“What are you going as?”

Nearing the end of October, if I asked you “What is the big holiday this month?” chances are you would say “Halloween.” Well, it’s not Halloween! You could have said St. Luke the Apostle, whose life we celebrated on October 18. Or St. Demetrios, on the 26th. Or, did you know that on October 31, our Church commemorates someone named St. Stachys, who was the first bishop appointed by St. Andrew the Apostle in a little town called Byzantium, that would later become Constantinople, and is still home to our Ecumenical Patriarch, Bartholomew, Stachy’s 269th successor?

But, since you probably thought “Halloween,” one of the things we can take an opportunity to reflect on is costumes. For school-aged children, around mid-October until the end of the month, what is one of the questions everyone seems to be asking everyone else about Halloween? “What are you going as?” In other words, what kind of costume will you be wearing?

Costumes are a funny thing. We don’t realize it most of the time, but throughout our life we all wear different “costumes.” A “costume” is apparel that expresses something about us, whether our profession or station in life, our interests, our personality, etc. In many cases, though, it might be more accurate to call the costume a disguise, since it hides our true identity. Some change with the ups and downs of life, while others remain for longer periods.

What are some of the “costumes” or “disguises” we might wear throughout our life? I am a soccer player. I am a doctor. I am a popular person. I am a happy person. I am a religious person. I am a sick person. I am a sad person. To make things even worse, we often wear many costumes at one time. I might wear a “sad person” costume all the time, but when I go to be with my friends, I put on the “happy person” or “everything’s fine person” costume or disguise. Sometimes we wear these costumes so frequently that we even begin to forget who we really are.

Now is an opportunity to be reminded of who we really are under all of those costumes.

For those of you who were baptized in the Orthodox Church, after you were dipped in the water for the third time and taken out, the Church chanted something for you:

Grant to me a robe of light, O most merciful Christ our God, You who clothe Yourself with light as with a garment.

And a white garment was put on you, to show that radiance of Christ and your own purity in that moment. And right after receiving that holy “costume,” you were about to be chrismated and so the priest said this prayer:

Blessed are You, O Lord God Almighty, the source of all good things, the sun of righteousness, bringing the light of salvation to those in darkness, through the appearance of Your only begotten Son and our God. You have given to us, unworthy as we are, the blessed purification of Holy Baptism and the divine sanctification of Holy Chrismation. You have now been gracious to regenerate also Your newly illumined servant by the water and the Spirit, and to grant them forgiveness of voluntary and involuntary sins. Grant to them also, O compassionate King of kings, the Seal of the Gift of Your Almighty and Adored Holy Spirit, and the Communion of the Holy Body and Precious Blood of Your Christ.

Keep them in Your sanctification. Confirm them in the Orthodox Faith. Deliver them from the devil and all his evil schemes. Through fear of You, O God, preserve their soul in purity and righteousness, that they may please You both in word and deed and may be a child and an heir of Your heavenly kingdom.

So, underneath any of the “costumes” that we pick up and put on in the course of this life, this is what is underneath: A child of God clothed in a robe of the Light of Christ. And what was the Church’s prayer? That we be preserved in purity.

At this time of year, many of our friends and neighbors might be caught up in the world of candy and make-believe and silly costumes, but we as Orthodox Christians have a year-round, everyday costume of our own that comes with a serious responsibility to keep it clean and pure, unobstructed from the sight of others. If we stop for a moment and are honest with ourselves and ask ourselves “What am I going as?” in this life, will we be able to honestly answer “a child of God,” or will we see other costumes in the way? Whether that costume is sadness, or pride, or greed, recalling our baptism is a cure for all of those things.

If we do this honestly, we will likely notice we have a few layers on. Thankfully, that robe of light never leaves us; all we have to do is take off the outer costumes that obscure the light of Christ in us. Never forget who you are.

[Adapted from this month’s GOYA meeting reflection.]

The Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Annunciation is a parish of the Metropolis of New Jersey of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, located in Baltimore, Maryland.

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