AFQB: Veiling of sacred vessels

How many of your priests/parishes use a chalice veil for Holy Mass?  You can bet one is used at The Sabine Farm!  On the right you see the chalice as at the beginning of today’s Mass (for the Seven Maccabees in the older, 1962 Missal).

Today I had a question in the ASK FATHER Question Box which I thought I would pass along, since people seem to like liturgical tidbits around here:

AFQB – The ASK FATHER Question Box: Liturgy, Music & The Seven Sacraments: Veiling of sacred vessels  

By Anonymous Monday, July 31, 2006 – 9:06 pm:

Hi Father,

I was wondering if you could explain the history and significance behind the veiling of the chalice used at Mass. At my parish, the chalice is left on the altar, veiled, during the Liturgy of the Word, and also at the end of Mass, but at another parish I go to the chalice is veiled but left on the side, credence table during and after Mass.

Thank you and God bless you!

By Fr. J.T. Zuhlsdorf  on Tuesday, August 01, 2006 – :

I don’t understand how, at that "other" parish the chalice can be left on the table since it has to be used during the Eucharistic Prayer: "…the chalice is veiled but left on the side, credence table during and after Mass…" Oh well….

In any event…. we read in GIRM 118: Calix laudabiliter cooperiatur velo, quod potest esse aut coloris diei aut coloris albi…. The chalice is, laudably, to be covered with a veil, which can be either of the color of the day or of the color white.  [NB: The use of the subjunctive in cooperiatur is more than a suggestion.  It really ought to be done.]

A practical function of the chalice veil is to indicate, when it is lifted from the chalice for the offetory, the shift from the "Liturgy of the Word" to the more sacrificial, eucharistic part of Holy Mass..

There can be a more symbolic vision, however. The chalice veil can be connect to the curtain described in the book of Exodus and in Paul’s letter to the Hebrews which sectioned off the Holy of Holies.

    For a tent was prepared, the outer one, in which were the lampstand and the table and the bread of the Presence; it is called the Holy Place. Behind the second curtain stood a tent called the Holy of Holies, having the golden altar of incense and the ark of the covenant covered on all sides with gold, which contained a golden urn holding the manna, and Aaron’s rod that budded, and the tables of the covenant (Hebrews 9:2-4).

This was the curtain that tore in two when Christ died on the Cross.

    And Jesus cried again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit. And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom; and the earth shook, and the rocks were split; the tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised (Matthew 27:50-51).

The ripping of the curtain in the Holy of Holies at the death of Jesus marks the shift from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant which the Lord spoke about during the Last Supper:

And likewise He took the cup after supper, saying, ‘This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood" (Luke 22:20).  [NB: And it was poured out "for many", also, but I digress.]

The use of a chalice veil reminds us that somethings are worthily hidden from view until the right moment. It also reminds us of the great Sacrifice of the Lord on Calvary even before we enter into the sacrificial language of the Eucharistic Prayers.


I should add something.  Remember that the Holy of Holies is still to be veiled.  When there is a procession with the Blessed Sacrament a canopy is used.  Even to go from the altar to the canopy and ombrellino was employed.  The true sign of the Real Presence in the tabernable is the tabernacle veil and/or baldichin over the altar, rather than the presence lamp.  As well, in the tabernacle, all the vessels which contained the Blessed Sacrament were veiled, the ciboria for Hosts and also the pyx with the lunette used for Exposition.  This surely harkens back to the mysterious cloud that descended on the mountain or tabernale/tent when God desired to have a word with Moses. 

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in ASK FATHER Question Box, SESSIUNCULA. Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Argent says:

    So, please explain to this ex-Anglo-Catholic, what possible reason is there to leave the chalice unveiled (or does a draped purificator count as a veil?) at the side credence table until the Preparation of the Gifts?

  2. I would have to say ignorance, disobedience, or their combination.

  3. Joe says:

    In the Novus Ordo, the GIRM seems to mandate that the chalice remain on the credence (veiled) before the offertory. See GIRM 118c (“The following are also to be prepared: On the credence table: the chalice…”) Only at a Mass where only one minister participates are the sacred vessels permitted to be placed beforehand on the altar (GIRM 255).

  4. Joe: Thanks for that. I am still puzzled as to how a chalice could remain both on the credance table and be used on the altar at the same time, but perhaps I misread the questioner’s intent. However, the most important point of this is not where the chalice sits, but that (wherever it sits) it is veiled before the offertory, etc.

  5. Phil says:

    How many of your priests/parishes use a chalice veil for Holy Mass?

