Sunday, January 29

'Til We Have Faces: How I've dealt with the Temple, Part I

C.S. Lewis is my favorite author. I've read all(as far as I know) of his fiction, and am slowly working my way through his apologetic works (slowly because if I went fast I'd miss too much). However, I had the unfortunate experience of reading his re-telling of the story of Psyche and Cupid, called 'Till We Have Faces. It was a wonderful book and I loved reading it. So why did I describe it as an unfortunate experience?
The main character, Orual, is Psyche's ugly older sister. In the book, Orual loves Psyche deeply, and is personally hurt by Psyche's choice to leave and live with Cupid. Orual later becomes the queen of her realm. As Orual is not unaware of her ugliness, she chooses to wear a veil over her face. The veil makes her mysterious, and unknown and gives her vey real power. But, the reason she chose to wear it was to hide, and to make herself faceless. The power it gave her was a suprising by-product. The part that stuck with me was this phrase, "We cannot see the Gods face to face, 'til we have faces." I read this book about a year before I went to the Temple, and although parts of the ceremony were lovely and uplifting, some parts broke my heart.
I had so many questions. What is wrong with me that must be covered? If it is that I am mortal and havn't passed through *the veil* then why don't the men need to cover their faces too? Am I not meant to have a face? Will I ever see God face to face? Doesn't He want to see me? All the time remembering the quote, "We cannot see [God] face to face 'til we have faces." What hurt me the most was the veil that kept me faceles seemed to come from God. And if it didn't come directly from Him, it certainly came from his messengers.
So I read. I read anything I could about veils. I read about what they cover, why they cover it, and when it should be covered. It didn't help much. Some said only holy things get veiled, like the Ark of the Covenant. This would be fine, except it didn't feel like I was on the same side of the veil as the Ark. It felt like I was definitely on the un-holy side of the veil. Some said women should wear veils so that our beauty (which is our glory) doesn't compete with God's glory; it's a way of encouraging those around us to focus on God. I don't think *anything* about me is on any level to compete with God's glory. And, if I happen to be pretty it shouldn't be my responsibility to hide every square inch of me so that the boys in the room can focus on the task at hand.
Then I prayed. I asked why should I be faceless? Do veils really make me faceless? I asked to understand, or at the very least to have something to distract me until I can understand. I wanted something to associate the veil that I wore with to make it mean *anything* other than what I thought it meant.
Rinse. Repeat. It was months of almost daily discomfort before I came to a resolution about the veil that I was asked to wear, and it was so anti-climactic that it's almost laughable.
I love African Lovebirds. They are beautiful, comical, and smart. The ones that I had as pets while I was growing up had such personality, that as a young girl I decided that heaven wouldn't be heaven unless my birds came too. My favorite kind were the Peach-faced lovebirds. Those who know much about birds know about Sexually Dimorphic birds. They are the kinds of birds where the males and the females of the same species look noticably different. For example, in some types of ducks the males are green, and females are brown. Peach-faced lovebirds are dimorphic, but just barely. The female's feathers are the same as the males, but they are just a shade softer. Sometimes it is nearly impossible to tell them apart, unless you have another bird of a different sex to compare it with.
My resolution came when I saw a picture of a pair of peachfaced lovebirds. I noticed the dimorphism and thought, "It's almost like she's wearing a veil." Suddenly, thinking of it like that made it all okay. I can't even explain why, but thinking about wearing a veil as being like a dimorphic bird is perfectly alright to me.
I don't expect that way of thinking about veils to help anyone else. I would actually be rather suprised if it did. I guess the main point is that I didn't give up, and eventually my prayers were answered. I wasn't given an explanation, but I was given something that works for me.


Rich said...

It's interesting that you are not veiled for the entire ceremony, only during certain moments. Either some obscure symbolism going on that has yet to be fathomed, or a throwback to some tradition the meaning of which has been long since forgotten. Either way, for what it's worth, I've never given it any thought as to women being inferior or less worth or on the wrong side of the veil, etc.

I put little stock any more in all of that being God-dictated. I think it's us humans trying to fathom God, and sometimes we get it wrong or miss the mark.

Anonymous said...

"I put little stock any more in all of that being God-dictated."

I've come to a similar conclusion. I've decided that even if it *is* dictated by God, then it isn't necessarily something we're supposed to take as ideal which I think most people sort of believe. For example with the veil that women wear, we think that it means women *should* be covered like that. I've decided that instead it means that women *are* covered in some sybollic way, and we are left to try and learn how, why, and whether or not it is a good thing.  

Posted by Starfoxy

Mike said...


Absolutely wonderful post.
Thanks for posting at Unofficial Manifesto and in turn leading me to your blog.

Anonymous said...

This post is actually the one that led me to your blog. What interests me is how your concerns were addressed. You asked a question and received something that helps satisfy you, even if it isn't a full explanation. Personally, I asked a lot of questions about polygamy. While I still don't completely understand the practice, my concerns were addressed in a way that was unique and personalized- just for me. It's not an answer that satisfies my intellect or that would necessarily address everyone who has my particular question. For me, the answer came while serving as a missionary, having companions and developing love for them and suddenly I feel like I'm okay with polygamy. It makes sense to no one else but me. In your words:

"I wasn't given an explanation, but I was given something that works for me. " 

Posted by Cheri

Post a Comment