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humveilNot long ago I was visiting a sacristy when an altar guild member brought out a long white silk textile and asked me if it was to be used as an altar frontlet or credence “runner”. I saw two ribbons attached to the lining side and informed her it was a humeral veil. These can be purchased separately but they often come with a matching cope.  It is more likely to find a white or gold veil in most Episcopal church sacrisities than any other liturgical color, although they can be found in all the liturgical colors. (except black)

The humeral veil is most often seen during the liturgy of Exposition and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. When the priest or deacon blesses the people with the monstrance, the hands are covered with the ends of the veil so that the hands do not touch the monstrance, as a mark of respect for the sacred vessel and as an indication that it is Jesus present in the Eucharist who blesses the people and not the minister. White or gold is the general prefered color for this service. Below is a photo from a supplier of vintage vestments called French Yesterdays http://www.french-yesterdays.com/index.html -a site worth visiting to see extraordinary vestments and embroidery of decades past.french yesterdays

In the Solemn High Mass the subdeacon uses a humeral veil when carrying the chalice, paten, or other sacred vessels, which should be touched only by the deacon and it is in the color of the day’s vestments. This particular use of the humeral veil is not often seen in the Episcopal church today, although some Anglo-Catholic parishes in the state still observe this usage.

Humeral veils are at least 8 feet long and a foot and a half wide and are worn around the back and shoulders. Humeral refers to the humerus, a long bone in the arm or forelimb that runs from the shoulder to the elbow-the area draped by the veil.  Often small pockets are found at each end of the veil in which the hands may be inserted.  The ends are frequently fringed, and a large embroidered motif, either a sacred monogram or Eucharistic symbol such as a chalice and host, may be found in the center. Ribbons, a chain and hook, or a clasp help to hold the veil in place.

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