Caller: My question is: what is the significance of wearing veils?
Fr. Anthony Dorsa: The origin of it comes from Saint Paul, who says that women should cover their heads and in the church. He gives kind of a cryptic answer…he says “because of the angels,” and so we’re like, “Well what does that mean, ‘because of the angels?'”
But then when you think about, you know, the significance of using a veil in the context of the church and the liturgy in general, it makes a little more sense. You know, the things in the church, according to the traditional mode of the church, that are veiled are the things that are most sacred, right?
So the tabernacle, if our Lord is present, is typically veiled; the chalice, before and after Mass, is veiled, the chalice which will hold the body, blood, soul, and divinity, the chalice and the paten are veiled; the altar itself is usually covered, the altar which represents Christ as well is usually covered with linens; but then also traditionally, even if it had a beautiful fresco on it, even if had some beautiful statuary carved into it, it would also be covered with a veil, with an antependium, a hanging cloth of the color of the time; even that would be covered, because those are things that are reserved for God. The beauty is for God, the importance is for God.
And so too, that is at least my best answer as to why Saint Paul says they should cover their heads because of the angels, is because, to a degree, of your life-giving power and your position in the salvific plan of God, your motherhood, your maidenhood, women are to be veiled in the presence of that which is holy, because they themselves are, in a sense, sacred.