Remember when people dressed up for church on Sunday?
Nowadays, not so much.
Does it matter what people wear to church? Is the move to casual Sunday dress an important – or problematic – cultural shift?
The question involves many issues – how liturgy relates to culture, how liturgy relates to daily life, how the church views contemporary culture, how the church is hospitable, how the church’s liturgy prefigures the heavenly liturgy, how church authority constructively changes members’ behavior, and so forth.
In my less hopeful moments, I fear that the liturgy itself will go the way Sunday dress goes. That is to say, people’s increasing inability to feel right wearing formal, perhaps less comfortable clothing just because it’s the accepted norm pretty much overlaps with their inability to relate to the liturgy itself, which is by nature traditional and formal and structured.
Fr. Romano Guardini’s famous question, raised already in 1964, comes to mind:
Is not the liturgical act, and with it all that goes under the name ‘liturgy,’ so bound up with the historical background-antique or medieval or baroque-that it would be more honest to give it up altogether? Would it not be better to admit that man in this industrial and scientific age, with its new sociological structure, is no longer capable of the liturgical act?
Christopher Dawson also comes to mind, and his grand vision that liturgy would once again shape culture, as it had done in the Middle Ages.
What do you think? Should people dress up for church?