Monday, December 9, 2013

In Spirit and in Truth

Veiling Reflection 
"The worship 'in Spirit and in truth' of the New Covenant is not tied exclusively to any one place. The whole earth is sacred and entrusted to the children of men. What matters above all is that, when the faithful assemble in the same place, they are the 'living stones,' gathered to be 'built into a spiritual house.' For the Body of the risen Christ is the spiritual temple from which the source of living water springs forth: incorporated into Christ by the Holy Spirit, 'we are the temple of the living God.'" - Catechism of the Catholic Church 1179

When I decided to wear a veil during Advent, I didn't think it would matter which type of covering that I chose as long as I obeyed the prompting of the Holy Spirit and covered my head. I started with berets, tams and wide headbands. I discovered that those items did not make me feel much more reverent at Mass than I had been before. Last week at Mass I wore a cover that was more obviously a cover. I wore the same scarf that I had before, but tied it in a way that I would not usually choose to wear it. Consequently, I felt much more reverent and focused at Mass. I thought that was odd and that I couldn't put my finger on why that was, but it did finally dawn on me what the difference was.

The difference in the way I wore my cover spoke more symbolically to my heart than the other ways. When I wore something that I would wear any time in my daily attire, it felt less symbolic to me of my reverence for Christ in the Eucharist. I needed to wear something special for Mass that took me out of my ordinary mode of dress. Something special in commemoration and reverence of the re-presentation of Christ's sacrifice on the cross. The symbol of the veil speaks loudly to my heart, and that is why I am called to wear it.

The faithful are '"living stones" gathered to be "built into a spiritual house"'. We must present ourselves in a way that honors God with our bodies. I have been guilty so many of times of being sloppy and careless in the way I dress for Mass. I speak my love for Christ with my lips, but communicate something different with my attire and careless attitude. The same goes for the postures and gestures at Mass. I am careful to say the right words but too many times I have made a small, lazy sign of the cross. I need not only reverence but integrity to be a living stone befitting of God's spiritual house. My body needs to speak along with my heart.

I discovered the above Catechism reference when I sought to discover the meaning of John 4:24:
God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth. - John 4:24
My father in law has become a universalist, abandoning physical church and embracing the idea that Christians need only pray to God in private. He uses this verse to justify this decision, bears it as a weapon to cut through my insistence that baptism or any other phyiscal action matters. When I was a Quaker I believed the same thing. I believed that no holy days mattered because all days were the same to God. I didn't approach meetings with special dress, because God as spirit didn't care about what people wore. We had no liturgy. No hymns. We sat together in a bare room in silence awaiting our personal encounter with God. I totally dismissed my physicality. As a Catholic I should be behaving totally different.

Human beings are a body and soul composite. As Catholics we believe that the body is not merely a house for the soul. They are a composite. What we do with our bodies has an effect on our soul. Physical things can point the way toward greater spiritual realities and as a physical being, I have to admit that I do sometimes need concrete things! We can see this when we look at the sacraments. The Catechism says "the sacraments are efficacious signs of grace, instituted by Christ and entrusted to the Church, by which divine life is dispensed to us. The visible rites by which the sacraments are celebrated signify and make present the graces proper to each sacrament. They bear fruit in those who receive them with the required dispositions." (CCC 1131). I'm not saying that veiling or dressing well for Mass is a sacrament or even necessary for all people regardless of circumstance, but the symbolism in these actions speaks deeply to my heart and has the power to change my disposition to toward the sacraments. Doing these things merely to look a certain way to other people would not have the same effect. The intention to glorify and properly worship God is key.

