Thursday, May 1, 2008

Headcoverings and the Issue of Submission

Well, goodness. Who would have thought I would be considering a headcovering for church? As I mentioned before, if you had told me this five years ago, I would have laughed. Even a year ago, I would have responded with a clueless, "huh?" But I forgot to mention that yesterday, while attending the Latin Low Mass, I decided to wear a headcovering.

And you know what? It felt perfectly right and true.

I know headcoverings are a touchy issue. Some women look at it as nothing more than a tradition from a backward time when women were thought of as no better than dogs. American women look at the independence they have fought for over the past forty years and feel such a practice represents a submission they refuse to embrace. And some women may look at it as a practice for old women, but not for the young and modern gal.

When I was twelve years-old, I asked my parents for two things for Christmas. One was a small TV of my own. The other was a Bible. (a prophetic request of what would become a passionate focus of my life: observing the physical world while pursuing the spiritual, and the relationship between the two.)

I received my two requests and was elated. My mother had found a Catholic bible for young teens called "The Way." I clearly remember it's blue cover with the "groovy" font style blazing across it. Each book of the Bible was prefaced with a modern introduction, showing how Biblical truth was still relevant and how it applied to me.

One of the first verses I read that spoke to me was from St. Paul's first letter to Timothy:
I also want women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes,but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God. - [1 Tim. 2:9, 10]
During that time, I was undergoing tremendous teasing from my fellow students and of course the teasing was about my appearance. I wore glasses. Very thick glasses. I was called everything from "Four Eyes" to "Twenty Eyes." Both the boys and girls would often tease me about being ugly, yada, yada. I have since healed up nicely from these times but actually thank God for the taunts. For those who mocked me drove me straight into the arms of my Lord and to His Word. (Ha, take that, kingdom of darkness!)

When I read those verses, they were like the Balm of Gilead upon my soul. Suddenly I realized that God wasn't judging me by my looks, either. He was more concerned with my heart and my modesty as a woman. That day I absorbed that truth like no other and it profoundly affected me for the rest of my school days and still does. Fashions will come and go, but the heart of a woman who loves her Lord will never go "out of style."

St. Paul goes on in the next verse to talk about submission. Oy, veh...talk about controversial! Some women have fought tooth and nail over those verses, demanding everything from becoming ministers to refusing to submit to their husbands in any way, shape or form. And keep silent? Not on your life! (According to the word of the feminists...)

1 Corinthians 11 has been the bane of many an independent woman. I won't deny that I've fallen in that group many times. I am a very spirited woman and not by a long shot am I "meek and mild." Being half-Italian will give you an idea that my temper can quickly be aroused and my German background graced me with a hard-headedness that has caused more than a few arguments. But as I read God's Word, I wanted to be obedient. I knew that in order to receive God's blessings, I need to heed His Word and die to my way of doing things.

So, I started to study submission. I'll revisit this topic again (since this entry is getting rather long), but suffice it to say that when I've chosen to surrender myself in this area, I have been abundantly blessed.

Wearing a headcovering is to me, first and foremost, submission to God. Although it was a directive given by St. Paul for the governing of the church (as opposed to one said by Jesus Christ in the gospels), I believe it still has merit for our culture. No matter how we as women may fight this, we know instinctively that there is something "holy and mysterious" about a headcovering. And I do think that submission is the heart of it.

Yesterday, I wore a simple scarf since I don't own a lacy mantilla. But I felt another level of submission I wasn't expecting. It was aimed toward God and the surrender in my spirit was raw and vulnerable. We women have built quite an armor in our American society. "I am woman, hear me roar" was the phrase of a popular song in the 60's. Perhaps my take on that verse can be, "I am woman who adores her Lord."

I can say for myself that there is a fear of letting go of whatever I sense is my "empowerment" as I embrace this practice. I don't think I'm alone in this. By wearing a headcovering, I am showing the world that I am dependent upon my God, not myself. I show that I reverence Him, especially as I approach Him in the Mass. I show that I am humbling myself - and boy, do I need to humble myself.

Wearing a headcovering forces me to realize that I can't just amble inside a church with an attitude that I am doing God a favor by showing up. No. Wearing a headcovering reminds me I am stepping on Holy Ground, one that requires me to remove the worldly shoes I usually wear and to clothe myself appropriately.

And isn't it ironic that the covering is upon our heads, where all thought of who we are and our place in the world, originates?

9 comments:

Adrienne said...

I think a head covering is very nice. The only reason I don't is because I detest the feel of anything on my head. I would wear a hat in a heart beat if I could...

PaulaB52 said...

especially as I approach Him in the Mass. I show that I am humbling myself - and boy, do I need to humble myself.


Sometimes it's more humbling than others. When I see a girl I strongly disliked in school and I have on the mantilla, it's humbling. When I see my bossy tough ex-woman boss with a smirk on her face, it's humbling.

But then I remember why I do cover in the first place. To submit my will to God.

I do scarves quite a bit more than the mantilla, only because I don't really like my mantilla. I want a vintage, but I don't want to shell out the $$

Mary Rose said...

Paula, you definitely have a more challenging task if you're in the midst of such people! However, they'll have to answer to God for their judgment.

I will probably choose scarves for now. I also would love a beautiful lacy mantilla but don't have the $$ for it at the moment. I also don't have too many hats! (Umm...I don't think a baseball cap would count...)
:-)

Mary Rose said...

adrienne, this has been a long journey for me. I never thought I'd do it but I wanted to do it - which is different than feeling I "had" to do it.

Hats are very nice. I just don't have many of them. I've never been a "hat" person although have admired hats on women always. (and men)

Lisa said...

Great thoughts here, and so true. It's not about being a woman or a man ~ it's about being a child of God, about showing humility and and reverence before Him in the Blessed Sacrament. In a way, I think we have "one up" on the men who don't have this reminder right there on their heads.
BTW: If you are even a tiny bit of a seamstress, it's very simple to make an inexpensive lace mantilla. The edges don't have to even be hemmed before you sew on the lace trim. It's just a small zig zag, and you choose the laces. Also, mantillas can still be found in thrift stores and online for very little money.

Mary Rose said...

Lisa, thanks for the tip! I actually called another local Catholic bookstore and found they have some mantillas in stock and cost between $15-20.

BTW, your little daughter looked very pretty in hers. :-)

LisaM said...

This is well written and said! Thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings on submission and the sign of the covering. Beautiful!

Poppy Dadswell said...

How did your parents react when you began covering your head?

Mary Rose said...

poppy dadwell, I didn't see this comment so forgive me for not responding sooner.

My mother passed away last year. My parents live two hours from me. Just a few weeks ago, I visited my dad and we attended the Latin Mass together. I wore the headcovering and he just marveled. He can't believe it but he's thrilled!

Of course, years ago, this is all he saw in the church. All women wore a hat or a veil in church until the early 1960's. He can't believe younger people are returning to this practice. :-)