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

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thomas aquinas

Symbols; visible signs of the invisible

tradition the counter revolution.jpg

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

rosary weapon

Pride

Humble-and-Gentle-Jesus

Recently, I have had a bit of a struggle with pride.

Semantics… I could quote a dictionary on what pride is here. But I believe that words mean different things to different people. And a dictionary is like history records, written by the people who have the right influence to do so.

So what I mean by ‘pride’ is rooting my self-worth in my own ego. This is in contrast to what I think of ‘humility’ which is to ground my self-worth in the Lord, in the fact that I am loved into existence by God.

Why do I become proud? Because I do not trust that the Lord knows best. I don’t trust that I am loved infinitely by Him. So I turn to my own ego to justify my self-worth. I try to fill that God shaped hole with 4 broad categories, Wealth, Honor, Pleasure and Power.

As a consequence of being proud, I am insecure and self-centered (instead of being secure in God, and God-centered). If someone gets more money, that means there’s less money going to me. If someone gets more Honor (or attention), then there’s less of that attention going to me. If someone else gets more pleasure, then I am missing out on some. If someone gets more power, I am getting less power.

“One of the most fundamental problems in the spiritual order is that we sense within ourselves the hunger for God, but we attempt to satisfy it with some created good that is less than God. Thomas Aquinas said that the four typical substitutes for God are wealth, pleasure, power, and honor. Sensing the void within, we attempt to fill it up with some combination of these four things, but only by emptying out the self in love can we make the space for God to fill us. The classical tradition referred to this errant desire as “concupiscence,” but I believe that we could neatly express the same idea with the more contemporary term “addiction.” When we try to satisfy the hunger for God with something less than God, we will naturally be frustrated, and then in our frustration, we will convince ourselves that we need more of that finite good, so we will struggle to achieve it, only to find ourselves again, necessarily, dissatisfied. At this point, a sort of spiritual panic sets in, and we can find ourselves turning obsessively around this creaturely good that can never in principle make us happy.”
― Bishop Robert E. Barron

I think being proud was the reason why my mental state was bit unsettled yesterday when I had to read 2 very unpleasant emails from an individual who accused me of things that I hadn’t done. She wasn’t even someone I cared about. But the thing is when she was falsely accusing me, I felt that my honor was being threatened. So I emailed back to defend myself, being very intentionally passive aggressive. I tried to fight for my honor back. And of course I got an email in reply with more false accusations and also a notification that my account in her online community will be removed. When she said this I felt like she had the upper hand, she had more power than me in this situation. And so, in being proud, I felt like I was losing out in the power game. This interaction really upset my normally calm internal thoughts and mental state in a way that I couldn’t understand until a day later as I’m writing out this post.

I now realise that if I had remained humble (grounded in God) yesterday and not become proud (insecure), I would have quite possible avoided all that inner unrest.

In fact, I remember my husband saying to me (after I showed him the unplesant email and my reply that I had already sent) that in the future if I receive any unpleasant emails, I need to show them to him first and construct a reply under his guidance.

My husband is someone who is often more humble than I am, more trusting in God than I am, so his replies to unpleasantness is usually very kind. If I had turned to his guidance, I might have been able to reply her in a way that will disrupt the fight between us for honor and power. But at the very least I would have, under my husband’s guidance and God’s help, consciously chosen the humble path instead of the proud one.

I want to chose to trust as a child in the Lord and to trust in my husband in helping me to be humble, to ground myself in my God. To be able to sing, as Audrey does, “When I taste Your goodness I shall not want”.

From the love of my own comfort
From the fear of having nothing
From a life of worldly passions
Deliver me O God

From the need to be understood
From the need to be accepted
From the fear of being lonely
Deliver me O God
Deliver me O God

And I shall not want, I shall not want
When I taste Your goodness I shall not want
When I taste Your goodness I shall not want

From the fear of serving others
From the fear of death or trial
From the fear of humility
Deliver me O God
Deliver me O God

And I shall not want, I shall not want
When I taste Your goodness I shall not want

No, I shall not want, I shall not want
When I taste Your goodness I shall not want

When I taste Your goodness I shall not want

Audrey Assad‘I shall not want’

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