“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness, and patience, forbearing one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” Colossians 3:12-13
For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been practicing Lectio Divina with my good friend Macrina Wiederkehr. Not in person, but with her new book, Abide: Keeping Vigil with the Word of God.
It’s a beautiful book—a reflection of Macrina’s spirit. I wake up every morning anticipating this prayer time with someone I’ve met just once, but, because of her books, has come to feel like an old friend.
This morning’s chapter is entitled “Clothing Yourself with Virtues,” and the Scripture for Lectio is Colossians 3:1-17. Paul is urging the Colossian church to take off, or shed the earthly things—fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness—and to put on instead compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness, patience, and above all, love.
Macrina suggests we find a way to embody, or ritualize these words in our own lives. She shares an old monastic tradition called “dressing prayer,” where the sisters recited a prayer while dressing each morning; a reminder that they were putting on Christ each day. She goes on to suggest that we practice dressing in one virtue when we get up in the morning—to visualize ourselves putting on patience, gratitude, compassion, or love. “Invite it to breakfast,” she writes. “Keep company with it throughout the day.”
I slip into quiet, centering my spirit with the words “and above all these put on love.” What does love look like, I ask myself? If I were to clothe myself in love, what would I put on? A dress of flowers? A robe as blue as the morning sky? A batik shawl, steeped in the colors of the sunset?
Suddenly, my inner eye is illuminated as sunlight streams through the eastern window, and I know. In my mind’s eye, in the presence of this shimmering golden light, I watch myself getting out of bed, taking off my nightgown, and lifting my hands. Like David, I stand naked before my God.
“Dress me,” I whisper.
And while I worship and wait, the Bright Morning Star slips a gown of light over my head.