The Chapel Veil

Article on The Chapel Veil 
Veiling 



Why Wear A Chapel Veil?  By Sr. Patricia Therese, O.P.B. taken from “Hearts of Refuge” Magazine of “Immaculate Heart Publications” 

In ancient traditions dating back even thousands of years, the “veil” represented purity and modesty in many religions and cultures. A veil, or head covering, is both a symbol and a mystical sacrifice that invites the woman wearing it to ascend the ladder of sanctity. When a woman covers her head in the Catholic Church it symbolizes her dignity and humility before God, not men. It is no surprise women of today have so easily abandoned the tradition of the chapel veil (head covering) when the two greatest meanings of the veil are purity and humility. The woman who covers her head in the presence of the Lord Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament is reminding herself that she must be humble before God. As with all outward gestures, if it is practiced enough it filters down into the heart and is translated into actions that speak volumes. The “veil” covers what the Lord calls, in Holy Scripture, “the glory of the woman”, her hair. Covering her hair is a gesture the woman makes spiritually to “show” God she recognizes her beauty is less than His and His Glory is far above hers. 

In doing this she is reminded that virtues cannot grow in the soul without a great measure of humility. So she wears the veil to please God and remind herself to practice virtue more ardently. There is no other piece of clothing a woman may wear to serve this function. The veil symbolically motivates the woman to “bow” her head in prayer, to lower her eyes before the great and mysterious beauty and power of God in the Blessed Sacrament. By the bowing of her head and lowering of her eyes, she is more able to worship God in the interior chapel of her heart and soul. The veil or head covering a woman wears gives a beautiful sense of dignity to a woman. When she wears it, she identifies herself with God’s greatest creation, the Blessed and Immaculate Virgin Mary, Mother of God. There was none on earth that loved and loves the Lord Jesus more than the Blessed Virgin Mary. In her love, her humility breathed forth like sweet scented incense before God. The veil she wore symbolized her purity, modesty and of course her profound humility and submission before and to God Almighty. 

Those women who love Jesus must come to realize the imitation of His Mother in wearing a chapel veil (head covering) and in other virtues is a small sacrifice to make in order to grow in spiritual understanding of purity, humility and love. The covering of a woman’s head in Church is a striking reminder of modesty, something old but lost in the society of today. Modesty and purity walk hand in hand. When a woman veils her head she is shielding her heart to be wooed by the love of God in the Blessed Sacrament. This is a mystical ‘country’ that only the Eternal Father may enter. Her veil is like the lighted lamps of the virgins waiting for the Bridegroom, an indication that she is prepared to receive Him at a moment’s notice; an aureole of her spiritual love for the Bridegroom. Wearing the veil is an act of love of God. 

Taken from "The Unveiled Woman" by Jackie Freppon. 

SCRIPTURE            Sacred Scripture presents several reasons for wearing the veil. St. Paul tells us in his first letter to the Corinthians (11: 1-16) that we must cover our heads because it is a Sacred Tradition commanded by our Lord Himself and entrusted to Paul: "The things I am writing to you are the Lord’s commandments" (1Cor. 14:37). 

DIVINE HIERARCHY            God has established a hierarchy, in both the natural and the religious spheres, in which the female is subject to the male. St. Paul writes in 1st. Corinthians: "But I would have you know that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is the man, and the head of Christ is God (1 Cor. 11-3). And, in the institution of marriage, God gave the husband authority over the wife, but responsibility to her as well. Not only is he the family’s decision-maker, but he is also responsible for the material and spiritual welfare of his wife and children. Man is not in this position to enslave or belittle the wife. 

As the Bride (the Church) is subject to Jesus, women must wear the veil as a sign that they are subjected to men: "Let wives be subject to their husbands as to the Lord; because a husband is head of the wife, just as Christ is head of the Church." (Eph. 5, 22-23) The man represents Jesus, therefore he should not cover his head. However, this subjection is not derogatory to women, because in God’s kingdom everyone is subjected to a higher authority: "For as the woman is from the man, so also is the man through the woman, but all things are from God." (1 Cor.11,12). Furthermore, the symbolism of the veil takes that which is invisible, the order established by God, and makes it visible. In the history of the Church, priestly vestments have played a similar symbolic role. 

WOMEN’S HONOR            It is an honor to wear the veil. But by publicly repudiating it, a woman dishonors her feminine dignity, her sign of female subjection, just as the military officer is dishonored when he is stripped of his decorations. The Roman Pontifical contains the imposing ceremonial of the consecration of the veils: "Receive the sacred veil, that thou mayst be known to have despised the world, and to be truly, humbly, and with all thy heart subject to Christ as his bride; and may he defend thee from all evil, and bring thee to life eternal" (Pontificale Romanum; de benedictione) St. Paul says an unveiled woman is a dishonor: "But every woman praying or prophesying with her head uncovered disgraces her head, for it is the same as if she were shaven" (1Cor.11,5). 

BECAUSE OF THE ANGELS            "That is why a woman ought to have a veil on her head, because of the angels" wrote St. Paul in 1 Cor. 11,10. The invisible hierarchy should be respected because the Angels are present at Christian liturgical assemblies, offering with us the Holy Sacrifice with the honor due to God. 

ANCIENT TRADITION            The custom of wearing the veil was maintained in the primitive Churches of God. (1Cor.11:16). We see this in the first letter of Paul to the Corinthians. The women of Corinth beset by modern sensibilities, started coming to church without their heads covered. When St. Paul heard of their neglect, he wrote and urged them to keep the veil. According to St. Jerome’s commentary Bible, he finally settled the matter by saying head covering was a custom of the primitive communities of Judea, "the Churches of God" (1 Thess.2-14, 2Thess.1-4), which had received this Tradition from early times (2 Thess.2:15. 3:6). 

GOD’S COMMAND            Even today some people erroneously believe that St. Paul based the tradition on his personal opinion. They think he did not intend it to be continued in the Universal church, but only as a local custom. This argument, however, does not conform to the Pauline spirit. After all, it was Paul who stood before Peter to change Jewish traditions in Christian Churches (Gal.2:11-21).
St. Paul reminds them: "for I did not receive it from man, nor was I taught it; but I received it by a revelation of Jesus Christ" (Gal.1:12), referring to the authority of his ministry, and veracity of his words. Pope Linus who succeeded St. Peter, enforced also the same tradition of women covering their heads in the church (The primitive church, TAN.) Our Lord warns us to obey his commandments: "He therefore that shall break one of these least commandments, and shall so teach men, shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven" (Matt.5:19). 

We should always be ready with our bridal veils, waiting for him and the promised wedding (Apoc.22:17), following the example of our Blessed Mother Mary, who never appeared before the eyes of men but properly veiled. To those who still think that the veil is an obsolete custom, remember that: "Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday and today, yes, and forever" (Heb.13:8).

Join the Mailing List
Enter your name and email address below:
Name:
Email:
Subscribe Unsubscribe
Email list to receive updates specific to the Latin Mass in the Worcester diocese. When you subscribe, you will receive a link to confirm. Click on the link (if it doesn't open, copy and paste it into your browser and open it from there). You are then on the Latin Mass email list. (There is no need to sign up for a password unless you want to sign up for other services).