An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church


1) A square cloth that covers the paten and chalice until preparation of the altar for communion. The veil usually matches the vestments and altar hangings in the liturgical color of the season. It is draped over the pall, which is a white square placed on top of the paten, purificator, and chalice. The burse, which usually contains the corporal and purificators, is placed on top of the veil. After the ablutions following communion, the veil may once again be placed over the paten and chalice. The term has also indicated a linen covering that was placed over the unconsumed elements of the eucharist after communion.

2) Material used to cover the crosses in church after the stripping of the altar on Maundy Thursday. In some parishes, the processional cross, pictures, and statues are also veiled. Customs have varied for the veiling of crosses. Crosses have been veiled throughout Lent or during Passiontide, which was the last two weeks of Lent. This veiling has also been associated with Holy Week. Veils have been black, violet, or white. This veiling is not required in the Episcopal Church.

3) Veils are part of the religious habit worn by members of women's religious orders. The veil drapes over the top and back of the head to the shoulders, and possibly as far as the back, depending on the length of the veil. The veil of a professed sister may be black or another color. The veil worn by a novice is distinguishable from the veil worn by professed members of the community. A novice's veil may be white, and it may be shorter than the veil worn by professed sisters. In the early church, Christian women wore veils to indicate their religious vocation or status. Veils were worn by virgins who rejected marriage and by widows who would not marry again. See Humeral Veil; see Veil of the Temple.

Glossary definitions provided courtesy of Church Publishing Incorporated, New York, NY,(All Rights reserved) from “An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church, A User Friendly Reference for Episcopalians,” Don S. Armentrout and Robert Boak Slocum, editors.