Our pastor asked us all to wear red for Pentecost, which was Sunday, June 8, this year. The Feast of Pentecost, as we were taught as children, is when we celebrate the birthday of the Christian church, when the Holy Spirit descended on the apostles. The priest wears red vestments on Pentecost, so our pastor’s request that the congregation also wear red was appropriate for this feast day.
Unfortunately, my daughter decreed when she was about eight that I was never to wear red. She was quite adamant—red did not look good on me. As a result, I have bought very little red clothing in the past twenty years.
I was in a quandary. Should I do what my pastor wanted, or follow my daughter’s sartorial advice? In matters of fashion, I tend to respect my daughter more, even if the priest is a man of the cloth.
Yet I was scheduled to be a lector (reader) at church on Pentecost, which meant I’d be at the ambo near the altar, where everyone could see me. I should try to comply with the celebratory nature of the feast and wear red. And my daughter wasn’t in town to go to church with me, so she’d never know.
I made my decision. I would wear red. But what did I have that was suitable?
I had lots of pink clothes, ranging from pale pink to deep rose. But pink wasn’t red.
I had lots of peach and bronze clothes, though orange was as off limits, according to my daughter, as red. So I had no bright orange clothes. (Besides, I don’t like orange.)
I could do purple, though lilac was about as dark as my violets went.
But what did I have that was a true fire-engine red?
The pastor had said that even a Kansas City Chiefs t-shirt would be acceptable in church. (The Chiefs’ colors are red and gold.) But as a non-sports-fan, I don’t own any Chiefs paraphernalia.
I have one claret-colored cocktail blouse. It’s lovely, but is really too low-cut for church.
And I have an old Stanford University t-shirt that used to be my husband’s. Not suitable for church, though if Chiefs’ colors were okay, then shouldn’t Stanford’s cardinal red be equally acceptable?
I looked at a print sweater I have with a little orangy-red in its pattern. Too hot for June.
It was going to have to be the cocktail blouse. I tried it on. No. Too much cleavage. I’d have to go with peach or pink.
I made one last foray through the depths of my closet.
And found an old burgundy silk sweater that I hadn’t worn in at least seven years. I think I purchased it in about 1997, and I used to wear it to work regularly. By rights, it should have gone to Goodwill a long time ago. I must have unconsciously saved it for this occasion.
I tried it on. It wasn’t designed for today’s low-rise pants, and was likely to bare my midriff if I wasn’t careful. But I could legitimately say it was red.
I donned my highest-rise black pants, and set off for church, appropriately garbed for the Mass.
As I stood at the ambo reading, I looked out on the congregation. Many had complied with the pastor’s request, and were garbed in red. But many must have had the same problem I had. There were pinks. And purples. And oranges. And prints. One woman was dressed in black and white, but sported garish red lipstick.
There was someone in a Chiefs t-shirt—a nun, in fact.
And there were many who either hadn’t gotten the instruction, or who had ignored it, or, who, like me, had daughters that told them to avoid red.
We are Parthians, Medes, and Elamites, inhabitants of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya near Cyrene, as well as travelers from Rome, both Jews and converts to Judaism, Cretans and Arabs, yet we hear them speaking in our own tongues of the mighty acts of God.
Surely, all these visitors to Jerusalem were dressed differently, yet they all witnessed the coming of the Spirit. Hearing the mighty acts of God is why we go to church, not to show off our wardrobes.
Next year, I’ll wear peach.
When have you struggled with how to dress for an occasion?