Monday, November 14, 2016

How Video Games convinced me to Veil

Over the past few years, I've become more and more traditionalist in my practice of the Faith. I'm a member of the Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, which celebrates Mass in the Anglican Use of the Roman Rite, basically the Traditional Latin Mass translated into Prayer Book English plus a later penitential rite and some unique Communion prayers. When I can't get to an Ordinariate Mass, I go to a Traditional Latin one. I believe that, while it is valid, there are major problems with the Novus Ordo liturgy (which I won't go into right now,) so I only attend such when there's no other option for fulfilling the obligation.

Yet, I hadn't ever regularly done something many traditionalist women do: cover my head in church. I had nothing against it and did do so sometimes, but didn't really think about it or see why it should be necessary. I read arguments for it, but they usually were mainly about "the Dignity of Woman." That's absolutely unconvincing to me, because it just seemed like--well, there's a whole strain of trying to Christianize feminism. But feminism cannot be Christianized. It is of Hell.

Going on and on about the dignity of woman and how we're the guardians of virtue and any good Christian man will always treat any woman with nothing but the highest respect is at best sentimental, at worst subversive. Yes, women have dignity and should guard their virtue. But men are to be the authoritative guardians of family and civilization to whom women should defer, and anyone, regardless of sex, who acts unworthily of respect is entitled to none. So arguments for veiling based on the dignity, even the so-called "sacredness," of women were as hogwash to me, and hogwash of which I was thoroughly sick.

I read Ann Barnhardt's article on veiling once and it didn't convince me enough to get me veiling. (She does go on a bit about the dignity of woman but has other arguments too. (By the way, it's a good idea to read that article, and the one linked therein about the necessity of the male priesthood, before finishing this essay. They're also just great reads in of themselves.)) Then, more recently, I read it again and was completely convinced. So henceforward, I'm going to be sure to cover my head in the presence of the Eucharist and know that I'm blessed to do so.What changed in my outlook?

I played the video games Ace Attorney: Apollo Justice, Ace Attorney: Dual Destinies and Ace Attorney: Spirit of Justice.

Spoilers for these games, as well as for Professor Layton versus Phoenix Wright, Ace Attorney, follow, so if you're going to play them and haven't yet, don't read any further. If you already have or you're not going to, read on.

The Eucharistic symbolism in the Ace Attorney series first gets established in the times when Phoenix Wright, the main hero, is not able to act as a lawyer. First, he loses his memory and works as a baker, with a particular emphasis on bread. Later, he is disbarred and turns to drink in the form of many bottles of wine, called "grape juice" in a humorous jab at kid-friendly censorship. An aside: I realize that some might think it irreverent to connect habitual drunkenness on wine with Eucharistic wine, but the connection is there. The Blessed Sacrament retains the attributes of the species, including the intoxicating quality. The Anima Christi prayer says, "Blood of Christ, inebriate me."

So this matches the Eucharistic species but might not be terribly symbolic in of itself. But combined with his already-established Christ-figuring and the following event, it becomes quite strikingly so.

In the first case of Ace Attorney: Apollo Justice, Phoenix, disbarred and a drunkard, is seeking to bring to justice a murderer who, throughout the game, is likened unto the Devil himself. To do so, he enlists the aid of Apollo Justice, the secondary hero of the series, and gives him a piece of evidence with a drop of blood on it. It should be the blood of the victim, but that was destroyed by the killer, so Phoenix recreated the evidence. It's not stated, but the reasonable conclusion is that he used his own blood for it. He substitutes his own blood for that of the victim--an immoral man, a sinner--and gives it to the one who needs it to defeat the Devil. Yeah.

From thenceforward, Apollo begins to follow in Phoenix's footsteps and in turn figures forth Christ Eucharistically.

In the first case of Ace Attorney: Dual Destinies, the next game, a bomb exploded in the courtroom, and a young lady, Juniper "Junie" Woods, was about to be crushed by debris when Apollo got in the way, shielded her with his body and took the brunt of the force, being grievously injured in the process. This is a vital point for the entire game.

Picture by Anna

While he does shed a lot of blood, it's emphasized how he shielded her with his body. The parallel is striking: in the prior game, Phoenix gave his blood. In this one, Apollo gave his body.

It's important to note that Junie goes on to be revealed as Apollo's love interest, her admiration and gratitude to him immense. And that her name, as well as other attributes, likens her to a tree; Apollo and Daphne is naturally evoked, but also and not contradictorily (The god Apollo's imagery was one of the most-used by early Roman Christians for Christ) Christ upon the tree of the Cross. Suffering is a huge theme of that game and is mainly performed therein by Apollo, before, during, and after this incident. So, you have a heroic man with the name of a god, the disciple of one associated with bread and wine, giving his body, as it is broken, to his beloved that she may live. Yeah.

Many of you have probably been thinking the whole time: But aren't these games made by Japanese people, who are statistically very unlikely to be Catholic? There's no way this symbolism was what they meant! To that I say: it makes absolutely no difference whether it was intended or not. Catholicism is the truth of reality, so every story that contains Truth, Goodness and Beauty will reflect it.

There are lots of other details that reinforce the Christ-Eucharist-figuring. It wasn't until what looks to be the final main-storyline game of the series, Ace Attorney: Spirit of Justice, that the full unity of symbolism becomes clear and that I really understood it all.

So, now I reread the Barnhardt article and it struck me this time. Veiling is not only, or even primarily, about the dignity of woman. It's about the relationship of Christ and the soul. Just as Apollo veiled Junie with his body in the midst of his suffering, Christ does to us when we receive Him in His Sacrifice. The soul is feminine in relation to God, so women veiling in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament outwardly signifies what is happening to the soul when He comes to us in said Sacrament, which is the most wondrous thing that can happen.

The power of the Eucharistic Christ figures of Phoenix Wright and Apollo Justice made me understand this truth which I was too benumbed to get from the usual religious arguments. And that's one of the great purposes of fiction. I once saw an article that argued, if you like Christ figures in fiction you should just like the story of Christ itself and forget about the fiction! They were totally missing the point. Being human, one gets used to the story of the Gospel and may not always be stirred by it. (The fact that it takes place in an arid locale is one silly yet actual reason I personally get inured to it.) Seeing it reflected and symbolized in exciting and various stories gives one the chance to see it anew, yielding an emotional impact for truths that may not have resonated before. Thus it did for me, and so shall I go and do accordingly.

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