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"Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart." – Luke 2:19 (RSV)

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st josemaria escriva

Symbols; visible signs of the invisible

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These days, the idea of submission to the authority of her husband is frowned upon, to put it mildly. But it shouldn’t be, once we realize that the bridal veil signifies the submission of this particular woman to the loving care of her husband. It signifies her trust, her confidence in his Christ-like leaderhsip. It signifies that she has chosen to follow him as a loving partner and companion. It also signifies that he has been specifically consecrated to handle that sacred vessel – to safely touch that ark – and that’s something mysterious and beautiful.

But that doesn’t explain why little girls would wear a veil, does it? It doesn’t explain why professed virgins, nuns, religious sisters would wear veils, does it? Obviously, the mystical symbolism of a veil goes far, far beyond the relationship of one particular woman and one particular man. What does it mean? What sort of a mystery is presented us when we see a woman veiled before the altar?

It’s a very great mystery. Like Our Lady, every Catholic woman, as a woman, is a living icon of the church. So when she veils herself here, in the presence of Our Lord, it’s a visible reminder for all of the spousal relationship – the bridal relationship – between the Church and Christ.

That relationship between the Church and Christ is a very deep mystery, indeed. So whenever we see a veiled woman here, before the altar, be she six or be she sixty, it’s a visible reminder for all of us of this spousal relationshp, this bridal relationship between Christ and His Church.

And because the veil also signifies the submission of the bride to the loving care of her husband, it means that the veil of a Catholic woman is also a visible reminder of the perfect submission of the church to the loving rule of Christ.

The veil is a visual sermon, it’s a visual statement, it’s a public proclamation before the Lord that He IS the Lord and that we love Him and that we are ready to obey him. It’s a totally counter-cultural statement proclaiming obedience in the midst of a culture that is totally permeated with this attitude of “I will not serve.”

That, in any age, but especially in ours, is a very great mystery indeed.

The Theological Significance of the Veil

As I was driving today, a question came into my mind. How can we as human beings made of body and soul fight in a spiritual battle that we cannot ‘see’? The war that is being waged all around us is a war against the principalities and powers of wickedness and high places; this is the realm of the spiritual, of the invisible. Well, in fighting a battle that is invisible, it only makes sense where we can to make the invisible ‘visible’.

It is often said that symbols are a visible sign of the invisible. Therefore, powerful symbols are a crucial part of the spiritual battle. Since the Tradition of the Catholic Church is packed full of symbols in the forms of beautiful Cathedrals, art, and practices such as veiling in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament (just to name a few), it is so important that we treasure and preserve the great Tradition of Mother Church.

St. Thomas Aquinas says, “Three things are necessary for the salvation of man; to know what he ought to believe, to know what he ought to desire and to know what he ought to do.” Symbols are a powerful visible reminder of these three things.

To dismiss the symbols in the Tradition of the Church as out of date or irrelevant is to remove the visible signs of the invisible battle being waged around us.

Fight with verve and joy and gladness because this war against the principalities and powers of wickedness and high places is the one absolutely just and therefore absolutely beautiful war in the universe. Hold your head high, it’s a glorious war.

– Dr. Peter Kreeft, How to Win the Culture War

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Designed for Love

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If you want to identify me, ask me not where I live, or what I like to eat… but ask me what I am living for, in detail, ask me what I think is keeping me from living fully for the thing I want to live for.

– Thomas Merton

I love this quote by Thomas Merton because it gets to the heart of what questions you need to ask if you really want to get to know someone.

Essentially, there are two questions that could be asked; 1. What are you living for? 2. What is keeping you from living fully for the thing you want to live for?

I think these questions are also helpful to get to know myself; to grow in self-knowledge and self-awareness. Also, asking these questions regularly would be a good check up on my soul.

  1. What am I living for? To be united with the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus; to be united with God who is Love itself.
  2. What is keeping me from living fully for the thing you want to live for? Myself, my concupiscence, my self-love.

As a Catholic, I believe that I am designed by God for Love; to fall in love with the One who is Love itself, to strive to be united with Love (by relying on God’s superabundant grace) and to eventually be in perfect communion with the Most Holy Trinity. These major landmarks are like courtship and engagement (on Earth and in Purgatory), and marriage (in Heaven) where I am the bride and the Lord is my bridegroom.

I would say that Catholic evangelization… ought to be based upon the Eucharist in which case it’s really about falling in love in stages. It’s sort of like courtship, engagement and marriage.

Dr. Scott Hahn

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