The Western Dominican Province’s Vocations Office has a great Facebook presence. If you look at their visuals, many of their pictures are in black and white. This is not merely to evoke an old-school motif, but rather, it’s because we’re Dominican.
Now what do they symbolize? Virtues that the Order holds very dear to our hearts, namely, humility and purity.
According to the Christian, Medieval color palette, black symbolizes humility. Obviously, when we think of the color black, we think of death. Humility can count as well, simply because death reminds us that we are not immortal, we are not infinite, that we have limitations, that we are weak. Humility reminds us that God is God and we are not, to paraphrase Saint Catherine of Siena.
The Dominican spends his life contemplating the Mystery of Truth, Jesus Christ. Yet we intuitively know that God speaks to us through his infinitude. As much as God tells us, we can only take in so much. We can only understand so much. We can only love so much. It’s a humbling thing to be confronted by the Infinite God.
White symbolizes purity. Today, when we think of purity, our oversexed culture thinks of sexual purity. However, the Dominican is called also to a different type of purity, that is, intellectual purity. (Pope Benedict writes about in his Jesus of Nazareth trilogy.) When Dominicans talk about intellectual purity, we remember that we need to speak, think and ponder with God’s point of view, and not ours. Our point of view is contaminated with our own presuppositions, our culture, our misunderstandings of reality, our sinfulness and our limitations. That God is greater than our mindset, wiser than our intellect, and more elegant than any equation we can conjure. When the Dominican studies the Truth, we must do our best to do away with any presuppositions that we may have in order to contemplate the Great Truth. Intellectual purity is a call for the Dominican to shed our presuppositions and put on God’s.
Black and White. The colors of the Order. Two virtues that we strive for, yet, in this life, will never fully attain.
Holy Father Dominic, pray for us!