Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Purposely Veiled Beauty

Because I frequent Catholic sites, I see some of the dust ups that make other denominations say, "Look how they hate each other."  When we argue over how to receive, to the point of making the posture of piety a source of venial sin, we declare unclean what God created clean.

Recently, I became part of a discussion about whether or not women should be veiled when they enter the Church.  I've never worn a veil, nor have I ever felt pressure to do so.   I've known lovely women of faith who did, and equally compelling luminous witnesses to the faith who didn't.  I didn't see it as an indicator of anything but a preference as to how one would show reverence at mass.   I did not consider it to be proof of something much more than a personal devotion or method of showing humility.   The internet reaction was swift. "We veil things that are sacred."  was the argument, and it was only my pride that prevented me from being willing to submit myself to the adoption of the practice.

I'm a proud thing so I thought it's possible pride is blocking my understanding, but still disagreed.

I went to mass.  I saw a few women praying, wearing chapel veils.  I saw women praying whose heads were bare.  Were not all of us, men and women, made in His image, were not all of us, by our very creation, sacred?  Shouldn't all of us be wearing something over our heads?  I didn't want to have this imaginary argument in my head, but it was there just the same.

Then, the priest spoke about the upcoming Encyclical on the environment, and the need of all Catholics to care for their whole family, and that included our home, the home given to us for all of our past parents, the home where we raise our children; Earth.

I considered the fallen nature of the planet, and of its keepers.  The majesty of an oak is veiled in the acorn, and the beauty of a butterfly in the catepillar.   A star cannot show you all of its brilliance because of distance, and a shark cannot manifest its terrible beauty and strength without our falling into danger.  My mind drifted into the whimsical thought, if we were to see how we were intended to be before the fall, we would mistake ourselves because of our fallen nature, for God.   We cannot bear too much reality, too much of God revealed in the physical world, and so we receive Him in the accidents of the sacrament, in the form of bread and wine but not.  We crave the distance of a veil, to keep the sacred safe, whether by keeping ourselves at a distance, or keeping ourselves from seeing.

We are accidents of form, for our souls are us, and yet our souls are not fully revealed by how we look, but how we act.   The wearing of the veil reveals one form of devotion, but not necessarily the state of the soul wearing it, the same way a collection of prayer cards three inches thick may indicate something about a soul, but it does not necessarily reveal a deep prayer life, merely an obsessive one.

 My four year old daughter played with her stuffed kitten in the cry room and knows the mass drill.  "I'm blowing kisses to God." she said.   The veil between her soul and the world and God is much thinner than mine.

Then I met a woman whose nature and countenance told me she was luminous in her faith life.  She'd adopted a child with Down Syndrome, and had seven children of her own, two in the seminary.   A dear friend who's shared her faith story with me, introduced us.  Both are devout women of prayer with deeper interior lives than I can imagine, given my own Attention Deficit methods of prayer.

One wore a veil, the other did not.  Both were holy women and my friends. The words "Both And." resonated in my heart, for they struck the reality of how we should be, how we're called to be.  We are veiled accidents of form, and through our witness, we reveal the truer reality, truer than whether one wears a head covering or not, the "Both And" radical nature of God's love for us, and call of us to love Him.   Neither of these women drew attention through their attire, but through their presence and actions.   God bled through their souls into my ordinary distracted life.

I left the parking lot after mass and all I knew was, "That's Catholic."  

1 comment:

RAnn said...

I recently saw my mother's 1958 wedding album, and guess what? The bride was the only woman in the picture with a veil on her head. All the others wore hats. Veils became popular in the time period between hats going out of style for daily wear and the Church dropping the requirement for headcoverings. The veil wouldn't give you hat head and could be removed after church. When my mother went to college in 1949, at a Catholic girl's college, they weren't allowed to leave campus without a hat and gloves--the hat was part of being properly dressed.

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