Last evening many celebrated Halloween by dressing up in costumes that allowed them to temporarily assume different identities—some of these were intended to be scary, others just plain funny or ridiculous. A Masquerade Ball offers similar opportunities for concealing one’s identity and, as it were, stepping out from what some experience as the burden of one’s everyday self. However, as we know, we are also adept at wearing invisible masks and exhibiting various personas that hide our true feelings, attitudes, and opinions. It is thus not to be presumed that our external demeanor, expressions, and words, accurately represent what is in our hearts and minds.
Reasons for these are multiple, and many don’t involve duplicity, insincerity, or guile, but are simply reflections of the level of our psychological and spiritual health and maturity. The now popular distinctions between the “false self” and the “true self,” would suggest that the true self only emerges with that transparency and guilelessness that comes with true purity of heart and with finally being at home with who we are truly are and were created to be. Unfortunately, arriving at this blessed state usually involves a long and arduous spiritual and psychological journey in which we steadily shed the masks and personas and claim our true identity in Christ, and thereby glorify God our Creator.
I mention all this, because the saints we celebrate today are men and women we are called to emulate and imitate in lives of increasing love, humility, and virtue. A potential risk, however, is that a too literal and slavish attempt to imitate a particular favorite saint can result in the futile and, indeed, destructive attempt to become someone that (at the most fundamental level), we are not. This is in marked contrast to the spiritually-sound striving to develop the various virtues the saints incarnated in their very person—humility, faith, trust, love, self-forgetfulness, generosity, peaceableness—to mention just a few.
A cursory review of the vast multitude of Christian saints reveals their great diversity, and each one’s originality, and uniqueness. And so although all the saints manifested the primary and essential virtues—humility, love, kindness, faith, and spiritual courage—these all found unique expression in accordance with the personalities and character of each. As such, the process of attaining these virtues was simultaneously an indispensable means to uncovering and then displaying their true selves. This is another way of saying that our truest selves only emerge with the full flowering of the virtues which, in turn, marks the culmination of our recreation and transformation in and into Christ.
Therefore, as we look up to this great host of holy and perfected women and men, let us not try to emulate their personalities and characters (as attractive as most of these might be) but imitate their long struggle to rediscover their true identity in Christ so that we may take our place among this multifaceted and holy array of redeemed humanity—adding yet another and irreplaceable facet that brightly and uniquely reflects the beauty of Christ whose glorious Body we form.