Thursday, December 26, 2013


Ah, an item of Orthodox intrigue!

I don't even know when I became an inquirer in the Orthodox Church, but I do know that I wore a headscarf for the first time on Christmas Day after landing in October. It was a scarf I'd had forever: A little white, plain kerchief with red rickrack. And that was the beginning of what has been a frustrating path for me.

I liked covering my hair in church so much that, when in Marfa, I really kicked it up. I discovered the headcovering techniques of Orthodox Jewish women and embraced covering all the time. It worked in Marfa, but when we went back to Denton, it just got weird.

Covering became a substitute for doing anything with my hair. Where I had once perceived this as holy (I don't do my hair, therefore I am not vain), it eventually turned into vanity (I don't want to do my hair, and this particular way of tying a scarf is cool-looking, therefore I am vain). I wore headscarves as a reminder that I should always be praying, but suddenly it took on the form of me feeling like I should pray with my head uncovered because wearing a scarf was now mundane. Like I said, it got weird. And bass-ackwards.

Recently I read with great interest the Catholic way of veiling. Veiling during Mass is seen as a sign of adoration towards the Blessed Sacrament. That, of course, is not how the Orthodox do things or even why they cover. The Orthodox believe that Communion is to be eaten, not venerated in special reliquaries (to quote a priest who put it quite bluntly--oh, I'm going to offend so many Catholics saying this--"We don't do cookie worship"). Headcovering has more to do with what St. Paul said about covering while praying (and prophesying, but I'm not doing much of that ... or any of that), but to me the Catholic reason added new depth.

I've constantly told myself, "Taking pride in yourself is bad! Vanity is bad!" but I'm starting to realize what's really bad. Staying in the house all day is bad. Wearing my pajamas all day and not even brushing my hair is bad. Letting my roots grow out so I have half-brown, half-black hair is bad. The laziness and lack of self-care that depression brings into my life is bad. Time to fight back. The wacky hours my body seems to naturally prefer makes being a normal person difficult (I am writing this at 4:30 in the morning, after all), but that's a small thing.

What's this got to do with headcovering?

I have decided to embrace Catholic veiling. This means thin, wispy, lacy veils instead of the sturdy headscarves I've grown accustomed to. But that means actually fussing with my hair in the morning and, in the end, not having it smooshed down and in bad need of repair. It also means bobby pins so I can bow and prostrate without losing my veil. I have several on order (one is positively magnificent) and a few in my possession already (eternity veils--they stay on good). And I won't cover my hair all the time--just during prayer and services. I applaud those who can wear headcoverings all the time, but I'm not one of those people.

This is probably more about the fight against mental illness than about the spiritual struggle, but considering how often mental illness gets in the way of my churchgoing, it seems worth it.

By the way, does anyone know how to turn the autocorrect off on a Mac? It keeps wanting to make "headcoverings" two words instead of one, and I'm ready to punch my computer.

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