Monday, March 31, 2014

The Theology of Cosplay

Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh. —Romans 13:14

Praised Be Jesus!

I hope that everyone is having a blessed, holy, and fruitful Lent! And I hope that you are doing well in your Lenten commitment! As many of you may or may not know, I'm a huge fan of Japanese comics and animation (or manga and anime, respectively) and have been since I was about 8 years old. As humans, we have a fascination with superheroes, with people we can look up to and emulate. In the otaku (anime fans) subculture, there is a phenomenon called cosplay (short for costume play), where fans will dress up as their favorite characters to do them homage. These costumes can be very accurate and stay true to the characters' original form, or cosplayers can take creative license but still hold true to the characters. I am also a casual cosplayer and have included photos below.

Me, as Sailor Moon
Now, you may be wondering why we are here talking about people dressing up as animated characters, but the concept can actually be applied to our Lenten journey. Pope Francis has recently stressed that Lent is a time of conversion — that is, turning our lives away from sin, emptying ourselves of all that is not of God. But we are not emptying ourselves for the sake of being empty; we are emptying ourselves so that we can be filled with the Love of Christ. Even more, we are to become Christ, as Saint Paul states in his letter to the Romans, "...clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think to satisfy the flesh." We seek to imitate those whom we love, those figures whom we respect. Cosplayers spend a large amount of time practicing poses, mannerisms, voices, and catchphrases to best portray the characters they are representing.

Me, as a kitsune, or fox spirit
It is the same with us and Christ: We should be practicing Christ; we should be putting Him on, not just as a costume that we take off later and go on with our normal lives. No, Christ must penetrate our being so that all may become Christ. His attitudes must become our attitudes; His will must become our will. Christ must be seen in us. The irony of drawing close to Christ is that as we draw closer to Him, we do not become carbon copies, but we become more ourselves. In a sense, the Lenten practice of conversion is about growing closer and more conformed with Christ Jesus, but it is also about becoming more our true selves. This is why each Saint is unique, each Saint has his or her own story, and each Saint radiates Christ in his or her own unique way. Like a costume which has been modified but still represents the character portrayed, showcasing the creator's creativity, so does our distinct beauty and creativity come to light as Christ radiates through, and people will see the Icon of Christ within us, as we are nothing but ourselves, because we ourselves have become Christ.

Holiness is not a way of making copies. Holiness is a way of uniqueness, one that brings out the beauty and flavor of each soul, and that flavor of the soul is what leads the world into conversion with Christ. So, the next time you see a cosplayer, appreciate his or her particular beauty and creativity, and also remember that in the same way, we should be putting on Christ and becoming more like Him every day.

"Christ Has No Body"
Saint Teresa of Avila

Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes, you are his body.
Christ has no body now but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks compassion on this world.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.

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