“Just this once,” was my occasional plea to my mother when I was young, when I wanted to get a ride to a friend’s house, stay up late, or wear a dress she considered entirely wrong for a Christian girl. She rarely gave in. Mom knew that “just once” would become “just once again” and pretty soon the floodgates were open because if it was right “just once” it meant it must be right all the time.
Modesty does not get suspended for a wedding day. The bridal shop may be luxurious, the sales associate just like a best friend, the dresses beguiling in their flattering elegance – but modesty is always expected for a Christian.
We guard the image of God that is us. “In His likeness He made them, male and female.” A woman is just as much “like” God as a man is. We are not lesser beings in His eyes, we are never merchandise on display, or objects to be admired like art. We are in His image, the holiest of icons.
That image of God needs to be honoured and not desecrated by being stared at and commented on by every non-believer that passes. “Holy things are for the holy,” is a common phrase used at the Lord’s Supper, and we who keep an orthodox view of the communion sacrament are careful to honour God’s presence with us as we receive the bread and wine. Some churches have the practice of taking the blessed bread and wine left from the altar and locking it up in a tabernacle or ambry, coverd with a curtain, a veiled place of protection. Yet these priests may not honour the very image of God before them and in themselves! Modesty, therefore, is more than a puritan attitude to prevent people from thinking about sex (people think about sex anyway) but a way of honouring God in Creation, by caring for God’s image.
Brides represent the Church Universal, the great establishment of God’s presence in our midst, the body of Christ. Can there by a greater responsibility? The chaste, pure bride is a model of the church as it approaches her love and master, Jesus Christ. The groom stands in His place to receive Her, and the two become one. It is a little passion play of the great divine love. Jesus expects His bride, the Church, to come before Him confessed and forgiven, united with Him in prayer and the love-feast of communion. Should a bride enacting this moment come before her love and husband like a woman who does not respect the image of God in herself and in him? A revealed body does not represent the quiet intimacy of life in Christ; it is worldly, vain, and self-worshipping.
Modesty is not suspended for the wedding day. It is emphasized. It can be the moment when a young woman who has been worldly and immodest, following the ways of fashion and keeping up with her friends, can publically make a change.
The wedding is the beginning of a new life in God with a partner. Every household formed in His name is a little church in itself, growing in faith, and with the blessing of the Lord, in number. It is a light in the wilderness, an example to those who are seeking.