Saturday, June 25, 2011

Does It Matter What You Wear?

Let me begin by saying that I more frequently attend the "Extraordinary Rite of the Mass" (Traditional Latin Rite and hereafter "ER"), but do visit the Novus Ordo Missae (New Order of the Mass), or "Ordinary Rite" (hereafter "OR") from time to time as well.  One of the first things one may notice in comparing the two is the manner of dress of the people between the two rites.  In the ER we see nearly every one wearing their "Sunday best."  On the contrary at the OR we see SOME in their "Sunday best" - but most seem to be wearing casual/relaxed clothes, as if they just realized, "it's time for Mass" and dropped whatever they were doing and showed up with the "come as you are" look.

Now consider this...  if one is going out to dinner at a fancy restaurant they would "dress up" for it, would they not?  The same can be said of say, a wedding or even a nice company dinner party.  Why?  Because it shows respect to the host AND to those around that you actually care.  So when one goes before THE Wedding Feast (which EVERY valid Mass IS a prefiguring for) then why does not God deserve AT LEAST as much respect as a dinner party or friend/relative's wedding?

I can understand differing cultural views - but living in the USA, which is the perspective I speak from, the cultural view of "dressed up" for men would include nice slacks, dress shirt, dress shoes and perhaps a tie or even a suit.  For women, a long dress or skirt (or at least below the knees), nice blouse and for church - head covering (per 1 Cor. 11:6 - see below).  Does not God Himself deserve the respect to show you care enough to "dress up" a bit for Holy Mass?

So, what are your clothes saying about you when YOU go to Mass?  Did you care enough to "dress up" a bit for God?  Some may argue, "God doesn't care what I wear to Mass."  Well, then why is the one who showed up to the Wedding Feast and refused to wear a wedding garment tied, hands and feet, and thrown out of the Feast into the darkness - where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Matt. 22:1-14).  Keep in mind, this guest accepted the invitation to attend - but did not dress appropriately.  Now certainly this was a parable relating to the Kingdom of Heaven - but we must consider that the Mass is a prefiguring of the Kingdom of Heaven! 

Back to head coverings for women, let us look to what St. Paul taught us in his letter to the Corinthians, 1 Cor. 11:2,5-6:
2 I praise you for remembering me in everything and for holding to the traditions just as I passed them on to you.  5 But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head—it is the same as having her head shaved. 6 For if a woman does not cover her head, she might as well have her hair cut off; but if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, then she should cover her head.
So, how can a woman justify NOT covering her head in church?  I have heard some women claim that St. Paul is saying that a woman's hair is her covering, but that really makes no sense - for if we look at verses 3 and 4 from the same context and if hair is the "covering" that is spoken of in verses 5 and 6, then every man should be shaved bald before going to church!  Look at verses 3 and 4 now:
3 But I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God. 4 Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head.
So again, IF the acceptable "covering" for a woman is hair, then every man who has NOT shaved his head for church is disgracing God.  In short, women should still cover their heads since, as St. Paul opens this chapter with the statement that what he's saying is a tradition he passed down to them and it should be held on to, period.  All the rationalizations aside - THIS is what Scripture tells us to do!  Ironically, most Protestant religions, which claim to be "Bible believing" either ignore this verse or rationalize their way around it to minimize Scripture.

Here is a link to a very Traditionalist view:


I hope I might tack on a little more from a woman's perspective here without abusing my privilege as a contributor.

    I agree that modesty is missing from our culture today.  I can't tell you how many times I have sighed, and grieved for the immodesty and disrespect shown by both sexes to the Body of Christ.  I know a family whose father and two sons appear in "dress" shorts, t-shirts, and sandals during the summer months.  The mother still wears a modest dress or skirt--thank God.  I have seen belly buttons, cleavage, underwear peeking out of the top of pants, flip-flops, beach cover-ups, etc.  I don't understand why one would come to the banquet of the king, or the preview of the wedding feast, as you pointed out, in such immodest dress.

The Visitation
   I took the leap to wearing a veil several Advent seasons past.  I just picked the first Sunday of Advent as an excuse--hoping that it would not seem so strange to those around me.  I had felt the conviction to wear a veil for some time before I finally had the courage not to be one of the crowd.  I did not grow up in the Church so it was not a conviction from my past--although other rules of modesty did come from my former Protestant background.  I felt the Holy Spirit was asking me to do so.  It was a tradition of the church that was not stopped by the Church; women just stopped doing it.

I see the veil not so much as a submissive act--though it absolutely is a sign of submission to God--but as an act of holiness.  Our Lady's body carried the most precious of all life, Our Savior Jesus Christ; she wore a veil.  The Ark of the Covenant, a foreshadow of Mary's Body carrying Christ, was veiled in the Temple.  The Tabernacle which holds the Body of Christ in the Sanctuary of our parishes used to be veiled.  The chalice is veiled when it is brought to the altar.  A woman's body is a special place which holds the potential for life in cooperation and submission to God's will.  A woman's body like all other holy places should be veiled.

As one of about 3 or 4 women that wear a veil at the NO Mass that I attend, I wanted to share my perspective.  I believe it is a powerful message of modesty, submission, and holiness.  I have had women tell me how beautiful I look and they wish they had the courage to wear one.  I pray that my continued practice will give them the courage to do so also.

Here is another good article on the veiling of women in Church.  The author is a woman.

I hope that is alright, Scott. 

1 comment:

  1. I also recall an independent Baptist Church I attended in Maryland--they actually had two men stand at the entrance to turn away anyone not dressed appropriately. At the time, I thought it rather draconian. Now, I'm not so sure.

    I have asked the Youth director to consider adding modesty talks to his curriculum.


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