There are two questions: (1) what does Father Jacob Carazo’s dress have to do with today’s readings? (2) What does the Canticle of Zechariah have to do with today’s readings? Our word, “Habit,” comes from the Old French habit, “clothing, (ecclesiastical) habit; conduct” (12c.), from Latin habitus “condition, demeanor, appearance, dress,” originally past participle of habere “to have, hold, possess,” to have something. St. Paul tells us, “Put away the old self of your former way of life, corrupted through deceitful desires, and be renewed in the spirit of your minds: dress yourself in the new self, created in God’s way in the human custom and divine law of truth.” Ephesians 4:22-24
As Father Jacob dresses in the morning, he prays, first washing his hands, “Give virtue to my hands, O Lord, that being cleansed from all stain I might serve you with purity of mind and body.” He puts on his alb, the large white robe, “Make me white, O Lord, and cleanse my heart; that being made white in the Blood of the Lamb I may deserve an eternal reward.” He puts on his cincture and prays, “Gird me, Lord, with the cincture of purity, and quench in my heart the fire of concupiscence, so the virtue of continence and chastity may abide in me.”
There is a bond between what we wear as dress/habit and our habits, how we behave/habit. Some say each person is in fact three people: the person they are, the person they think they are, and the person others think they are. When all three agree, the person is healthy. When any one is different, the person is not healthy. Waking in the morning, we put on our best face, as mascara, and as whom we choose to show ourselves to be to the world. We put on our habits.
In the Canticle of Zechariah, part of the morning prayers for the religious, we pray. “He has raised up a horn for our salvation/Jesus within the house of David his servant… to grant us that, rescued from the hand of enemies, without fear we might bow down before him in divine law and human custom before him all our days. You, will be called Navy of the Most High, you will go before the NAME to prepare his ways, to give his people knowledge of salvation/Jesus through the forgiveness of their sins.”
In our Catholic tradition, Divine Law gives rise to natural law, the way things work in nature, the way things naturally work when we do not impose our way upon the natural order. The Greeks also seem to have taken Divine Law as meaning, using another Greek word, Eusebia/religious awe, seeing the hand of God in everything we see. It is the rites expressing this feeling of awe, as we see God’s hand in everything.
Human Custom does not mean just any custom human society feels free to fashion. Human Custom refers to those laws humans put together after prayer and reflection on the divine law. Deuteronomy 5:1 begins the Ten Commandments. It states, Remember, “I am God your Almighty Judge who rescued you from Oppression, the house of menial labor.” Remember what it was like to be there, remember your rescue, then when you see others suffering, do something.
This is the foundation of our Eucharist and the Physical Presence, “It is not to your fathers who I give these commandments, but to you, standing here, this day.” Deuteronomy 5. This is our Source and Summit. Imagine a society where everyone did this. All would be putting God first, as their rescuer. All would be too busy helping each other to harm one another. This is Human Custom, properly understood. This is putting on proper religious habit. Are we ready to do this today?