“When we go to Mass together, I’d like you to wear a veil. I think it would be a good witness to everyone, especially the other women in the parish.”
If you step into, say 95%, of Protestant or Catholic churches, you won’t find but a handful women wearing head coverings or lacy veil. Gone are the days when most women wore elaborate hats (save for Easter) or little girls a tiny doily for a crown. Unfortunately, I believe this is a long-standing Christian tradition that has been tossed by the wayside for the sake of modernity. So, when my boyfriend (now fiance) uttered the request quoted above, I knew I had to take the importance veiling under more serious consideration.
As a Catholic Christian, I believe that when a woman wears a veil to Mass, it is a visual reminder to both herself and those her around her that she is, first and foremost, submissive to God. I should add that I do not believe that the act of veiling is an issue of salvation. Just because I wear a veil to Mass does not mean I am automatically going to heaven, and because you don’t, it doesn’t mean you aren’t God-fearing or love the Lord. A woman can veil everyday of her life, and still not understand the truth of Christ in her heart.
Though veiling is certainly foreign to most church-going women in the West, it wasn’t completely unknown to me. In high school, I sometimes wore hats to church. Often, I had read St. Paul’s advice to the women in Corinth, stating “But any woman who prophesies or prays with her head unveiled brings shame upon her head…” and also, because “of the angels” (1 Cor. 11:5; 10). If it was in the Bible, I knew it must be important. Ultimately, in the same chapter, Paul also issues the hierarchy of the Christian home, which for many, is a hard pill to swallow or even ponder. Yet, the foundation of families and Christian submission both mesh into the reason why many women veil on Sunday mornings or any time they enter a church building.
But, I’ve heard the detractors before, “A woman covering was a cultural thing, and now it doesn’t matter in our current age. Head coverings and family hierarchies are symbols of an old, misogynistic past.” But, what if we viewed Paul’s teachings as a way to publicly witness for Our Lord?
While I could express my own views about the power of the chapel veil in evangelization, I believe that Catholic family apostolate Veils By Lily offers a far superior explanation (bold emphasis mine):
In 1 Corinthians 11:7, St. Paul says, “A man, on the other hand, should not cover his head because he is the image and glory of God, but woman is the glory of man.”
Throughout the Bible, nuptial imagery is used to represent the love of God. In Ephesians 5:25, St. Paul says “Husbands, love your wives as Christ loves the Church” and this, taken in conjunction with 1 Corinthians 11:7 (and the rest of that passage), reveals this nuptial imagery: man is to Christ as woman is to the Church.
Since the Church is the “bride” of Christ, it makes sense that the bride should cover her head “as a sign of authority” (1 Cor 11:10) and submission to the bridegroom, Christ, whom men represent. The Church submits to Christ, not the other way around. It is a submission of love, not repression. Who wouldn’t submit to Him Who loves her unto death?
The veil is meant to be an external sign of a woman’s interior desire to
humble herself before God, truly present in the Blessed Sacrament. As
women, we are symbols of the Church – the Bride of Christ – and, as a
priest once said, “the veil is meant to be a visible reminder of the perfect
submission of the Church to the loving rule of Christ.”
“The veil is a visual sermon … a public proclamation before the Lord that He IS the Lord and that we love Him and that we are ready to obey him. It’s a totally counter-cultural statement proclaiming obedience in the midst of a culture that is totally permeated with this attitude of ‘I will not serve.‘”
The veil is also a sign of the great dignity inherent to a woman, who has the potential to receive life within herself… both human life and the supernatural life of God. This is an important message the world needs to hear, now more than ever!
As Christian women, Jesus gives such a beautiful and sacred sacred role in our lives. Just as in a home, men should represent Christ, women are tasked with the representing the role of Christ’s bride, the Church. We have the job of personifying God’s Church!
Nearly exclusively, the idea of submission goes against the grain of our modern society. Take a look in any bookstore. When perusing the selection for women, there are countless titles on how to be a boss in personal and professional life or how to achieve corporate success through aggression. Walk down the aisle further, and you’ll see dating books praising hookup culture. There are few books about the power of a quiet, gentle spirit.
When a woman wears a chapel veil or head covering, she says in a humble spirit to the world, “I am Christ’s and I am submissive to Him.” A woman need not be a married housewife living under the mission of a husband to practice this calling. Just as wives are called into Godly submission to their husbands (representing the submission of the Church to Christ), any woman can wear a veil and say that she is submissive first to Christ: Not to a secular idea or philosophy, not her career, not any other outside force.
When I veil, I believe I am displaying my commitment to Godly submission. I show the world that yes, I work a public career and I have other obligations. But first and foremost, I am living the virtue of submission to Christ. I show my respect, reverence, and awe of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. He is first: not my job, not my appointments, not my plans, and not even my fiance. Christ is King, and He is the ultimate ruler of my life. Finally, in the future when I am married, I pray that I can faithfully mirror the image of the Church in my relationship with my husband (who will reflect Christ in our home).
If you are a woman and thinking about the practice of veiling at Mass, I pray you will consider it. While veiling alone won’t take you to heaven, it can surely help you get there. I understand that for some ladies, it may feel awkward to be the only one with a veil. That’s totally normal, and I’ve felt the same way. Instead, look at veiling as a public witness for Christ that is humble, gentle, and ultimately revolutionary.
For more information about veiling or to purchase a veil, please visit Veils By Lily. If you’d like to chat with me more about veiling, check out my Connect With Me page. Finally, the video below is a wonderful testament to the practice of Christian head covering in the Mass.