The theology of the Mantel.

So, I’m young enough to not remember Vatican II and I remember being told when I was younger that many things changed because of the consul.  So, when I noticed that women used to wear head coverings and was told ‘we don’t do that anymore’ I thought very little more of it for years.

Some time in the past 10 years I’ve noticed a resurgence in head covering , my own daughter recently commented that she thinks she would like to wear a mantel because she thinks they are pretty.  However, I suspect there is something more to it,  often times women wearing the mantel in church have a certain feel about them that I have never been able to put my finger on until I heard a comment by Alice Von Hildebrand.

It was in a podcast and I’ve been unable to find it but the contents were very much something like ‘it is unfortunate that the custom of head covering has fallen by the way because it was about women being protected like the Eucharist’.

So let me back track with a little history apparently the cannon law the required head covering was in force long after I would have expected.

It was until 1983 that the code was actually removed, it was removed in such a way that any local bishop can still require head covering but the universal law of the church is now silent.

The more interesting point I think has to do with what the covering means, and why for many years it was required.  You basically have to start with the bible.  1 Cor 11:2-16 being the primary text.

The text starts with the basic christian understanding of the proper relationship between men and women.

But I want you to know that Christ is the head of every man, and a husband the head of his wife,* and God the head of Christ”- 1 Cor 11:2

which you can see repeated in various forms in the new testament.  Ephesians 5:21,1St Peter 3

It then reinforces this idea in verses 7-9 by basically making a reference to the relationship drawn out in Gen 2  .

From this I have to draw the conclusion that the veil is symbolic of important expression in Paul’s mind of the relationship between man and God and the relationship between man and woman.  Of coarse there are those who reject this relationship.

However, if you claim you believe the bible is the inspired word of God, or even claim you ‘believe in one holy apostolic and catholic church’ which is the church that makes the claim that the bible is the inspired word of God.  I think it should give someone immediate pause when they realize they are rejecting ‘the word’ of God, which is the same thing as rejecting Christ.

Going back to the covering of the head.  What does it symbolize.  The dirty word ‘submission’, covering the head is symbolizing willingly not being in control.  There of coarse is long standing catholic teaching that the humility that is gained from submission to earthly authority is of immeasurable value.  That again , is a counter-cultural value in the United States and most of the western world.

So, I have to say that I think the rejection of the symbol is associated with a attitude of feminism.

The common definition of feminism being one of claiming men and women are and should be equal in all things runs entirely counter to the bible and it’s claims about the right relationship between men and women.

So, if the bible is to be believed, it runs against what is good and natural for women when they refuse to submit to masculine authority.

If the bible is correct embracing authority is part of the value and glory of being female and any female person who refuses to do so is not fully themselves , not as fully the image of God they were intended to be and will always be at a distance from their true selves and their true fulfillment and happiness.

This is of coarse re-enforced by the catholic theology of Mary as Mother of God.  Mary the most perfect woman , and only person who is not part of the trinity to live completely without sin, saves the world through an act of submission to the authority of God “Behold I am the handmaid of the lord let it be done onto me according to your well”  and because she says the ‘the power of God overshadows her” and she becomes a living tabernacle a portal by which none less then God himself enters the world.

Since, we are talking about the theology of the bible and a passage written by Paul I would like to barrow one of his images.  He often talked about how circumcision of the heart was more important then physical circumcision.  Perhaps also, there is a concept of being veiled in ones heart , which is to say acknowledging right relation to authority that is much more important then any outside symbol that might be used to express it. This is basically what 1st Peter Ch3:3-4 right after defining the biblical model I have already pointed out.

States that:  ‘Your adornment should not be an external one: braiding the hair, wearing gold jewelry, or dressing in fine clothes,b 4but rather the hidden character of the heart, expressed in the imperishable beauty of a gentle and calm disposition, which is precious in the sight of God”

Still, often times, especially for Catholics, symbols teach us, they remind us and they guide us to deeper truth.

Also, there is a kind of equivalence in the biblical theology Paul hints at in in the same chapter 1 Corth 11-12

“Woman is not independent of man or man of woman in the Lord.g 12For just as woman came from man, so man is born of woman; but all things are from God.h

He brings this forth even more strongly in Ephisians 5:25-32 which begins “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the church and handed himself over for hert“.

I told my daughter when she asked about wearing a head covering , that I didn’t think she should until she understood and could explain to someone who asked why what the covering meant and why she wore it.

So, now I will talk to her and explain to her the reasons she should have her head covered, at least within her heart , if not externally.

  • The mantel asserts you believe God’s way is better then yours and you choose to humbly submit to the authority in your life especially your father and when married your husband as they themselves are symbols of God the Father.
  • The mantel asserts that as a woman you are valuable, like the Eucharist which is also covered, that you deserve to be and are owed protection by the earthly authority placed above you.
  • The mantel shows and insists, and reminds all the men in your life,  that you are ,or aspire to be,  like Mary the mother of God, open and submissive to the will God in your life , and like her you are due reverence, respect, and love.
  • The mantel is a rebuffing of , a resistance to the lies of western feminism which disrespects women , by wanting them to act like and be treated like men. Something they certainly are not.

If I were a woman, I would wear a head covering, and do my best to encourage all others to do so as well.  More over I would organize and partition the Bishop in my place to make it a requirement of the local church, because that is what was intended by Vatican II, and the changes in cannon law.  If enough women insisted on it , you could be sure he bishops would sooner or later give in, after all , it is hard to resist the daughters of the queen of heaven.


Additional reading.

10 Reasons Some Women Are Wearing Veils in Church Again


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