Should I Wear a Veil to Mass?
Have you ever pondered this question? I have, many times. Into investigative mode I went, and dug into the roots of our history. It has become part of my spiritual journey. I believe we are on a journey, each with different twists and turns. You may not be of the Christian faith. My journey is not yours, and yours is not mine. I respect you. With this disclaimer added, I am a Roman Catholic Convert and I love my faith!
Veils at Church
Traditions Come From Many Sources
The tradition of the Veil, (often called a Mantilla, pronounced Man-Tee-Ah) comes to us from different sources. We have the Bible, oral traditions, and letters and observations from others.
Stand firm, then, brothers, and keep the traditions that we taught you whether by word of mouth, or by letter. 2 Thessalonians 2:15 (The New American Bible)
Old Testament Background
I will not print out every scripture in its' entirety, but they are noted for your personal reference. Reading gives us insight into the thoughts behind veiling in Old Testament times. In this period, all women veiled except prostitutes and slaves. Genesis Rabbah, an ancient Jewish commentary, stated a women's pleasures, beauties, and charms are for her husband alone. She is covered as a sign she is accessible to none but him. In 3 Maccabees 4:6, we read removal of the veil was a sign of disgrace! A moral, unmarried woman even wore a veil in front of her parents. Philo of Alexandria showed the veil was a regularly worn covering and a symbol of modesty. If an adulterous woman was caught, the veil was removed!
Veils at Baptism
New Testament Background
Paul wrote about veiling as well. He lived in a time when women after marrying, wore a marriage veil. Slaves, spinsters, and prostitutes did not wear them. When Paul says that women should veil in church, he is promoting the dignity of all women and their equality before God. They were all members of the Body of Christ. Remember, the early Church was predominantly Jewish with the majority of Gentile converts being women. The headship of men is also discussed in these scriptures, another entire topic in itself!
What else did Paul say? "Therefore the woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels."
Paul did not give an explanation for this. We know from Isaiah 6:2 that Angels were veiled. Many interpret this to mean, we should veil in the presence of God. Jesus Christ is truly and substantially present in the Eucharist, Body, Blood, Soul & Divinity at Mass and in the Tabernacle. In Scott Hahn's Book," The Lamb's Supper, Mass as Heaven on Earth." Scott goes into great detail about the ancient view of the Eucharist. Scott is a convert, a Professor and a great Catholic Theologian.
There are Angels around the altar. How could there not be? Saint Padro Pio of Pietrelcina, for one, had the privilege of seeing them!
"But if one is inclined to be contentious, we have no other practice, nor have the churches of God."
A little background reminder shines understanding on this scripture. The churches at this time were spread out geographically over thousands of miles. These churches had a mixture of Jews and Gentiles from different areas. They had different cultural backgrounds. Together, they practiced veiling showing this was a Christian symbol, rather than a cultural symbol.
From 1917 until 1983, The Code of Canon Law of 1917 remained in force throughout the church. The code stated women," while in a church or while assisting with the sacred rites outside of a church, ought to appear with the head entirely covered ... especially when they approach the Lord’s Table." It was the law of the church. Debate continued whether this canon should have been part of the code from the beginning. Biblical instruction should trump and be enough. Therefore, in 1983, the topic of head coverings no longer existed. This action was not to be taken to mean women shouldn't wear head coverings, or abandon tradition. The church did not remove or reverse the custom. It only deleted the canon.
What About Now?
You may be thinking at this point, so what! The Bible was written ages ago, and I don't care about Canon Law! What about NOW?
You have the background, let's talk about now. Go to Mass. What is Veiled? The Body and Blood are Veiled until the Preparation of the Gifts. The Tabernacle is Veiled between Masses. What does the Tabernacle hold? The Life of Christ. What did Veiled Virgin Mary hold? The Life of Christ. What do women hold? Life within us. Who at a wedding is Veiled? The Bride. Who is the Bride of Christ? The Church. Look at the Stations of the Cross, and reflect on Veronica and the wonderful gift she received from our Lord on her Veil! Think about the Angels all around, lift up you voices with them, as you sing, "Holy, Holy, Holy," the same words written in Isaiah over 2,000 years ago. You are taking part in Mass, the perfect prayer. Standing In His presence, with Angels watching.... It's your choice," Should I wear a Veil to Mass?"