Chapel veils, or mantillas (which comes from the word manta, meaning cape) are typically circular or triangular shaped pieces of black or white lace that are draped over a woman’s head when attending Mass, or in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. Traditionally, the black veils were worn by married or widowed women, while the white veils were worn by young girls, or unmarried women, but there are no hard and fast rules about this.
“Therefore ought the woman to have a power over her head, because of the angels.” (1 Corinthians 11:10)
St. Paul reminds us that as Christ did the will, and sought the honour of God the Father, so the Christian should avow his subjection to Christ, doing His will and seeking His glory. We should seek a fitting demeanour in our dress and habit, avoiding everything that may be dishonourable before the Throne of God. By covering her head with a veil (or mantilla) the woman is agreeing to her beautiful and unique feminine status. She is showing respect and reverence for the holy angels too, always invisibly present before the Blessed Sacrament, who will come to her side in love and protection. This veiling of the woman before the Lord Our God, may also be a humble imitation of the angels’ behaviour, who when they sang the praises of God, and adored and glorified his perfections, covered their faces and their feet with their wings. (Isaiah 6:2)
From the very earliest days of Christianity, wearing chapel veils as head coverings when entering a Church to pray and adore God, was a common practice among faithful women. Since the Second Vatican Council this practice has no longer been requisite for women attending the Novus Ordo Mass, yet contrary to what many believe, it is still very much supported and encouraged by the Church. Many Catholic women of all ages are now rediscovering this beautiful, age-old tradition. At Latin Masses, and in particular at the celebration of the Tridentine Mass, generally all the women in the congregation can be seen with their heads veiled as a sign of reverence, modesty and piety in their recognition that they are praying in the Sacramental Presence of God.
This act of partially concealing a woman’s physical beauty (especially her lovely hair) is so that the beauty of God may be glorified instead. A veil is both a symbol and a mystical sacrifice that invites the woman wearing it to ascend the ladder of sanctity. It is also a way of emulating the Blessed Virgin Mary, in her humility, purity and submissiveness.
Moreover, the mantilla, or chapel veil, signifies the role of women as a life-bearing vessel. The chalice holding the blood of Christ is veiled until the Preparation of the Gifts, and the tabernacle veiled between Masses. Both of these vessels hold the Eucharist – the very life of Christ. In a similar fashion, woman was endowed with the gift of bearing human life.
“This is why the female body should be veiled, because everything which is sacred calls for veiling. When Moses came down from Mount Sinai, he veiled his face. Why did he veil his face? Because he had spoken to God, and at that very moment there was a sacredness that called for veiling. Now… feminists after Vatican II suddenly discovered that when women go to Church veiled, it is a sign of their inferiority. The man takes off his hat and woman puts on a veil. My goodness, how they have lost the sense of the supernatural! Veiling indicates sacredness and it is a special privilege of the woman that she enters church veiled.” Dr. Alice Von Hildebrand
“Reclaiming the Sacred” has three articles giving some deeply insightful thoughts about women who wear mantillas, using the captivating comparison and metaphor of the crown jewels in the Tower of London! http://reclaimingthesacred.com/2013/12/26/unwrapping-a-veil-of-mystery-the-mantilla/
Here, with a H/T to “ragazzagallese”, are some of the many websites where beautiful mantillas and veils may be purchased: Zelie’s Roses and Loving Mantillas. And this one: http://rosamysticamantilla.com/