Lent is the 40-day period between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday. It is a liturgical season during which we are called to repentance and self-reflection by way of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. The purpose is to remind us of our dependence on God for all things, to draw us closer to God, and to prepare us for the Great Feast of the Resurrection on Easter Sunday. Many people observe Lent by giving something up (ex, meat, alcohol, chocolate, Facebook) as an act of self-denial or self-sacrifice. This can be, in a way, a type of fasting depending on what you choose to give up and why. It can help us in our effort to draw closer to God if the things we give up are keeping us from God. In the last few years, I have noticed many people choosing to give up TV and social media during Lent because they view it as an unnecessary distraction in their daily lives. Others observe Lent by taking something on, such as daily prayer, scriptural study, and attending mid-week services. This can help to refocus our attention on our spiritual development by giving it a more central role in our daily lives. Some Lenten disciplines are more challenging than others, but we all have our own unique experiences... our own crosses to bear.
Personally, I've chosen to do something a little different this year. In the past, I've given up foods that I viewed as overly indulgent and which I enjoyed with gluttonous delight. I also usually commit to attending at least one mid-week service at church. Many churches offer a Lenten soup supper with evening prayer as an opportunity for members to come together in community for fellowship and corporate prayer. This year, in addition to attending a mid-week pray and study group, and reading evening prayer with James at home after dinner, I am going to wear a headcovering. Originally I had planned to veil only when going to church, but after giving it a lot of thought and prayer I have decided to veil full time until Easter. I can't say exactly why I've chosen to veil. I don't really have a precise, deliberate, or logical reason. It's just something that I feel called to do, something I feel drawn to.
A very dear friend of mine veils when she attends Mass and occasionally veils full-time, too. We have not talked about veiling very much, more in recent weeks than ever before, but she has blogged extensively about her experience with veiling.
I think, for me, it is primarily an act of humility and a gesture of penance for my vanity. People say that blondes have more fun, but my experience is that red heads get a lot more attention. My hair has been blonde, brunette, red, curly, straight, long and short. Red hair, by far, gets the most attention. During my mental health rotation, patients always remembered me from week to week as "that red-headed nurse." I'm still not sure if that was a good thing or a bad thing, but it is what it is. And when I have John, people make an even bigger fuss about it because his hair is red, too. I get all the classics. "Oh just look at that red hair!" "Look at the red-headed little baby! He looks just like his mama!" "No denying that boy. I can see where he gets his hair." This is, of course, totally ironic because 1) John is adopted and 2) my hair color comes from the salon. But whatever. The point is that I think it would be good for my ego to take a little break from all the gratuitous, but well meaning flattery.
It is a common practice among Eastern Orthodox Christians and many Roman Catholics to veil during prayer, when entering a church, and when in the presence of the Eucharist. The scriptural reference comes from Paul's first letter to the Corinthians when he says, "Christ is the head of every man, and the husband is the head of his wife, and God is the head of Christ. Any man who prays or prophesies with something on his head disgraces his head, but any woman who prays or prophesies with her head unveiled disgraces her head....Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head unveiled? Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears long hair, it is degrading to him, but if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For her hair is given to her for a covering" (1 Corinthians 11: 3-5, 13-15). It is important to note that Paul describes a woman's hair as her "glory." One rationale for veiling, particularly which at church, is to cover our glory so that others may focus their attention on the glory of God. In his letter to the Thessalonians, Paul says to "pray without ceasing....for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you" (1 Thessalonians 5:17-18).
Now I'm no biblical scholar, but if we are to veil ourselves when we pray, and we are to pray without ceasing, then it stands to reason that we are also called to veil without ceasing. That's what I'm going to attempt to do throughout Lent this year. AND... though taming my vanity is also an objective, I intend to prove to women who are interested in veiling that you can cover your head without looking like a complete weirdo. In fact, I'm going to show that you can look rather lovely.
And may the peace of the Lord be always with you.