These days, the idea of submission to the authority of her husband is frowned upon, to put it mildly. But it shouldn’t be, once we realize that the bridal veil signifies the submission of this particular woman to the loving care of her husband. It signifies her trust, her confidence in his Christ-like leaderhsip. It signifies that she has chosen to follow him as a loving partner and companion. It also signifies that he has been specifically consecrated to handle that sacred vessel – to safely touch that ark – and that’s something mysterious and beautiful.
But that doesn’t explain why little girls would wear a veil, does it? It doesn’t explain why professed virgins, nuns, religious sisters would wear veils, does it? Obviously, the mystical symbolism of a veil goes far, far beyond the relationship of one particular woman and one particular man. What does it mean? What sort of a mystery is presented us when we see a woman veiled before the altar?
It’s a very great mystery. Like Our Lady, every Catholic woman, as a woman, is a living icon of the church. So when she veils herself here, in the presence of Our Lord, it’s a visible reminder for all of the spousal relationship – the bridal relationship – between the Church and Christ.
That relationship between the Church and Christ is a very deep mystery, indeed. So whenever we see a veiled woman here, before the altar, be she six or be she sixty, it’s a visible reminder for all of us of this spousal relationshp, this bridal relationship between Christ and His Church.
And because the veil also signifies the submission of the bride to the loving care of her husband, it means that the veil of a Catholic woman is also a visible reminder of the perfect submission of the church to the loving rule of Christ.
The veil is a visual sermon, it’s a visual statement, it’s 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.”
That, in any age, but especially in ours, is a very great mystery indeed.
As I was driving today, a question came into my mind. How can we as human beings made of body and soul fight in a spiritual battle that we cannot ‘see’? The war that is being waged all around us is a war against the principalities and powers of wickedness and high places; this is the realm of the spiritual, of the invisible. Well, in fighting a battle that is invisible, it only makes sense where we can to make the invisible ‘visible’.
It is often said that symbols are a visible sign of the invisible. Therefore, powerful symbols are a crucial part of the spiritual battle. Since the Tradition of the Catholic Church is packed full of symbols in the forms of beautiful Cathedrals, art, and practices such as veiling in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament (just to name a few), it is so important that we treasure and preserve the great Tradition of Mother Church.
St. Thomas Aquinas says, “Three things are necessary for the salvation of man; to know what he ought to believe, to know what he ought to desire and to know what he ought to do.” Symbols are a powerful visible reminder of these three things.
To dismiss the symbols in the Tradition of the Church as out of date or irrelevant is to remove the visible signs of the invisible battle being waged around us.
Fight with verve and joy and gladness because this war against the principalities and powers of wickedness and high places is the one absolutely just and therefore absolutely beautiful war in the universe. Hold your head high, it’s a glorious war.
– Dr. Peter Kreeft, How to Win the Culture War