This week’s reading has very detailed instructions about priestly vestments. Think special in the way of prom and wedding dresses. Clothes we wear for high occasions, for initiations, and that ready the wearer for ritual. In this case, white linens and a jeweled breastplate, and rituals of atonement and renewal.
Torah names a select few, and one High Priest, as initiated and elevated. In my cosmology, humanity is a nation of priests, each for another.
Some days I can see my robes and on other days yours. When it’s yours, I transcend knowing you don them on one arm at a time, just like I do. Instead I listen up, and can hear deeper truths from you about how I’m off-track and screwing up, or doing well, making good choices. I credit your stories with more authority.
Most problems in life come when my non-robe-wearing self butts into your non-rob-wearing self. If we could remember who we really are, we’d be less easily annoyed and frustrated by what’s said. We’d listen better and argue less. We’d tell stories of friendship, growth, and hope.
There’re days when you feel like a priest and days when you don’t. Days (or at least moments) when you walk around glowing with wow. Others when you’re cranky and nothing helps, no matter what you’re wearing. In those moments what I most need—and can seem furthest away–is to laugh. Or at least a good story.
Neil Gaimon’s sequel to American Gods dramatizes the transition from gods whose stories were tales of carnage, red in tooth and claw, to the rise of trickster gods and clever heroes. Gods who teach by making us think. The God of Torah is yet another evolution: a god whose stories open our consciousness and our hearts. Who helps us out of stuck. Who readies us to elevate both our stories and our souls.
Good priests do that too. Beyond conducting a great ritual, they invite you to see yourself in a clearer light: to witness, accept, and ask for more insight–from yourself and others, from holy messengers in every form. They bring you closer to the holiness inside and around you. They help you make more moments of your life feel sacred, or at least better.
The stories we tell matter. They make us priestly or competitive, feel holy or provoked. Because thought is the greatest trickster god of all. A thought can make you hungry or sad, satisfied or victorious. It’s all in how you tell your stories, and the rituals you conduct to reinforce them. Why choose anger when you could choose love?
Try to be and see the priest in yourself and others, even wearing jeans and an old t-shirt. Even in your nemesis or the guy asking for handouts. It’s harder, and usually we don’t. More often we judge our own or others’ distance from the very holiness we profess to aspire to. Each time we do, we fail an initiation.
Putting on your robes lets you access your wisdom and experience. Lets you leave stories of hurt, cynicism, and doubt in your past. And gives you new stories of love and hope.