A Thought on the Mantilla or Chapel Veil

A woman wearing a Spanish-style mantilla at an event I attended.

On my Spanish-language Facebook page, someone recently requested that I explain the meaning of the mantilla or chapel veil. More and more ladies are wearing them now, re-discovering the old traditions, as it were. It tends to be controversial for some… and it really seems to trigger some folks. I really don’t see a problem with it. It’s also biblical, so who am I to judge?

In any case, as I was typing my response, a thought I hadn’t had before came to me. I was going on about how we veil things that are sacred. In the Church, we veil altars by putting a cloth over them — sometimes covering the whole thing, even though it might have beautiful carvings and other details! We put a veil over the chalice; we sometimes even veil the tabernacle. Then there is the topic of modesty: our bodies have been sanctified by baptism, so we dress modestly also, covering over that which is sacred.

(There’s a great chapter in the book The Heresy of Formlessness by Martin Mosebach on the concept of veiling the sacred.)

The new thought was this: I wonder if the late rediscovery and embracing of veiling by some isn’t a reaction — perhaps on the subconscious level — against the objectification of women that has become rampant in our culture?

Oh, I’m sure some veil purely for fashion reasons. Some may do it to be seen. Some may do it for reasons they can’t express; it just feels right. Others may do it out of simple obedience to scripture. In other words, there are a lot of reasons that motivate. And clearly, it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. It’s certainly no longer a part of Church law (it was until 1983, though the law was widely disregarded probably for a decade or two before that point). So women are free not to veil for any reason they might have. Either way is a legitimate choice.

But I do wonder if the above thought doesn’t factor into the equation for some who do veil?

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