The Wedding Garment

First and second finding of the Honorable Head of the Holy Glorious Prophet, Forerunner, and Baptist of the Lord, John

My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,

By Saint Gregory the Great

"And when the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment" (St. Matthew 22:11).

What is meant, brethren, by this wedding garment? It cannot signify either baptism or faith, because who can enter this marriage feast without baptism or without faith? Because undoubtedly the mere fact of not believing excludes one from the Church.

So what can we understand by this wedding garment but charity? We must suppose then, that this man enters without a wedding garment who is a member of our Holy Church by reason of his faith, but who lacks charity. It is so called with good reason because our Maker wore it when He came as a bridegroom to unite Himself to the Church. There was no other means than God's love by which the Only-begotten could unite the souls of the elect with Himself. This is why St. John tells us: "God so loved the world that He gave His Only-begotten Son" (St. John 3:16). He who came to men for love's sake, calls this love the wedding garment.

All of you, then, who are members of the Church and believe in God have indeed come to the marriage, but you are without a wedding garment if you discard the cloak of charity. If any of you is invited to an earthly wedding, he changes his dress so that he may show the groom and bride his participation in their joy; he would be ashamed to appear shabbily dressed among the guests and merry-makers. We assist at God's marriage feast and nevertheless, we are loath to undergo a change of heart. The Angels rejoice when they see God's chosen ones admitted into heaven. How do we visualize this spiritual banquet, those of us who lack that festive garment which is the only one that gives us beauty in God's sight?

We must remember that, as a cloth is woven between two wooden frames, one above and the other below, thus also charity is founded on two precepts: the love of God and the love of our neighbor. For it is written: "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart and with thy whole soul and with thy whole mind and with thy whole strength...and thy neighbor as thyself" (St. Mark 12:30). It is worth noting here that a limit and measure is set to the love of our neighbor, as we read: "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself." The love of God, however, is marked by no limit, as we are told: "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul and with thy whole mind and with thy whole strength." We are not told, then, how much we must love, but the manner in which we must do so: with everything we have. For only he truly loves God who does not think of himself.

It is necessary to observe these two precepts of charity if we desire to be found wearing the wedding garment. This is what the prophet Ezekiel means when he tells us that the front of the gate of the city built on a mountain measures "two cubits" (Ezekiel 40:9); for undoubtedly we cannot enter the heavenly city if in this church, which is called the gate because it is outside that city, we have no love for God or man. As we see also in the book of Exodus that it is prescribed that the curtain destined for the tabernacle should be dyed twice "in scarlet" coloring (Exodus 26:1). You, my brethren, you are the curtains of the tabernacle, veiling by virtue of you faith the heavenly mysteries in your hearts. But the curtains of the tabernacle must be twice dyed in scarlet. That is a color like fire. And what is charity, if it is not fire? But this charity must be twice dyed, that is, steeped in the love of God and in the love of our neighbor.

The man who loves God so that his contemplation leads him to forget his neighbor has indeed the color of scarlet, but not twice dyed. Again, he who loves his neighbor, but whose love leads him to forget God, has the color of scarlet but with a single dye. In order that your charity may be steeped in both, you must be inflamed with love of God and of your neighbor, so that compassion for your fellowman does not induce you to abandon contemplation of God, nor an excessive desire for that contemplation make you cast aside all pity. So, every man who lives among other men should seek God, the object of his longings, but in such a fashion as not to abandon his neighbor; and he should help his neighbor in such a say that it will never check his progress towards God to whom he speeds.

We know that the love which we owe to our neighbor is sub-divided into two precepts, as we read in Scripture: "See thou never do to another what thou wouldst have to have done to thee by another" (Tob. 4:16), and Christ tells us: "As you would that men should do to you, do you also to them" (St. Matthew 7:12). If we act towards our neighbor as we should like him to act towards us, and avoid doing to others what should be displeasing to us ourselves, then we observe the law of charity. But no one should think that he observes this law merely because he loves his neighbor; he must examine first the motive behind his love. For he who loves others, but not for God's sake, had not charity, even though he may think he has.

True charity lies in loving our friend with and in God, and our enemy for God's sake. He loves for God's sake, who loves even those by whom he is not loved. Charity is usually proved only by the opposing trial of hatred. So that our Lord says: "Love your enemies. Do good to them that hate you" (St. Luke 6:27). The man who loves his avowed enemies is following this command...

See the King entering the feast, see how He scrutinizes the disposition of our heart. To that man whom He finds stripped of charity, He says in rapid anger: "Friend, how camest thou in hither not having on a weeding garment?" It is striking, dearly beloved, that He calls this man "friend" at the same time as He reproves him, as if His real meaning were: Friend and no friends; friend by faith and no friend by his actions. But he was silent, since--with what pain we must say it--in that Final Judgment no word of excuse can help us, for He Who accuses us outwardly is also He Who accuses the soul's interior depths, who is a witness of our conscience. And yet we cannot forget that, if anyone has this garment of virtue, although not perfectly woven, he should not despair of obtaining the forgiveness of this merciful king when He comes, since He Himself gives us this hope when He says through the Psalmist: "Thine eyes did see my imperfect being, and in thy book all shall be written" (Psalms 138:16). We have said these words for the consolation of those who have charity, although weak...

There are some who never tried to do good; there are others who, although they began once, failed to persevere. We see one man pass nearly all his life in wickedness, but as he nears its end he returns to God by repentance and true penance. Another may seem to live the life of a saint, but end his days by falling into error and malice. One begins well and ends better; another plunges into evil from an early age and goes from bad to worse throughout his days. Each man, then, must live in fear, for he does not know what is to come, since we must never forget, but rather often repeat and meditate on the words: "Many are called but few are chosen."



The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.

With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+Father George