Introduction to Veiling
For 2,000 years, Catholic women have veiled themselves before entering a church or any time they are in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament (e.g., during sick calls). It was written into the 1917 Code of Canon Law, Canon 1262, that women must cover their heads — “especially when they approach the holy table” (“mulieres autem, capite cooperto et modeste vestitae, maxime cum ad mensam Dominicam accedunt”) — but during the Second Vatican Council, Bugnini (the same Freemason who designed the Novus Ordo Mass) was asked by journalists if women would still have to cover their heads. His reply, perhaps innocently enough, was that the issue was not being discussed. The journalists (as journalists are wont to do with Church teaching) took his answer as a “no,” and printed their misinformation in newspapers all over the world. Since then, many, if not most, Catholic women have lost the tradition.
After so many years of many women forgetting or positively repudiating the veil, clerics, not wanting to be confrontational or upset radical feminists, pretended the issue didn’t exist. When the 1983 Code of Canon Law was produced, veiling was simply not mentioned (not explicitly abrogated, mind you, but simply not mentioned). However, it is argued that Canons 20-21 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law make clear that later Canon Law abrogates earlier Canon Law only when this is made explicit and that, in cases of doubt, the revocation of earlier law is not to be presumed; quite the opposite:
Canon 20 A later law abrogates or derogates from an earlier law, if it expressly so states, or if it is directly contrary to that law, or if it integrally reorders the whole subject matter of the earlier law. A universal law, however, does not derogate from a particular or from a special law, unless the law expressly provides otherwise.
Canon 21 In doubt, the revocation of a previous law is not presumed; rather, later laws are to be related to earlier ones and, as far as possible, harmonized with them.
Canons 27 and 28 add to the argument:
Canon 27 Custom is the best interpreter of laws.
Canon 28 Without prejudice to the provisions of can. 5, a custom, whether contrary to or apart from the law, is revoked by a contrary custom or law. But unless the law makes express mention of them, it does not revoke centennial or immemorial customs, nor does a universal law revoke particular customs.
Though the 1983 Code of Canon Law doesn’t explicitly command it, and people can debate about the matter of how older law informs newer law, veiling is a very serious matter, one that concerns two millennia of Church Tradition — which extends back to Old Testament tradition and to New Testament admonitions. Perhaps a better question than “must women veil?” is “should women veil?” According to St Paul the answer is ‘yes’ (1 Corinthians 11:1-17).
According to St. Paul, we women veil ourselves as a sign that His glory, not ours, should be the focus at worship, and as a sign of our submission to authority. It is an outward sign of our recognizing headship, both of God and our husbands (or fathers, as the case may be), and a sign of our respecting the presence of the Holy Angels at the Divine Liturgy. In veiling, we reflect the divine invisible order and make it visible. This St. Paul presents clearly as an ordinance, one that is the practice of all the churches.
St Paul is in no way being “misogynist” here. He assures us that, while woman is made for the glory of the man even as man is made for the glory of God, “yet neither is the man without the woman, nor the woman without the man, in the Lord. For as the woman is of the man, so also is the man by the woman: but all things of God.” Men need women, women need men. But we have different roles, each equal in dignity — and all for the glory of God (and, of course, we are to treat each other absolutely equally in the order of charity!).The veil is a sign of our recognizing these differences in roles.
The veil, too, is a sign of modesty and chastity. In Old Testament times, uncovering a woman’s head was seen as a way to humiliate a woman or to punish adultresses and those women who transgressed the Law (e.g.., Numbers 5:12-18, Isaias 3:16-17, Song of Solomon 5:7). A Hebrew woman wouldn’t have dreamed of entering the Temple (or later, the synagogue) without covering her head. This practice is simply carried on by the Church (as it is also by Orthodox Christians and even by “Orthodox” women of the post-Temple Jewish religion today).
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, 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.
Influenced by this (slightly shortened) post from ‘Fish Eaters’ above, Liza Rafe tells her story of Veiling:
Veiling: Resting in my Husband’s Headship
I have been covering my head in the presence of our Lord for two and half years and it has brought me nothing but grace and blessings! At first, I was afraid to put the chapel veil on. I was afraid that I would attract undo attention to myself. I was afraid people would think I was “Holier than thou.” I was afraid that the priest would tell me to take it off. I was afraid that my family would scoff. I was Afraid.
But the beautiful tradition attracted me and the more I read, the more reasons I found to veil. It came to a point where the only reason I wasn’t veiling was fear. So, I got my grandmother’s old chapel veil (somehow I inherited it when she died. I am sure she was praying for me) out of my dresser drawer and took it to Mass one Sunday.
I remember putting it on my head the first time. Oh, How painful that was! How uncomfortable I felt. But I also found great peace in this action so I kept doing it. Sunday after Sunday my chapel veil came with me. And something began to happen. I began to rest in my husband’s headship. Yes! Through this outward sign of submission- I began to rest in my husband’s leadership.
And as I surrendered myself to my husband’s leadership, my husband became a stronger leader! In little ways that at first I didn’t notice, in fact, I was annoyed by some of the changes. For instance, My husband and I have several little ones and making it to Mass on time is a
scrimmage challenge. My husband said one Sunday on our way to church, “We need to get to Mass before the Procession.” I groaned and complained, “But! that means more time with our children squirming in the pews!” he responded firmly, calmly, “No, to arrive after the procession is disrespectful. You wouldn’t arrive at court late. We should be there before the Procession.” Of course, he was right but what kept me from arguing further wasn’t the fact that he was correct, it was my little veil tucked in my purse. I remembered what it symbolized, my submission to my husband’s authority and here it was right in front of me, “We need to arrive before the Procession.” I kept quiet and the next Sunday I tried a bit harder to get the children ready for church on time. My husband appreciated my efforts he thanked me and we had more time for prayer together as a family. I do not think I would have done this prior to veiling – the outward sign is what helped me.
When I enter the Church and put on my veil, my mind turns to my Lord and with this turning of mind, I have grown in my reverence for the Eucharist. I have grown in modesty as well, I am much more mindful of what I wear to Church. My children love my chapel veil too. They see my mind turn to prayer as I enter in the Lord’s house and quietly veil. They see that the Lord’s house is different from other places and they see the reverence it is due through one simple symbol, my veil.
Every Sunday now, I veil and rest in my husband’s headship. I love it. He loves it. When I began veiling, I didn’t think it would change my spiritual life but it has. I didn’t think it would strengthen my marriage but it has. I didn’t think it would teach my children reverence, but it has. I didn’t think grace would come, but, oh, what grace! It was a little gift to my Lord, my loaves and fishes and oh, how he multiplies our loaves and fishes! We need outward signs of inward grace. We need symbols to help us understand realities that are difficult to grasp. Let us embrace those simple signs. If you are thinking of veiling- let go of your fears. Take the leap of faith, veil.