Why do we cover the faces of clerics after their death – several similar questions were addressed to the editor after the death of Alexii II the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, when the whole world could see the mourning ceremony where thousands of Russians came to pay last respects to their Patriarch. Fr. Deacon Alexii (Florov) responded to the question, the graduate of the historian faculty of the State university of Samara, the cleric of the church in honor of the holy New Martyrs of Russia in the village Pribrezhny of Samara region, the technical editor of “Spiritual interlocutor” magazine in Samara.
“The tradition of covering the face of a reposed Christian go back to the burial of the Lord Jesus Christ. Along with His body which was covered with a shroud, his face was also covered with a sudarium: “And the napkin, that was about his head…” (John 20:7). Sudarium (from latin “sudor” – swet) is a special cloth with which you can wipe the sweat.
This practice turned into a tradition applied to the burial of monks and priests with the exception that the face of a monk is wrapped with a special cloth as a sign that the monastic has voluntarily chosen to leave the world. At the same time the face of a priest is covered with a veil, with which is the same veil that covers the chalice and diskos with the Holy Sacraments and shows that he celebrated the sacred mysteries. What is more, the Lord’s face on the Holy Shroud, which is placed in the church on Great Friday, is also covered with a veil.
These traditions are also mentioned in the great church book of Metropolitan Peter Mogila republished in 1999.
There is also another opinion that says that at this very time, a priest stands before God and he looks towards the Lord. This is why it is covered away from from people.
Translated by Catalog of Good Deeds