I happened upon an article on the website http://www.newadvent.org discussing, maybe lamenting, the loss of Tridentine traditions in the Catholic worship spaces of modernity. Monsignor Pope illustrates and compares the differences of respects paid within the buildings of the Church from then to now. I’m including the web address for his article if you’d care to read his thoughtful concerns. Here is my reply to him, posted on his site as well.
The church building and the Church have switched places since Vatican II, and as I understand it, the Church is more as the early believers would recognize than that of the Tridentine era. For the Living Stones of the Church the building is now a gathering place for community interaction. In fact, as buildings are created for a community now the initial sanctuaries are also the communal gathering places while the more traditional space is funded, built, and then blest.
With these ideas of a basis for discussion, the broader area of the entry space and seating areas provide a less formal space for gathering, allowing a more relaxed atmosphere and consequently, we wear clothing that is more to that situation (sometimes too little for even a community gathering; another story altogether)
I still see the laity serving at the table wearing more formal attire at the parishes where I attend mass (I’m an ‘itinerate’ Catholic). And those who approach this table of sacrifice bow or kneel before entering into it to serve.
Finally, those approaching the ‘holy of holies’, the tabernacle repository, more generally are formal in both attire and reverence as they enter so close to the presence of the Eucharist. Bowing becomes genuflecting, the signing with the cross, and the bowing of one’s head as if facing a Burning Bush or and Intense Light. And back to the general communal area, receiving the Eucharist from this tabernacle, all are encouraged to bow in reverence and make the sign of the cross after receiving. I mostly see at least one, but often both.
My perspective is that we are more true to bringing our own nature before our God at mass, instead of dressing in the faux nature of spruced up clothing that doesn’t represent us. I too had hard black shoes, a shirt and bow tie forced upon me as a youth. Quite uncharacteristic of the kid I was, playing with Matchbox cars in the dirt. The reverence for God remains, though, in a different manner and, I believe, in a more honest presentation than before.
(rather than insert photos here, a Google search on ‘Images’ with ‘catholic worship’ will pull up, on a single page, the myriad of dress codes, locations, and ritual actions to illustrate my thought concerning the Monsignor’s post)