    I recognize that this question may be rhetorical, but, at least in the past few years, when I began to notice such things, the chalice veil has been used in every Mass in my diocese. Then again, I live in the relatively conservative Diocese of Arlington. I notice, however, that it’s not always used at the weekday Mass I occasionally attend in the archdiocese across the river. I didn’t realize it was required…

  6. Lydia says:

    How many of your priests/parishes use a chalice veil for Holy Mass?

    Never seen one in real life in the Boise (Idaho) diocese, except when we drive 2 1/2 hours to the nearest indult mass. Personally, I’d be excited if they’d just insist that children not snatch handfuls of hosts off the paten or dunk their fists in the chalice, or if the priest wouldn’t have to keep a glass of water on the altar for an occasional sip while he gives the homily.

  7. Lydia: Those first two things are SERIOUS (if they are really happening) and should be stopped, by the bishop if necessary, but there is nothing wrong with the third thing, … though I am puzzled as to why he is preaching his homily from the altar.

  8. anonymous says:

    I was the one who asked the question. I’m a new reader of your blog, and I was so excited to see that you posted about it on your blog!! In regards to the chalice being left on the credence table during mass – I didn’t word it very well, obviously. What I meant was that it is left on the credence table until the preparation of the gifts and then is brought back to the credence table after communion, etc.
    Thanks for answering my question!

  9. How many of your priests/parishes use a chalice veil for Holy Mass?

    I have never seen a chalice veil used in my family’s area (Archdiocese of Seattle). Of course, there are a plethora of other liturgical troubles around here, too. In the Archdiocese of St. Paul/Minneapolis, where I spend most of the year, I do see chalice veils much more often.

    Father, how serious a problem is it when the wine is consecrated in a large glass pitcher and *then* poured into five-or-so silver cups for distribution at communion? The parish I attend in Washington does this at every Sunday Mass. The same is done for the hosts (except they are transferred from a large glass bowl into smaller glass bowls).

  10. Quantitative: If I remember right, that whole pitcher thing is covered by Redemptionis Sacramentum.

  11. Ray from MN says:

    I am one of those self-appointed liturgists who grumbles at perceived wrongs. For example, I have always wondered why we don’t have a sanctuary lamp at the Basilica of St Mary in Minneapolis.

    We have a liturgist whose specialty is “baptismal fonts” and I have chalked up the missing lamp to some European innovation of his.

    Your reference to the baldachin as being the “true sign of the Real Presence” has cleared up that one problem for me. Thank you, Father

    I would still say that it wouldn’t hurt to have a nice sanctuary lamp, though.

  12. Yes, sanctuary lamps are beautiful and people understand what they signify. At the same time, a beautful tabernacle veil of the color for the Mass of the day would be a very good addition, baldichin notwithstanding. It is intersting that in Roman churches, there would often be up to seven lamps hanging in a “V” like line in the chapels where the Blessed Sacrament was reserved.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Thank you for offering some scriptural insight into the veiling of the chalice.In my parish ther chalice is veiled and on the credence table.It is then brought by the altar boys to the altar veiled at the beginningof the offertory.As I remember in the Tridentine rite the veiled chalice is on the altar at the beginning of mass except in a solemn mass when it is on the credence table covered by the humeral veil or another cloth.Your remark about the real sign of Christ’s presence in the tabernacle being a veil or baldachino will take most by surprise. I think most Catholics would say the sign is the sanctuary lamp.Pope JPII in Inestimable Donum cited the lack of a veil as an abuse and reminded us that it is THE sign of the Lord,s presence.

  14. Maureen says:

    How veiled does a chalice have to be? A square of cloth over the mouth of the chalice? A drape of cloth? What?

  15. Lydia says:

    Father, yes those things reallly happened. It’s one reason why my husband refuses to serve as an EMHC anymore. The priest told me, “Jesus can take care of Himself”. I did talk to the couple about it, privately, and as gently as I could, but it was not well received. However, I don’t think they’ve had a problem with it recently. I don’t know about other families’ children–I try very hard to keep my eyes closed after communion so that I am not distracted. Our diocese is very large (geographically) and our bishop is not very accessible. Our priest has quite a few relatives who hold positions in the diocese which makes it difficult to resolve things like this. I found this out when I called the diocese to complain that parents weren’t allowed to attend the high school youth group discussions on sex. The water-glass-on-the-altar thingie annoys me because the priest stands in front of the altar to preach and keeps reaching back to take a sip of water, as if the purpose of the altar is to hold his liquid refreshment. It’s not something I can’t live with; I just wish I didn’t have to.

Comments are closed.