Skip to comments.Women and Head Covering at Mass
Posted on 06/30/2014 6:23:36 PM PDT by walkinginthedesert
History of Head Covering and Scripture
For over 2000 years Christian women have covered their heads during Mass, sacred rites, as well as prayer and adoration. In most instances this was done by wearing a veil, as it tended to be the most convenient way. It was not until recently that many women stopped wearing the veil or any head covering for that manner. This is true especially during the post Vatican II epoch and during the womens lib movement during the 1960s and 1970s.
In the book of Genesis 24 when Rebecca meats Isaac she veils herself. Rebecca too looked up, and when she saw Isaac she dismounted from the camel, and asked the servant, Who is the man coming through the field toward us? The servant said, it is my master. Then she covered herself with her veil. (Gen 24:64-65)
Fr Haydock explains the significance of this:
Rebecca does this out of modesty. She prefigures the Gentiles, whom Jesus calls by his servants laden with his gifts, to become his spouse, or his Church, (Calmet) at the fountain of baptism. He adorns her with the ear-rings of obedience, and the bracelets of good works. (Du Hamel)1Throughout scripture, specifically in the Old Testament we can see that for a women being uncovered or unveiled was usually not a good thing. Rather it was usually a sign of humiliation and as a means of punishment for crimes such as adultery as we can see in the book of Numbers 5:16-18
The priest shall first have the woman come forward and stand before the Lord. In an earthen vessel he shall meanwhile put some holy water, as well as some dust that he has taken from the floor of the Dwelling. Then as the woman stands before the Lord, the priest shall uncover her head. (Num 5:16-18)This was done as a means of reminding the woman that everyone is naked before the lord. In the Hebrew uncovering the head can also imply shaving the head. Thus this specifically shows that for a women having the hair uncovered was not a positive thing.
This then leads us to the New Testament which also leads us to the significance of women covering their heads during Mass and any similar occasion such as praying and adoration. In 1 Corinthians Chapter 11, Saint Paul is very clear about the necessity of women to cover their head during specific occasions.
But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God.  Every man praying or prophesying with his head covered, disgraceth his head.  But every woman praying or prophesying with her head not covered, disgraceth her head: for it is all one as if she were shaven. For if a woman be not covered, let her be shorn. But if it be a shame to a woman to be shorn or made bald, let her cover her head.  The man indeed ought not to cover his head, because he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of the man.  For the man is not of the woman, but the woman of the man.  For the man was not created for the woman, but the woman for the man.  Therefore ought the woman to have a power over her head, because of the angels. But 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  You yourselves judge: doth it become a woman, to pray unto God uncovered?  Doth not even nature itself teach you, that a man indeed, if he nourish his hair, it is a shame unto him?  But if a woman nourish her hair, it is a glory to her; for her hair is given to her for a covering. (1 Corinth 11:3-15)Significance of Women Veiling
Basing ourselves on the previous scriptural passages, specifically in regards to Saint Paul in his epistle to the Corinthians explains that there are theological and philosophical significances to women covering and veiling their heads. The most evident of this is in regards to submission.
Naturally in the hierarchy of creation men is above women. This is a concept that would be rejected by feminism. However Saint Paul is in no way misogynistic (someone with a strong prejudice against women). He assures us that , while women is made for the glory of 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. 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 however equal in dignity and all for the glory of God.2
As stated above the matter of the fact is that women and men though equal in dignity in the eyes of God have different functions. For example, men were created to be focused more in the exterior, while women in the interior, men tend to look more on the physical, women more in the human person, men are mostly the provider, women the nurturer of the family, men are paternal, women tend to be maternal3
We noted how in the Old Testament and in scripture in general for a women being stripped away from her veil, or head covering in general was generally a negative and bad thing. It usually meant that a women was unfaithful towards her husband or that she was impure. It is for this reason an honor to wear the veil. It shows the feminine beauty of the women which is a sign of female subjection. Women dont veil themselves because of some primordial sense of feminine shame; they cover themselves because they are holy and because feminine beauty is incredibly powerful.4 A military officer is dishonored when he is stripped of his decorations and uniform, a police officer is dishonored when he is stripped of his badge, so how much more so is this true of a women stripped of her veil?
It is not only as a sign of subjection that women should cover their head when in the presence of God in Mass or in adoration. As Catholics we believe that Jesus Christ is truly and substantially present in the Eucharist, body blood, soul, and divinity at Mass and in the tabernacle. It is not some mere symbolism but a Divine reality. This is most true in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in what Pope Saint John Paul II called Mass as Heaven on Earth, were we are uplifted to God, and were God comes down to meet man. Would you then wear shorts and a t-shirt at someones wedding or funeral? I sure would not. Now mind you that there is a huge difference between a poor person or even someone such as a beggar who is simply wearing the best he can (his Sundays best), than someone who like most living here in the United States are blessed to be able to dress quite elegantly and decently.
