Monday, March 19, 2012

Men and Mantilla Chapel Veils at Church: Matthew

In a prior post, I presented the results of a question presented to a number of male friends regarding how they feel about headcovering.  One of the responses merits a reading in its entirety.  That response follows:

            Pierre Auguste Renoir, {PD 1923}

The way I feel about veils is very much effected by questions of context.  Specifically,

*  ”Are veils a cultural norm in the relevant venue?”
*  “Is the wearer consistently modest (or obedient to scripture) in their behavior and choice of other apparel?”
*   and, if I am on familiar terms with the person, “What are the intentions of the wearer?”

First of all, if the veil is a cultural norm (as it is in many Orthodox churches), then I really think very little about it.  I don’t automatically think that everyone wearing the veil does so without conviction, but it simply reduces the matter below the level of controversy requited to trigger my mental energies.  In point of fact, it is now the abstainers that automatically draw my curiosity.

Non conformists aside, I can simply bisect the issue into: 1) Why is it a cultural norm among this community? And 2) What draws and holds these individuals to this community?  The first question can generally be answered with research, the latter only through relationship.

Photo: Creative Commons, click for license
Second, if a woman veils but otherwise leaves little to the imagination, then at best the veil means nothing; at worst the veil is a mark of hypocrisy or low self awareness.  If a woman is inordinately flirtatious, it would be better if she wore no veil, because the outward expression of modesty conveys innocence, thereby compounding the seductive effect on the man.  Because immodest dress excludes no viewer, only the most desperate men would fool themselves into taking any ensuing affectations as a unique token of appeal.  Like the gleam of gold through a keyhole, the invitations of a modestly arrayed woman are far more provocative.  Further, veils can be a sexual fetish simply for being a mark of feminine modesty.

Additionally, if the purpose of the veil is to avoid drawing attention, then wearing one where it is not a norm to do so is counterproductive.  I shall not belabor an obvious point.

That being said, the third context is really the most important to me, because it is the heart that matters most to God.  If the person intends obedience or modesty or virtue, then those intentions trump any outward effect.  Even if it is just a point of fashion, I cannot find fault with it in and of itself – veils can be very feminine and aesthetically pleasing simply as an article of clothing.

Finally, I should say that I appreciate the mindfulness that the veil represents when worn by young women in modern western communities.  I like to see women who don’t simply accept the norms they are presented with at face value, but are compelled to compare them to the traditions in which we find our origins.  If a woman veils and is virtuous in deed and modest in dress, discriminating in though, discerning in her study and obedient in her convictions, then it is not a veil at all.  It is a crown.

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