I hasten to add that I had done NOTHING to feature my hair. In fact, it was a mess. I hadn't even brushed it before leaving the house, as I was late getting ready for my ride. I had just put a few home-made scrunchies in it at varying spots down the length of it to keep it in line. It is a combination of gray and my natural reddish auburn color, and is on the frizzy side, so it isn't something I wear like a trophy.
Over the last couple of years, I had been considering the issue of veiling in church. Women originally veiled for another purpose, but having my hair become a distraction to someone else's devotions as well as my own was yet another reason to give serious consideration to the practice.
Of course, my physical condition has deteriorated to such an extent that I am currently unable to sit through mass, but I am praying for healing and I am also losing weight in the desperate hope that it will have some effect, even though I know that my joints are now "bone on bone" and my spine is becoming fused in the lower back. Hope springs eternal, especially when one is Christian and we have a long tradition of miraculous healings, going back to Christ Himself. I may or may not be able to return to regular mass attendance, so I have to get this issue of veiling settled in my mind for when and if I do return.
I know, of course, that women are no longer required to veil in church, but many Americans fail to recognize that the requirement having been dropped does not signify that it has no value. It just means that there is no longer an official proscription against women going bare headed into the church and one will not be PUNISHED in any fashion. One is no longer penalized for failing to veil in church, but it does not mean it should not be done.
In all of the churches I have visited since I became Catholic about 9 years ago, I rarely see more than 2 or 3 women who are veiled. Many times, no one is veiled. I find no fault with that. It is just an observation about the current habit. Occasionally, I have remembered to bring a scarf or crocheted lace shawl with me to wear at church, and I noticed several women eyeing me as if I had broken some feminist code or something. Some women have told me that wearing a veil is a cooperation with the patriarchy that suppressed women for thousands of years.
1 Corinthians seems to be a problem for some women. They do not like the idea that the man is the head of the family
I was struck today by a response from a Muslim woman, ironically, with regard to the wearing of the Hijab, the large scarf that covers the hair and necks of Muslim women.
Hanna Yusuf makes the point that the wearing of the head scarf is a way to opt out of the sexist culture that views all women as sex objects to be used in everything from selling cars to actually selling themselves. By dressing modestly and "covering up," a woman may reclaim her body. Obviously, she is not talking about those instances where a woman is forced, sometimes with violence, to wear obscuring clothing. She mentions that in her video. She makes her own case much better than I can, so, if you are interested, please see her video HERE.
When I was in the Hindu convent, several of us "younger ones" regularly wore simple handkerchiefs that were folded into triangles that were then tied at the nape of the neck, especially when doing dirty jobs, when the weather was breezy, or just for the heck of it. The tendency toward modesty is natural among those attracted to monasticism, in most instances. Then, there are the artists, and you never know what kind of getup they will adopt. Guilty, here, with my occasional outbreaks of pink. I still wear one of those headscarves on many occasions, especially as fall approaches. These days, it is usually black in color, as a friend gave me 5 for my wardrobe. She is a lay Carmelite and wears a scarf to church.
In researching this article and studying the topic for myself, I found numerous fascinating articles and videos about veiling, both within the Catholic tradition and in others. Orthodox Jewish women, for instance, are required to cover their hair all the time unless in the presence of their husbands alone. Some Jewish ladies wear wigs, but a growing number of them are adopting an arrangement of a collection of scarves wrapped ingeniously around the hair that has been bound up in a scrunchy. Pretty elastic bands and sparkly brooches are sometimes added for extra flair.
While it is assumed that covering one's hair is simply a matter of some perceived modesty, in the Catholic tradition, it pertains rather more to the mass and to the Eucharist and probably has little or nothing to do with considerations of modesty or demure appearance. It is, in fact, a declaration of woman's essential holiness and special relationship with the Lord.
Everything considered holy in the Catholic mass is veiled or covered in some way. Woman is holy because she has an extremely intimate relationship with the Lord in which she helps bring God's beloved children into the world. For 9 months, a woman's body sustains two souls. Like the chalice that holds the precious blood in the mass, woman is the carrier of God's precious ones, just as Mother Mary carried Jesus within her womb.
Remember that the "holy of holies" that was the inner sanctum of the Temple of Jerusalem in which the Ark of the Covenant was kept was separated from the rest of the temple by a veil, so the veil has great significance in the context of the mass, and it is deep and layered in meaning.
Rather than symbolizing the inferiority of women, the veil announces a woman's authority and close relationship with the Lord. It recognizes the essential holiness of the state of womanhood, in general. It is her crown and her privilege to wear.
One shouldn't extrapolate this meaning from the universal to the particular and think that if one is not of childbearing age or is infertile that the honor is not for them. No matter the condition of fecundity of the particular woman, this honor is proper to all womankind, as it is her sex that is elevated by its nature in the Lord's scheme of creation. A woman's receptive nature lends itself easily to an intimate relationship with the Lord, of a different type than that which a man may experience. It isn't just a woman's body that is honored, but the necessary emotional openness to the Lord 's love with which her sex is endowed which is a part of the great mystery of her vocation.
Ages ago, when a woman would enter a convent, it was often referred to as "taking the veil," and all nuns did wear veils, not like today, when you can hardly tell the difference between a nun and a random person walking down the street.
If a particular woman does not want the honor that the veil endows, the Catholic Church will not force it on them, but why renounce it over some false feminist doctrine that seeks to strip man and woman of their essential differences? I am not saying that this is the reason why every woman who has given up the veil has done so; I am speaking in general terms pertaining to the age in which we live and the concepts that currently inform it.
Silver "Rose" Parnell
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