Lastly Saint Paul mentions that women veil or cover themselves because of the angels. This is why a woman ought to have a sign of authority over her head, because of the angels (1 Corinth 11:10). This is out of respect for the angels who are present at the Mass offering with us the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. It is thus written in scripture And another angel came and stood before the altar having a golden censor, and there was given to him much incense that he might offer it with the prayers of all before the throne. (Apoc 8:3)
Profoundly the best example of covering the head is the Blessed Virgin Mary herself who was the most humble after our Lord. She who did not wish to attract attention to herself and who no doubt dressed in a most modest manner.
Practical Advantages of Wearing the Veil
There is no doubt that for women who cover their head with a veil, it helps or rather prevents women from being distracted from the sides, and forces women to look only at Christ in the tabernacle in front of her, as well as the celebration of Mass.
Similarly veiling to be more precise helps men themselves not to get distracted with womens physical beauty specifically in regards to her face and hair which are natural aspects of women.
Lastly this can do nothing but bring about a good and healthy fashionable trend in regards to womens fashion. If you have young women covering their head and veiling for example, this would inspire others to do likewise. This modestly in dress is profoundly better than the modern and very immoral fashions that exist within our time, and which no doubt is most likely causing women to commit grave sins against God and her neighbor.
Objections to head covering
Various people including those that are influenced by false notions of modernity claim that head covering and veiling are purely cultural. They claim that Saint Paul was simply talking to a particular culture, at a particular time. They further claim that head covering is unnecessary.
However this is simply false as Saint Paul clearly tells the Corinthians and further generations that head covering is applicable to everyone at all times when he states Now I praise you brethren, because in all things you are mindful of me and hold fast my traditions as I have given them to you. But I would have you know that the head of every man is Christ (1 Corinth 11:2-3) It is pretty evident that it was only in Corinth that Paul needed to remind the women to cover their head, for he is speaking about traditions and adds the word but signifying that Paul needed to remind the women of Corinth to cover their head and tell them the reasons why, namely the reasons stated above.
Another objection made amongst Catholics is that the code of Canon Law 1983 abrogated the code of Canon Law of 1917 and thus that women do not have to wear a head covering. Similarly they state that when the Novus Ordo was promulgated by Pope Paul VI that there was no mention about the issue of head covering. Now it is true that at this moment the church does not require women to cover their head for mass, and for that reason it is not binding under pain of sin. However we should understand that perhaps the main reason why there was no mention of covering the head in the 1983 Code of Canon Law, as well as in the promulgation of the New Mass is that women covering their head was quite the established norm.
At the end Catholics are exhorted through sacred scripture and tradition to cover their heads, because of the natural hierarchy of creation, as well as the reverence due to God, specifically in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in which Christ is truly and substantially present. The Blessed Virgin Mary always in modestly and which no doubt covered her head as a symbol of humility and modesty is enough reason for women covering their head for Mass.
1) Fr George Leo Haydock: Haydock's Catholic bible commentary 2) Fish Eaters: Veiling http://www.fisheaters.com/theveil.html 3) Venerable Fulton Sheen" Life Is Worth Living" 4) Fish Eaters, op. cit
A few years ago I saw a picture of a church service in the First Baptist Church of Bucharest. It didn’t look too much different than the local First Baptist but I did notice one thing.
All the women and girls over maybe 15 or 16 had some kind of covering on their head. It was often just a small piece of cloth but they all had it.
Even as recently as the 60’s, just before Vatican II, it was customary for women and young girls to go to Mass with their heads covered.
In fact it was very common for a young man to give his girlfriend a fancy mantilla on her birthday or as a Christmas present.
When I was a little girl, if we went unexpetedly into a church (which you could do in those days because they weren’t locked up like they are now), my mom would give me a kleenex tissue to put on my head, her’s too!
I wouldn’t blame the women’s libbers for this, this was just another little destruction wrought by VCII.
Turned catholic in late 1950’s. All women that went into church had heads covered. Some with scarfs, but most had hats. If one wanted to stop in church to pray, many kept a clean hanky for the head covering...a sign of respect..
I remember a lady with a glove on her head.
I kid you not. (It was in the 50s)
Have been covering my head recently with a scarf at adoration. In a practical sense, it blocks out distractions (those walking in and out, movement outside a window, etc.) allowing one to better focus on Jesus.
I remember a lady with a glove on her head.Ha! I love it... :)
Why just women? Devout Jewish men wear caps for similar reasons.
I’ve got a little area I wouldn’t mind covering up.
Not arguing that point.
Probably a nit, but Christians haven’t even been around for “over 2000 years.”
Actually a serious question. Anyone have an answer?
LOL I believe you, I saw some silly things on womens heads. I had several hats, never thought a tissue was respectful, but to each his own...
When I was a kid, my mother, sister and myself were walking around Manhattan, not far from my father’s business.
We walked into St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and my mother took a moist pink Kleenex out of her purse and attached it to her hair with a bobby pin.
I was a young boy at the time, and of course, I thought she looked hilarious.