We all see priests hold the Holy communion (aka. Blessed sacrament) while consecrating it, also while sharing it to the Congregation, even while placing it inside the Monstrance.
If they can hold the Holy communion (aka. Holy Eucharist, Blessed sacrament) with their, why do they need to wear a veil while raising the monstrance which contains the same Holy Eucharist.
To answer this question we need to define these three terms and from there we answer the question.
- The monstrance
- The Humeral veil
A monstrance is a sacred vessel used to display the holy Eucharist to the public during benediction or Procession.
It can also be called the OSTENSORIUM. Both the word Monstrance and Ostensorium means TO SHOW.
A monstrance can come in different forms, but the most popular form is a sunburst on a stand, with a cross or Crucifix on top of the sunburst.
A humeral veil
A humeral veil is a long rectangular cloak that is placed around a priest shoulders, drapping over the shoulders and down the front used to carry the monstrance during procession or benediction.
It’s normally made of silk or cloth of gold. The humeral veil can also be used to carry other sacred vessels like the Chalice etc.
Note: The humeral veil should not be confused with the VIMPA. The Vimpa is a narrow veil used by the altar servers assigned to carry a bishops Miter and Crosier. They use the vimpa to hold the Miter and Crosier symbolizing that the items don’t belong to them.
Benediction of the blessed sacrament is a devotional ceremony whereby a priest blesses the congregation with the holy Eucharist which is inside a monstrance after a period of adoration.
During the benediction, the priest uses his bare hands to put the blessed sacrament in a holder called LUNETTE, which is located inside the monstrance, then he covers the monstrance and wears the humeral veil which he uses to raise the monstrance.
If a priest can use his bare hands to hold the blessed sacrament, why does he need a veil to carry the monstrance that contains the same blessed sacrament.
During ordination, the hands of a priest is consecrated with chrism oil so that he can bless and consecrate the people of God. This is why a man without hands can’t be ordained, he’s said to have CANONICAL IMPEDIMENT.
Apart from the moments priests blesses the congregation, there’s a particular moment that is kept for God to bless people by himself and that is during benediction.
During this moment a priest isn’t the one blessing the people nor is he acting in person of Christ. Rather its Christ himself that’s blessing the people which is why the priest uses the humeral veil to carry the monstrance at that moment of Benediction.
A priest is able and worthy to touch the blessed sacrament, he has the power to turn a host to become the blessed sacrament. He only uses the veil while carrying the monstrance to illustrate that it’s Jesus Christ that is blessing people at the moment.
So next time you see a priest carrying the monstrance, know that it’s not the priest that’s blessing you but it’s our lord Jesus Christ who’s present in the blessed sacrament that is directly radiating his blessings to you.