My black mantilla is gorgeous, as is the thought behind it. It’s a gift from my husband’s grandmother, who knows about my appreciation for chapel veils. “It will be perfect for Holy Week,” I observed when I unwrapped it. “And the lace is so soft.” Ah, the paradox of the chapel veil. It’s an archaic tradition full of mixed messages and missed signals. Although intended as a tool for modesty, I was initially drawn to chapel veils for their beauty. The opposite of the point. The chapel veil lends itself to a million unintended interpretations. Chief among them is that, by wearing the veil, I demonstrate that I am a particularly holy and devout person. This is far from the case. So it should not have been surprising when, at Palm Sunday Mass, the darn thing would not stay on top of my head. If the veil is a symbol of Christ’s mystical marriage to His Church, I haven’t been the best bride.
Another Tattered Romance
If you had asked me this time last year how my spiritual life was, I would tell you I was heartbroken. Missing Easter Mass crushed me. It pained me to be separated from Holy Communion. What I didn’t realize at the time, was that was one of the high points in my faith life. Being that sad about Easter meant I cared about Easter. I believed in Easter. I still believe in Easter, and I’m grateful I won’t have to watch Mass on television this year, but closeness with God, like so much in life, is always most desirable when it is out of reach.
I’m reminded of a quote from Esther Perel, the famed psychotherapist who focuses on – of all things – infidelity. “The very ingredients that nurture love – mutuality, reciprocity, protection, worry, responsibility for the other – are sometimes the very ingredients that stifle desire.” It may seem strange to apply concepts like desire to our relationship with God, but in fact this is the most important romantic relationship we will ever have. And, like every romance, it ebbs and flows and – frustratingly – is often strongest when it is out of reach. So it is that, when I finally have God within my grasp, literally, when I can taste Him and unite with Him in an intimate physical sense, my desire is weakest. I’d rather stay in bed.
It’s Holy Week Again
Holy Week is upon us whether we’re ready for it or not. Unlike His Church, which is a continual wreck, Christ is the perfect spouse. He’s steadfast, reliable, attentive, romantic. And He continues to desire us, persistently – almost exhaustingly so. He laid down his life for us and would do it again in a heartbeat. He does, in fact, in the sacrifice of the Mass. But his love isn’t primarily sacrificial. He’s not just some a long-suffering spouse. Christ’s love is rooted in joy and an ecstatic desire for creation. And all that’s expected of me, of all of us, is to keep showing up. If the veil is a symbol, then so too is pulling it up. Every time it slips off my head, the act of pulling it back is a reminder. You’re here, I tell myself. It’s Holy Week again, and you’re here. And again and again. Until we’re finally with God for good.