I have to admit that I’ve got a little bit of a Christmas in July, complete with eager anticipation of the package to come. I just ordered a lovely brown lace chapel veil (mantilla) from veilsbylily.com and I can’t wait for it to get here!
I’ve been looking for a modest veil for a while. I bought some white lace with the intention of sewing my own, but I think I made it more difficult than it really is. Also, there was something about the bright white lace against my dark brown hair that made me feel like I was wearing a beacon on my head. I know veiling isn’t exactly popular, and I didn’t want to stand out for the wrong reasons.
So, I was pleased as a peach to find a link on Fisheaters.com to a bunch of sites that sell veils. The site where I got mine has a whole rainbow of colors to choose from. I’m thinking of getting a violet one, too. (Advent anyone?)
I remember my first time seeing mantillas in church. I went to a Tridentine Mass at St. Mary’s Cathedral downtown for the first time and felt terribly out of place without one. The veiled outnumbered the veil-less. I thought they were lovely right away, and also felt an overwhelming sense of reverence coming from those women. Ever since then, my heart has felt a little unease at my own omission.
Cris is the one who explained the history to me, and why so few heads are veiled at Novus Ordo masses. The tradition for Christian women began 2,000 years ago; it’s only in the past 40 that it has fallen out of usage.
It’s a common misconception that women are no longer required to cover their heads in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. As the article at Fish Eaters explains, the mistake can be traced back to 1969 and a news article about the upcoming changes taking place as a result of Vatican II. Msgr. Bugnini is the one attributed with the misquote. When he was asked if women would still be required to cover their heads after Vatican II, he simply replied that the matter was not being discussed. While he meant it as an affirmation to its permanence, it was reported the other way around.
Even though Church officials tried to clarify, this was the 70s, people! The height of feminism in the US! Conservatism about a tradition that wasn’t very well understood in the first place didn’t stand a chance.
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.
Veiling’s origin is biblical: 1 Corinthians 11:2-16. Paul’s letter commends the custom, and makes the heavenly case for its necessity. In addition, female head covering was made Canon Law in 1917 stating:
Canon 1262: …women, however, shall have a covered head and be modestly dressed, especially when they approach the table of the Lord.
Now, before you get all riled up about the 1983 Code of Canon Law supposedly overruling this, let me direct your attention to the following from the 1983 Code:
Canon 20: “A later law abrogates, or derogates, an earlier law if it states so expressly, is directly contrary to it, or completely reorders the entire matter of the earlier law. A universal law, however, in no way derogates from a particular or special law unless the law expressly provides otherwise.”
Canon 21: “In a case of doubt, the revocation of a pre-existing law is not presumed, but later laws must be related to the earlier ones and, insofar as possible, must be harmonized with them.”
(Emphasis is my own.) So, no. The 1983 code did not abrogate 1917’s Canon 1262 because its abrogation was not expressly stated, thus (by it’s own framework) it still stands.
More reason Canon 1262 stands as stated in the 1983 Code:
Canon 27 : “Custom is the best interpreter of laws.”
Canon 26 : “Unless the competent legislator has specifically approved it, a custom contrary to the canon law now in force or one beyond a canonical law obtains the force of law only if it has been legitimately observed for thirty continuous and complete years. Only a centenary (100 years) or immemorial custom (entire Tradition of the Church), however, can prevail against a canonical law which contains a clause prohibiting future customs.”
Canon 28 : “…Unless it makes express mention of them… a law does not revoke centenary or immemorial customs, nor does a universal law revoke particular custom
Then since veiling is an immemorial custom, the 1983 Code couldn’t trump the practice even if it had tried, as Canon 26 makes veiling indelible.
I should also mention the not veiling is not a sin per se, since there is a new Code that does not expressly state so and the 1917 Code no longer has any legal force. But as explained here: …we are not arguing for veil-wearing based on a legal or canonical basis, but on a “custom” basis, and a “custom” that is not merely “thirty” years in the making, or even a “centenary” in the making, but is, in fact, “immemorial.” The fact that veil-wearing became part of canon law does not mean that it is dependent on canon law for its existence or practice.
Anyway, I think the reason veiling is so beautiful, who wouldn’t want to do it? Even if it weren’t Canon? “Because of the angels” ! (1 Cor 11:10)
Veiling isn’t an act of suppression. Quite the contrary. Veiling sacrosancts that which is veiled. As Paul explains it, man is God’s creation; so if a man were to cover his head, it would be disrespectful to God because man is made in the image and glory of God. Likewise, a woman ought to cover her head because woman was made of man, and is the glory of man. (Also, Paul is quick to add [verse 12] “for as woman was made from man, so man is now born of woman.” RSV-2CE)
I love the idea of veiling. I am more than willing to cover my head as an act of humility. It’s a perfect way to model Mary’s Fiat. I love showing God that I am willing to “Let it be done unto me according to (His) Word.”
I’ve also found it’s a great cure for distractions. My veil is a constant reminder of the current task at hand: revering God.
Also, head coverings don’t have to be lace and/or mantillas. The Fish Eaters site mentioned before has lots links to alternatives too, such as shawls, scarves, and hats. (Come on ladies, who doesn’t like to accessorize?!)
So, if there are any ladies out there who have any questions or hesitations, we’re here for you. You’ll find that the custom isn’t completely unknown (especially here in Austin with such a large, traditional, Hispanic community). There’s even lots of support online such as Facebook groups and online stores.
I’ll share a picture of my new veil as soon as I get it in!