Trust in Him

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Modesty

Modesty exhibits the dignity and beauty of a woman,
It is a precious sign that Christ dwells within her.

Modesty is not easily learned in today's culture. The rules of the Church seem so old fashioned, so impossible, and are very difficult for us to obey. Indeed, according to the Church tradition it is forbidden for women to wear pants. When nearly every woman in the world has grown accustomed to wearing such clothing, and those who adhere to "modest" dress are considered oddities, how is one supposed to accept this extreme? For some, this is a topic they'd much prefer to leave alone... they have tried to re-define their consciences to reject this teaching of the Church in favor of public opinion. Those who's consciences still trouble them seek some common ground, but they are unable to find anyone who can help them come to a decision because all they meet are either totally indifferent to modesty or totally dedicated to upholding it. This is why: one cannot be immodest and modest at the same time.

The Church teachings, for those of you who are unfamiliar with them, are easily summarized. Women must not wear clothing that shows their form, or is thin enough that it can be seen through. Necklines can extend only two fingers below the throat, and skirts must fall far enough below the knee that the knee is not visible while sitting. The shoulders and upper arms must be covered, even when it is hot. These wise teachings of the Church are meant to protect her children from sin, and their reasons are very obvious. When a woman exposes her body, she loses the dignity that belongs to her, and to God. She leads men to lustful thoughts, and then falls easily into greater sins of immodesty, followed by impurity.

Today women have a far different idea of beauty than women did years ago. Their legs and arms must be smooth and well shaven, and carefully tanned. Their backs and upper chests must also be attractive. If their bodies are not enticing and nice to look at, they feel that they are not beautiful, and are in fact subject to the judgmental thoughts of those around them. The fashions that call women to abandon their dignity also call them to self consciousness, and lack of femininity. They draw men to themselves, and then are flattered when a man is unable to keep his eyes off of her. The actions of such a woman who has such freedom to move and expose her body may only consist of athletic antics and pretty poses at first, but later develop into flirtation and impurity. This is not because the women themselves are evil, it is because they have betrayed their greatest protection against concupiscence and allowed others to lose respect for them.

Modesty is not only a matter of dress, not even mainly a matter of dress. The way a woman behaves must reflect a pure soul within which Christ can dwell, this is modesty. She must not be vain, or filled with impure desires, but rather adore her Lord in submissive respectfulness for herself and others. Rather than seeking to draw attention to herself, she should instead seek to exhibit a beautiful personality through virtue and concern to others. This is modesty, and modest in dress and purity are it's main supports.

Now that I have established the nature, purpose, and statutes of modesty... I will go on to give an explanation of how I interpret it in my own life. It is not my intention to direct you, I have no right to do that, but it is my hope that I will increase your understanding and open your mind to seeking modesty in your own lives.

As a future bride of Christ, I am very attentive to the Divine jealousy which urges me to cling to the blessed state of purity. My Beloved has made me woman, He has loved me woman, and therefore I want to be woman to Him... in the same way that His mother was woman. For His sake I retain a personal dignity, a dignity that refuses to allow others to claim evil thoughts on my behalf, or to allow what He has made sacred and hidden to be exposed and misused like trash. I needed little guidance to show me how this end was to be obtained, my instinct told me the privilege I have in being a Temple of the Holy Spirit, and how it should be treated. It did not take me long to resolve to live for Jesus, to save myself for Jesus, and thus to give myself completely to Him and retain the full extent of the sacred gift He has given me.

Those who see me regularly will quickly identify a few characteristics in my dress and manner. I am always dressed in clothes that adhere to Church tradition, often they are very feminine and pretty, such as flowing skirts and light colors. Often, but not always, I wear a headscarf... it holds back my hair (now just below shoulder length) and gives a sense of mildness to my dress. I generally wear warm clothing, more by preference than by design, and like to wear shawls, with which I cover my shoulders in a spirit of humility and gentleness. Although I will play games, run, and have fun... I am reserved, always, because Christ is foremost in my mind. I strive to be polite, but accept, often too much, the attentions people give to me, naturally; pulling out my chair, getting me something to eat or drink, watching their tongues in my presence, etc. I like to think that the reason I inspire this effect in others is because of my modesty, and because Christ is visible in me.

I have just described my normal dress, my personal preferences, but what are my beliefs? Unlike most people who think as I do, I am not adverse to women dressing in pants. If for some reason I felt that I would be hindering the work of charity by my dresses, I would wear pants in good conscience, though it be a sacrifice for me. While I cover my head in church, I accept the embarrassment I feel when my head is uncovered when it is necessary for me to attend Mass without a veil, still in good conscience. However, I cannot in good conscience wear bathing suits, or shorts, or sleeveless shirts and shirts with low necklines. My entire person refuses to expose myself in such a way, to abandon my womanly dignity, for comfort or attractiveness. I respect and love the Church's teachings, but my intuition and conscience tells me that only pride could urge me to trip around daintily in a dress, when I could be far more useful (or safe, as in the case of hiking and farm work) in decent jeans. When I become a nun, forever dressed in the habit of Christ's choosing, I will have a dignity that cannot be made selfish and shameful by such a situation, but that is protected and blessed by God. I do not insist my understanding is correct, perhaps it is not, but I rely greatly on God's direction, and therefore trust my own judgment.

It is essential for us, today, to take care that we do not fall for the fashions and immodesty that enslave women to misuse that which is most precious to them. We must recognize and admit our own weaknesses, and strive to heed the warnings of the Church and the saints who tell us time and again that if we are immodest in dress, we will be immodest in action. Take care that your lives are virtuous, and exemplify the pure life of Christ. Carefully evaluate your motives, your thoughts, for any signs of vanity or impurity. This is no mild sin, but mortal sin we are discussing, and if it advances to impurity they will be compounded mortal sins. Remember that Christ is our true goal, and that He sees when we misuse the body that He has made sacred. Let us strive to imitate Mary, pure and beautiful, and ask her guidance in our pursuit of modesty and holiness. After you have asked her, if you like, please comment and add your thoughts on this subject, in which I still have much to learn.

2 comments:

  1. nice reminder,Jocy..and a beautiful look at the interior reasons for the external modesty. do you still have the book I had you read when you were younger? Immodesty: Satan's Virtue? what do you think of it now, in view of your own research?

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  2. I don't remember the book..

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