Another lady, somewhat more advanced in years, sits in a middle pew of our church each morning a good half hour before Mass, to read and to pray. For five years she has attended to her devotions faithfully, but last week I noticed that she, too, had donned a rose-colored mantilla. I carefully looked around me at the other ladies who had assembled for morning Mass: over half of them have now invested in mantillas. In my six years at Star of the Sea, I’ve never spoken about women’s veils. The women, with no prompting from a priest, have serenely begun to cover their heads.
Why does a woman feel the need to cover her hair while in the Presence? Is it because she senses that God sees through the veil, that He sees through her hair, to her essential beauty? The beauty of her hair, she thinks perhaps, is for God’s eyes only, at least during the Holy Mass. Few men (other than perhaps her husband) can see past her exterior beauty, her hair, which, she knows, God has given as a sacrament pointing to a deeper beauty: thus the need to delicately conceal something in order to reveal something greater.
A mantilla is not a burka, which completely hides the female body. A veil is in some measure transparent, and only partially covers the body. It indicates a mystery, draping something precious precisely to point out its deeper excellence. It seems the women of my parish intuitively understand this, and we men, happily, are beginning to catch on.