souls can never be definitively ruined. We must acknowledge the horrific and destructive nature of sin, but we must also not become discouraged from our falls and think that all is lost. Jesus has overcome sin through his victory over death. Consequently, his never-failing mercy is always available for us to receive so that we might be cleansed. When we receive this mercy and live as he has called us, we display his glory by way of our Christian dignity, and this radiance can captivate those we come into contact with. Just like a group of friars walking down the street, the glowing light of a holy soul can turn heads, for these things show us the beauty of heaven. The Lord deeply desires to supply us with this gift in our daily walk, as we hear from St. John: “from his fullness we have all received grace upon grace.”
So while sins can be disheartening just like stains, let them be washed away by the blood of the Lamb. We must recall that repentance and God’s forgiveness allow us to become clean once again and to radiate the joy that comes from a life lived with the Light who is Christ.
Photo by Fr. Lawrence Lew, O.P. (used with permission)