Subscribe via RSS Feed

More Thoughts On The Veil

January 12, AD 2012 7 Comments

The Dec. 15th article on the veil fueled some great discussions in Catholic blogging circles. Father Dwight Longenecker did this follow up post and Deacon Greg at Catholic Online mentioned it as well. I thought it would be good to go back and touch on a few points.

First I am going to give you the actual bible verse behind the controversy. Here it is:1 Corinthians 11:1-17:

Be imitators of me as I am of Christ. I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I have delivered them to you. But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a woman is her husband and the head of Christ is God. Any man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head, but any women who prays and prophesies with her head un-veiled dishonors her head-it is the same as if she were shaven. For if a women will not veil herself, then she should cut her hair off, but if it is disgraceful for a women to be shorn or shaven, let her wear a veil. For a man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but a women is the glory of man. (For man was not made from women, but women from man. Neither was man created for women, but women created for man. That is why a woman ought to have a veil on her head, because of the angels. Nevertheless, in the women is not independent of man nor man of women; for as woman was made from man now man is born from woman. And all things are from God. Judge for yourselves; Does not nature itself teach you that for a man to wear his hair long is degrading to him, but is a woman has long hair it is her pride. For her hair is given to her for a covering. If one is disposed to be contentious. We recognize no other practice, nor do the churches of God.

Ok, so that might sound a bit harsh… Here is a little surprise though- this passage never bothered me! Why? I see it the point he is making not the often stated opinion that St. Paul dislikes women. The passage is not just to women. Notice: he addresses the men as well! This whole chapter in Corinthians is a guide to the young church…In fact right before we begin chapter 11 we read:
“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all for the glory of God.”

And them St. Paul explains further about men not covering their heads and women covering theirs. He goes on into the mass, even explaining about.
“Whoever therefore eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in a unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and soul of the Lord.”
In order to better understand why St. Paul is so adamant about the veil, one needs to understand its purpose. I am robbing Father Justin’s comment from my combox in the last post as he states it very beautifully.

“The Church uses veils in liturgy and worship to draw attention to the mystery present. Tabernacle veils, chalice veils, humeral veils etc. are all pointing to something important – that there are transcendent realities present. Your femininity is a holy mystery, and something not to be grasped at. The veil speaks of this. Plus, you represent in a special way the Bride of Christ – The Church – by wearing the veil. It reveals to all present at the Mass that Christ seeks to wed himself to us in the Wedding Feast of the Lamb. Good vestments, on the part of the priest speak the inverse. He is dressed for the wedding banquet.”

Now, think of what was veiled in the Old Testament — the Holy of Holies!

…The Ark of the Old Covenant was kept in the veiled Holy of Holies. And at Mass, what is kept veiled until the Offertory? The Chalice — the vessel that holds the Precious Blood! And, between Masses, what is veiled? The Ciborium in the Tabernacle, the vessel which holds the very Body of Christ. These vessels of life are veiled because they are holy!

And who is veiled? Who is the All Holy, the Ark of the New Covenant, and the Vessel of the True Life? Our Lady — and by wearing the veil, we imitate her and affirm ourselves as women, as vessels of life.

There is a lot more that could be addressed in regards to the veil. I brought it up again, in an attempt to better explain the biblical reasoning behind it, and give those curious about it more to ponder.

About the Author:

Rachel is a wife, Catholic, and cowgirl. Married to her sweetheart Sam, the two of them are enjoying the adventures of life hand-in-hand.

  • This is an angle I had never thought of before, the comparison between the Tabernacle veil and the veils on women’s heads. Good thought. There is much to contemplate there.

  • Wendi

    I hadn’t seen the original article, so I went back and read it along with this one.

    Very well articulated. Especially the choosing part. I often say that anyone who thinks my husband makes me wear one doesn’t know me AT ALL. 🙂

    I agree with you though, it’s sometimes difficult especially if you are the only person wearing the veil in your parish. My family has been introduced as the family that wears the veil because it’s an identifying marker. Since I don’t particularly enjoy drawing attention to myself it’s not always comfortable. But at the end of the day…I veil because it helps ME grow in holiness and I need all the help I can get. The good news is that some other families have joined the parish that also veil, so we aren’t the only ones anymore. I think as people rediscover the beauty of our heritage you’ll see more and more women appreciating the veil.

  • Marguerite

    I don’t see the Tabernacles “veiled” in churches anymore, especially after Vatican II. Any connection to the lack of respect for the Real Presence and women not veiling themselves in church? What’s worse than not veiling is the other abuses in dress code in church. Kudos to the veiled woman brave enough to be in the world but not of it!

  • Wendi

    I’ve seen some tabernacles that are veiled, although they tend to be in older churches that haven’t been wreck-ovated.

    I’m pretty optimistic actually. I think as catechesis improves and people are re-taught the concept the Real Presence, you’ll see a return to respect. After all the early church thrived in the midst of very hedonistic pagan Rome. In the meantime…if everyone concentrates on the domestic church and properly training up their own children we have every cause for optimism.

  • Thank you, Rachel, for sharing your understanding of the veil. I like the fact that what is veiled has a mysterious quality about it. A woman, by covering her head when before the Lord, reminds those around her that she is more than her outward appearance. There is an underlying mystery of the woman that can only be known by knowing her heart.

    As a religious, I have chosen to always have my head covered (even though my Institute’s revised Rule allows her members to choose not to). It is a reminder to me that my life of consecration in itself is a mystery that needs to be unlocked through my life of prayer and service, and at the same time allows me to be a sign of the Church, and her Groom (and mine), Christ.

    Also, there is a prayer in our old ‘Sacred Manual for the Canossian Daughter of Charity’ used when adorning our head each morning with our veil: “Lord, if I am not worthy to be crowned with thorns with you, grant that at least I should not offend you with my useless thoughts”. I may decide to further explore this theme on my blog 🙂 God bless!

  • Jennifer D.

    Is this Bible passage only referring to when women pray in church or any time they pray? I have been veiling for a few years now and after I read this passage not too long ago I started wondering if I ought to veil when I am saying prayers at our altar at home, during our meal prayer, or any other time.

  • Owen C.

    It’s also a women’s rights issue. Men cannot wear them. Show your prerogatives ladies!