Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Humble Feminism: Why I Veil in Mass

Time for a totally not rad-trad moment with Tani! Please put away your pitchforks and your Spirit & Song hymnals; we won't be needing them today. Because today, we're going to be talking about...

Spanish Seville Mantilla in black and silver, by Veils by Lily
Veiling in Mass! 

I say those words, and I can immediately see what's going on in your heads: Visions of old, mumbling grandmothers alternate with specters of severe nuns, as the words "patriarchy" and "sexist" and "woman-shaming" float in terrifying Comic Sans above. Veiling in Mass, Tani, you say? Didn't Vatican II save us from that idea, that women were shameful and needed covering up? Aren't you supposed to be a "feminist"?

Well, first of all, the Church has never held to that ideology, and secondly, I'm going to present to you today three reasons why I veil, and why I think that women (especially feminists!) should veil in Mass. For the sake of clarity, I shall use the very general idea of feminism, which is that women, though different from men, are endowed with the same dignity and ability to attain Heaven. There shall be no Femen-esque "feminism" here, thank you very much.

It shows that we recognize who we are.

So, when we read the book of Genesis, we see that God started Creation with very simple, basic creatures (like light, earth, the moon, etc.) and then slowly worked His way up to gradually more complicated and important creatures (plants, cows, humans, and so on). The very last thing He created was woman; she was the crown of Creation, the most beautiful and most complicated thing there was. She was given the marvellous ability to create and sustain life in her body, joining with God Himself in the act of Creation. She is therefore sacred in a way that men just, well, aren't. (Not that men aren't sacred, but they are for other reasons, which I shall one day explore more in-depth. Men are awesome, don't worry.)

In the Catholic Church, we veil the sacred. From the chalice at Mass, to the tabernacle, to the crosses and statues during Lent, those things that are sacred before God are veiled to show that they are somewhat set apart. We recognize that these things are important, and so shield them from profane eyes. In Mass, we women have the singular honor of showing our sacredness before God. Men uncover their heads, showing humility in recognizing that even with all their strength, they are weak, spiritually naked before God. But women? Women are able to show humility in recognizing that God has given us our strengths, made us sacred, given us the gift of divine creativity. Veiling is humble because it tells God and the world that we know and accept what we are.

A lot of the time, we're nervous or scared to veil, because we think we'll come off as proud and holier-than-thou. But really, what's more proud? Covering our heads before God in humble recognizance of our inherent womanhood... or rejecting it because we're afraid of other people? If we were to stop worrying about what other people think and instead focus only on what God thinks, I think we would all be far happier and more reverent.

It shows respect to God.

So, now that we know that veiling shows that we respect who we are, we can also say that it shows that we respect who God is. God is the amazing Creator, the pre-image of our creativity, our ability to nurture and protect, our wholehearted (sometimes messy) love for others. He's the one who gives us our bodies, our minds, our talents, our entire world! When we veil, it's a thank you for all of that! Veiling also just plain old feels reverent. Modern church services seem to have lost a sense of reverence. You can get more on this point from this brilliant post by Lily Wilson, of the Veils by Lily shop, but the general gist is that when we choose to veil for the sake of God (especially in The Eucharist!) we set Mass apart from any other day. We take it seriously. We recognize God's amazing love and respond to it in a way that's out of the ordinary, physical, visible. To quote the post, "My veil was a sign of my love for Jesus, in return for his perfect love which had always been there, even when I turned away. It was a sign of gratitude to my Savior for having come after me, in all my sinfulness, to rescue me and to immerse me in the ocean of his Mercy." And maybe you think that that sounds servile or guilty, but really, that's real, authentic, "empowered" womanhood right there. We recognize our strengths and our weaknesses and accept the love and mercy of God. Real empowerment for women is teaching them the power that comes in humility, in the recognition of God's presence in our lives.

Now, I do not think that veiling should at all be mandatory, because I feel that the devotion has more meaning when it's something you've chosen for yourself. I am the first person in my family to veil, and I did it of my own volition. Why? I'll paraphrase a friend, Mike B, for this one. He has cerebral palsy and is in a wheelchair. He always dresses to the nines (suit, tie, polished shoes) for Mass though, because he can't kneel or stand during the Mass, and he said that dressing well is the one way he can outwardly show respect to God and especially to the Eucharist. This really resonates with me, because that's the same reason that I veil. Thanks to my disability, I can barely walk some days, much less kneel or stand for more than a minute or so at a time. I veil because it's the greatest way I have to show respect to God in Mass.

It's great for bad hair days.

This one just goes without describing. Ladies. Your hair is indeed your crowning glory, but that crown can sometimes be a little askew. A veil covers that stuff right up! You're happy, Jesus is happy, your blessed grandmother is crying with joy from Heaven to see her baby wearing a pretty veil... Everyone wins! 

To conclude, veiling is something that affirms womanhood, respects God, and witnesses to Who the Eucharist is. It's not for everyone, I will say that. But it is for anyone who feels drawn to express her reverence and respect for God in extraordinary ways. 

There are lots of reasons that women veil, and in this post, I've only really explored my own. If you're curious about these other reasons, please consider the following blogs (and a big thank you to Em, Lily, and Karen for letting me post your stuff and pictures! The post wouldn't have been as great without you ladies!): 

And if you're interested in buying your own veil, including some of the stunning examples shown in this post, you can find them at these stores below!

And lastly, of course, if you're interested in making your own veil and happen to like the infinity/eternity loop style, check out my blog tutorial! It's really fun!


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