How would we celebrate without our mothers? Imagine birthday parties without shopping lists full of food, drink, and decorations. Think of a dinner party without clean dishes, candlelight, or the soap dispenser in the bathroom being refilled. Would anyone hear from your family at Christmas time without your mother’s stationary, stamps, and time spent filling out festive cards? All of these things can be accomplished by men, of course, but by and large, they speak to the attention of a woman. There is a reason we talk about homes and special events needing a “woman’s touch.” That reason is that women have a gift for the particular.
My First Apron
It was red and blue and white all over – the first one that I bought with my uncle. Excitement flowed through my little-girl body, for I know that my uncle and I would get use them – and match! – the following Sunday at Grandma’s house. It was something which symbolized that we could bond through sharing our mutual gifts, together and for the good of our family. Our matching aprons are something I can look back on to see how Christ began to slowly form me into Himself, the woman that God created me to be – and the apron can be a tangible symbol for all of “putting on the Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 13:14 RSVCE).
Who wears the Apron?
“A dingy piece of cloth for objectified women?! How does that symbolize Christ and His love?!”
Although the apron’s reputation has been degraded and has traditional ties only to the woman who stays in the home, the apron can be used with a much larger vision: “As each has received a gift, employ it for one another, a good stewards of God’s varied grace” (1 Pt. 4:10). Especially in our current world, men and women, the youth and the aged, have discovered and developed their personal gifts in cooking, baking, and grilling, and both genders tend to contribute to duties around the household scene. As Christ came “not to be served but to serve” (Mt. 20:28), so, too, should we use our daily duties and talents in service of those around us. Although aprons largely fell out of use since the youthful days of our grandmothers, they can become for us a symbol of our interior disposition: “As I put this apron on, I am putting on Christ.” It becomes not a shield or defense mechanism between the wearer and the world but a bridge showing that one is ready to step more deeply into the mess and chaos of the world… that one is not afraid to face the ugliness of the world and sin… that one is ready to serve those in most need as Chris did. Particularly for those with gifs in the kitchen or the grill, the apron can be a symbol that inspires a person to use his or her gifts in service of another.
Christ Provides the Food
Christ came largely to serve by means of providing nourishment for people: the multiplication of the fish and loaves, the wedding feast at Cana, the Last Supper, and even the “last breakfast” after Jesus’ Resurrection, where Jesus tells his disciples, ‘”Come and have breakfast”‘ (Jn. 21:12). Jesus desires to nourish His people, because he wants to remind them that just as they were created to need food in order to live, they ultimately need God to live; that Heaven will be like a wedding banquet with “fat calves” (Mt. 22:4) and a promised land “flowing with milk and honey” (Deut. 27:3); that they must live on Him, the “Bread of Life” (Jn. 6:48), Christ in the Eucharist, his flesh and blood, which man must eat to have life (53-56). Bottom line: nourishing God’s people points to the Divine Nourisher, the Divine Giver of life. Through donning the apron, one can enter into this specific service of God: nourishing His people to point them to Heaven.
Men and Women are Complementary
As Christ shows, providing nourishment is not solely a woman’s role, as the modern world often makes it out to be. The present, sarcastic, “Make me a sandwich!” is geared towards women in the kitchen as slaves of men. Nourishment, however, is not at all about the tyranny of man and the imprisonment of woman! Yes; men and women were most certainly created differently, as “male and female” (Gen. 5:2). This does not necessarily relegate either gender to a certain room at the house. It does, however, point to the different ways in which they give themselves to God and to humanity – the way in which they serve. Both man and woman are called to “submit yourselves to one another, in fear of Christ” (Eph. 5;21). Traditionally, men, with naturally paternal hearts, show this by providing for their families (or their spiritual family – all of God’s children); women, with naturally maternal hearts, show this by nourishing their families. Both of these roles can fit into the service found with the apron: the man, in a more active role, wants to make sure that he makes available and supplies for the needs of his family; he wants to provide their nourishment. With a more passive action, the woman wants to make sure that her family is healthy, strong, and filled with life; she wants her family to be nourished. This, the apron can be a symbol of the mutual service and love between men and women and also, perhaps, a way to highlight the complementarity of male and female.
An Apron as a Symbol of Christ’s Love
Of course, the apron is not the cause of any of these good things, but it can be a symbol to remind us of our service in Christ and Baptism, where we were transformed into Christ (CCC 1265). Being physical beings, it is good and beneficial to have tangible reminders of life’s spiritual realities. Whether we choose to don the apron or not, may we always be renewed in our vigor to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 13:14) in service to one another by putting to use our gifts for the nourishment of God’s children. May the apron be a reminder for me – and hopefully for you – of the joy of serving our families through the gift of food. May it never be a symbol of division but always a symbol of unity as we choose to dive into the messiness of humanity and become “one even as [the Father and Jesus] are one” (Jn. 17:22).
Lord Jesus Christ,
as I put on this apron, may I be clothed with You.
Help me to serve those around me in love so that I may lead them to You.
Dispel all fear to dive into the messiness of sinful humanity.
I bring to You my own chaos,
along with the mess and brokenness of all those I will serve this day.
And at the end of this adventurous day, as I take the apron off,
may I give You the mess that lies upon it – the mess of Your people –
so that You may make us clean through Your Precious Blood.
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