When I was at the beach with my family, the weather was extremely windy and cold. Not wanting to miss beach time, I layered up and trucked out to the beach anyway. I had two layers on my legs and five on my torso. Even my dog Mack Sweeny had a little fleece-lined jacket. I was determined to enjoy this time on the beach, cold or not.
The Germans have a phrase that can apply to both clothing and life: “There is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing.” (Es gibt kein schlechtes wetter, nur schlechte kleidung) In other words, do something about what you can control (your clothing) and stop fussing about what you can’t (the weather).
In the Letter to the Colossians, featured on the Feast of the Holy Family, it sounds like Saint Paul is giving fashion tips with a similar mindset. Control what you can control. He lists several virtues we can ‘wear’ if we choose:
Clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience… Above all, clothe yourselves with love. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts… and be thankful. (Col 3:12-14)
Like layers of clothing, Paul encourages the hearer of this passage to put on virtues as one would don an article of clothing. Wear compassion perhaps as an undergarment closest to your heart. Put over this a shirt woven with acts of kindness. Closer to the ground, humility could be the pants or the socks. Over these, a soft warm sweater of gentleness. Patience can be the scarf. One item covers them all – the overcoat of love “which binds everything together.”
Sufficiently attired, Saint Paul says to enter the world with two attitudes: “Let the peace of Christ control your hearts… and be thankful.”
I wore layers to protect me from the harsh realities of the winter beach. Saint Paul offers these ‘fashion tips’ to guide me through life’s harsh realities and help others do the same.
I look at this passage and realize it might form the nucleus of my 2024 New Year’s resolutions. I might post these on my bathroom mirror and pray with them while dressing. Once properly attired with both clothing and virtues for the day, I could conclude with the petition: “May the peace of Christ control my heart… and be thankful.”
Wouldn’t that be a great attitude with which to begin each day of the new year?