I knew the reason for head coverings according to St. Paul's writings to the Corinthians. (1 Cor. 11:5-15) When I was in my twenties, the Lord had quite a bit of work to do with my heart regarding submission. It is an area of contention for many women, and unfortunately, not too many churches teach it. Elisabeth Elliott is one of my favorite writers and Christian thinkers. (I could say, "One of the ones I turn to most..." ala Anita Dunn. Heh.) Elisabeth is one of the few Christian women who consistently taught about submission through her radio program.
There are so many misunderstandings about submission. Some women equate it with being a doormat. I have a pretty strong personality, myself, and nothing grates my nerves faster than someone thinking they can push me around. However, submission is what I am called to embrace although I admit I've questioned how this works at times.
When I started to wear the mantilla to Mass, I felt a little conspicuous. Even with others around me doing the same, I felt that at one point, someone would say, "Oh, who are you kidding?!" But soon I forgot about what others would think and instead focused on God. I believe the covering for women is yet another opportunity to die to ourselves. It's an opportunity to demonstrate visibly that we belong to God first. It is an act of submission and one that is what I call a beautiful "reverse defiance" toward the enemy of our souls who has tricked women for centuries, going all the way back to Eve.
I have to admit I like that. I like reclaiming the holy ground that was lost during the 60's and 70's when feminists convinced church-going women that they could lose their head coverings because it was just a symbol of man's oppression. How wrong they were. It isn't a symbol of oppression but a beautiful symbol of our willingness to trust in God for all things and give glory to Him for His divine order of authority in our lives. It is an outward expression of a pliant spirit, much like a tender tree bends to the wind. As a woman, I believe I should be that fluid to God's touch, so that His hand would not have to push me but the slightest whisper of His Spirit into my heart would turn me where He wants me to go.
This type of pliant heart doesn't happen overnight. And with the hardheaded, rebellious attitudes in our culture, it only makes it more challenging. However, small things such as wearing a chapel veil for a little over an hour can be an exercise in humility. Both men and women are called to humility but I believe God uses different approaches to humble us. For the woman, in this age, I believe it is the head covering.
But lest I sound as though wearing a mantilla is a chore or that I feel chastened by it - the exact opposite is true. I feel that it is a joy, a privilege, a gift. I feel cherished. These feelings only came to me after submitting to God and laying aside any desire to usurp authority. This has been a lifelong journey for me, and it has taken me years to arrive at this point. At one time, not too long ago, I believed that women should have equal opportunity within the church to be advanced to leadership. I was a pastor and was on the brink of being admitted to the exclusive circle of our church's leadership team. But something happened along the way. I was convicted by the Holy Spirit that this was not the way for me. After much prayer and Scripture study, I started to see church leadership and authority in a different light. I also started to see what happens when women have a misconception of their role within the church. (And yes, we have very important roles.)
The head covering is an ancient practice. Women of faith throughout the world wear a head covering. I feel that the feminist movement stole something precious from women when they convinced some that the head covering was a bad thing. Think about what we cover: valuable objects, our loved ones like the baby swaddled in blankets, things that are meant to be secret or mysterious, things that are protected.
This is how I feel when I wear the mantilla. Protected. Loved. Valuable. God loves us with an everlasting love. To run to the embrace of a loving Father is a joy-filled event. As I wear the mantilla, I feel embraced by His love as I lay aside the world. Amen and amen.