When did Holy Spirit come; wearing veil in church

| Father Kenneth Doyle | April 13, 2016 | 2 Comments

Q. I have often wondered about the difference between the disciples receiving the Holy Spirit immediately after the Resurrection “on the evening of that first day of the week” (Jn 20:19-23) and the coming of the Holy Spirit upon them at Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4). Is it two different accounts of the same event, or did they receive the Holy Spirit in two different ways on two different occasions?

A. In general, Scripture scholars read this as two different events, with the gift of the Holy Spirit being offered for two different purposes. In the first incident (Jn 20), the Spirit comes to the specific group of disciples gathered on the night of the first Easter Sunday; the Spirit confers on them the power to forgive sins.

In the second account (Acts 2), the Spirit descends forcefully on the whole community of believers, empowering them to preach the Gospel boldly, even though Jesus will no longer be physically present with them. (Note that this Pentecost event, following the Ascension, enables the disciples to be understood in many languages and that Pentecost is commonly regarded as the “birthday of the Church.”)

This interpretation seems to square best with John 7:37-39, which suggests that the Spirit will not be given in its fullness until Jesus has been glorified, and with Luke 24:49, where Jesus, immediately before the Ascension, instructs the disciples to “stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

Q. Recently, I have been “convicted” to wear a veil in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament — both when I am at Mass and during my adoration hours in our parish’s chapel of perpetual adoration. Several other women in the parish have also felt led to do so.

However, I am told that some of these women have been “counseled” by our pastor that he does not want this and feels the wearing of a veil to be prideful. As a child, of course, I wore a veil at my first Communion and even for some years afterward and never thought it to be prideful. I would like your opinion.

A. The custom of women wearing a veil in church finds a basis in the earliest days of the Church, as reflected in the 11th chapter of Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians. That custom, though, may well have reflected the cultural bias of the times because the same chapter says: “For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; nor was man created for woman, but woman for man.”

The 1917 Code of Canon Law (in No. 1262) said that men in church should be bare-headed while women “shall have a covered head.” (That same canon also said, “It is desirable that, consistent with ancient discipline, women be separated from men in church.”)

But in 1976, an instruction issued by the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith indicated that this 1917 directive was no longer in force. (The CDF said, “It must be noted that these ordinances, probably inspired by the customs of the period, concern scarcely more than disciplinary practices of minor importance, such as the obligation imposed upon women to wear a veil on their head. . . . Such requirements no longer have a normative value.”)

In the current Code of Canon Law, published in 1983, the canon about head veils was not reissued. Clearly, then, women today are not required to cover their heads in church.

Does that mean they are not permitted to? Of course not. Within the bounds of modesty, people are free to wear whatever they want — and the only one who is in a position to judge motivation is the wearer.

If you are using a mantilla, or chapel veil, out of vanity — to draw attention to yourself — then that is wrong. But if you wear it as a sign of reverence, out of respect for the dignity of the Eucharist and our unworthiness before it, then that is a laudable choice. It’s your call, left to your prayerful discretion.

Father Doyle writes for Catholic News Service. A priest of the Diocese of Albany, New York, he previously served as director of media relations for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Questions may be sent to Father Doyle at askfatherdoyle@gmail.com and 40 Hopewell St., Albany, NY 12208.

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