It is important be cognizant of this, especially during the time of Advent when we are reminded that Our Lord came in flesh and blood to redeem flesh and blood! Our Advent readings keep reminding us that He is concerned with our physical as well as spiritual wellbeing, and in these particular readings the two seem to be related. When I read Wednesday's readings this is the line that zapped me like lightening and then stood fixed in my mind for several days:
I do not want to send them away hungry, or they may collapse on the way. - Matthew 15:32
I was powerfully reminded of my gratitude for the Eucharist: a physical substance which appears to be bread but which really contains the body, blood, soul and divinity (!) of Jesus Christ, the second person of the Most Holy Trinity! When I read that line I felt as though Jesus was speaking to the peoples' spiritual welfare more than their physical, although he had already healed many and demonstrated his concern for their physical needs. Recall these words spoken during the preparation of the gifts at Mass:
"Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation, for through your goodness we have received the bread we offer you: fruit of the earth and work of human hands, it will become for us the bread of life"
The Eucharist begins as a lowly physical morsel but at the words of consecration its substance transcends the mere physical and becomes a composite of physical and spiritual wrapped up in one.

This Advent I am determined to do my best to live with integrity. I need to understand the reasons for the different postures and gestures at Mass, and do them deliberately. My actions should mirror my beliefs. For me a this time this also involves veiling and dressing up for Mass even though there are no real rules regarding either. They speak to my heart and help me recall to mind the spiritual truths for which I converted. The veil for me is another gesture, like any other I would do at Mass. It speaks as loudly as the statues, candles, genuflection, sign of the cross, holy water, medals and stained glass. It helps me become the reverent "living stone" that I am meant to be.

Totally didn't mean to look like St. Faustina...

This is what I wore yesterday to Mass. It was beautiful and comfortable for awhile, but I ended up having to adjust it a bunch of times during Mass and I found myself getting too warm. My Lillian also grabbed it at one point and ripped a bunch of hair out of it. Definitely not where I want my focus to be!

I ordered an eternity veil off Etsy and it came in the mail, but I think I will have to modify it a little bit before I wear it. To me it seems like too much fabric and it hangs down too low. Lilian sits on my hip at Mass every time I stand up, and I think that veil would get in the way and become a distraction as it is now. It's so beautiful, though. I'm afraid I'll be too conspicuous when I wear it. I'm shaking in my boots a little at the thought. Really! It may make its debut at midnight Mass on Christmas Eve when the baby won't be with me.

I sort of think I might be a snood lady. I really like this one, and if I had the money I would definitely buy it! Love the color and lace.

Today I *tried* to go to Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Little Flower in San Antonio. Let me tell you, the baby was fussy in the car so I should have known it was a bad idea. I had never been there before, but it's been on my list for a long time because St. Therese is my confirmation saint. I made it in just before the Penitential Act, shuffling in from the cold drizzle. I pulled out every mommy trick that I had to keep my little one quiet, but ultimately we had to leave before communion. I had tears in my eyes as I left. I felt ashamed and rejected and so alone. Reflecting on this in the car I ultimately had to take my own advice (God does not owe me an smooth Mass experience or communion, even!) and derive some good out of the situation. The good was that I got to see the inside of a gorgeous church, discovered the location for next time, passed by a discalced Carmelite monastery that I didn't know existed, spotted some nuns, and spied a few other ladies in veils. I also discovered another veiling option that worked surprisingly well!

This is a shawl (ravelry link) that I knit from lace-weight wool in 2010. The pic is from then, but the shawl is not so stretched out now (it needs to be re-blocked). This shawl actually stayed on my head really well because it is not made from a slippery material. The wool is a little bit grippy.

Anyway, I highly recommend that option for all you knitty ladies. Shawls really aren't as difficult as they look...I had a lot of problems with that particular pattern at the time, but it was all the pattern's fault. ;)

Visit Catholic Librarian for more veily goodness!


  1. Ewe...I think you are a perfect snood lady...I wish I could pull those off! I also received an eternity veil. I really like it and it doesn't hang too low. I am looking forward to wearing it. I am definitely a scarf girl though : )

    1. I am calling you sounds like a pretty name...I should be calling you Rachel though which is also beautiful...sorry about that.

    2. I would have really liked the scarf if I didn't end up getting hot! No worries, you basically just translated my Hebrew name into English :)

  2. Veiling spoke to my heart too. I understand it's personal impact.
    May your advent be blessed.

    1. It helps that the Blessed Mother is usually depicted as veiled!

  3. Beautiful post. Your comments on being sloppy resonated with me. Thank you.

    1. Yep, I'm so guilty with that even though I know I shouldn't be! I read this article and it helped me