Mother and modesty

In today’s fourth lesson at Matins, we read from Saint Leo the Great that the Deipara was chosen a Virgin from the royal house of David, and “lest, unaware of heavenly counsel, she should be scared of these unwonted events, the future Mother of God learned from an angelic announcement what was to be wrought in her by the Holy Ghost, and did not suffer loss of modesty”. It is amazing how great a value is placed on modesty in this text, and how trivial we treat it nowadays.

Bouguereau - Chant des anges
Chant des anges (fragment) | William-Adolphe Bouguereau | 1881

While we understand that modesty, first and foremost, is an interior disposition, a spiritual intention, we also acknowledge that the most visible indicator of modesty is clothing. Satan acknowledges this as well, and so has set his efforts at perverting the use of clothing, first by elevating it above its intrinsic usefulness and setting it upon the throne of luxury, creating modern-day idols called fashion and couture. Then followed the painful whittling down of clothes. Quite literally! As the years shouldered on, hunkered on the back of ever-developing tastes, clothes covered a smaller and smaller surface area of the average human skin. The operative principle is quantum exiguius, quantum tenuius, tantum melius. The skimpier, the flimsier, the better.

Just when we thought clerical vesture is immune from this depravity, often disguised as art to soften the impact, mollify the scandalised, and desensitise the indifferent, a high-profile event earlier this year just successfully staged one such vestural sacrilege, abetted by certain church dignities. Wannabes then took the cue, and parroted the perversion, this time, upping the ante, by debasing Catholic Christological iconography. (We refuse to link to these crazy antics, so they receive no satisfaction from our grievance.)

Puccinelli - La moda
La moda | Antonio Puccinelli | 1870

Let us remember these sacrileges on this feast of the Maternity of the Blessed Virgin, and prepare ourselves to renew, together with Catholic womankind, our promise every 8 December, when we consecrate once again ourselves and the entire Philippine Islands to the Immaculate Mother of God, “to remove far from the defiling hand of materialism, which hath degraded the use of clothing into an incentive of sin”.

Ut in omnibus laudetur Dominus.


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