When they marry Christ, nuns wear a form of wedding dress. It marks them as being apart. Priests, too, wear garments that set them apart. It is a sign. Does it matter? In my own church recently there has been a move to dispense with the canons about clerical dress. Are we not to mark out any territory for what is holy? We see in Scripture that these things are taken seriously, and yet, it seems we think we somehow know better. Time was when if we went to church we dressed up. When I was a little girl my father, who did not go to church but would take me and wait there until it was over, would make sure I wore my best dress, and everyone else was in their ‘Sunday best’. This was a lesser form of wearing special dress to show one was consecrated to Christ, but it came of the same mind-set.
We have lost this I think. To point this out is to be called a Pharisee and to be accused of caring more about surface appearance than anything else. Yet, these same people who say that, if invited to a formal dinner by their boss would not turn up in shorts and tee-shirt. If they were invited to meet the US President or the Queen, I doubt they would not think of getting new, smart clothes. Are they ‘pharisees’ then, or are they simply being respectful? Do we not think we should be respectful to God?
I like the practice in the Orthodox and Traditional Catholic traditions of women wearing a mantilla. I usually wear a veil or a hat to church. It seems to me respectful, and scriptural – St Paul recommends it in 1 Corinthians 11:5-6, 13-16. Sometimes I want to go further, but my one attempt to do so, when I was about 15, was not a roaring success – I suppose going round in my first communion dress for the whole of Sunday was probably a bit much. It took about a month of stares every Sunday for me to revert to something a bit less conspicuous. I understood what I was doing, it was a little act of consecration, but I doubt many in our village got that – it was just ‘old Hoff’s girl’ going ‘through a phase”. Maybe I should have been braver? But at least it was an attempt to say to God that on Sunday, his special day, I was devoting myself to him in a special way.
I agree with our own orthodoxgirl99 when she writes:
So why do I veil? Well certainly not to make any kind of fashion statement as veiling today is probably considered completely ‘uncool’. I veil because I am in the presence of Almighty God, my Creator, my source of Life and my soul’s delight. I veil as an external manifestation of my belief that Christ is truly present in the Eucharist and I wish to show love, reverence and humility in his Holy presence. I veil because like the Angels I feel I should cover myself in the presence of the Holy One. I veil because I love Our Lord. I veil simply because I feel it matters.
I still sometimes wish I had persevered with the courage to wear that communion dress every Sunday – but I suppose wandering round in a wedding dress every Sunday might be a bit much – although it would be better than turning up in shorts and halter-neck tops – which seems not too much for too many.