The reason why orthodox christians wear headcoverings has been debated for a long time. While many Christians still believe that it is a symbol of honor and tradition, the argument for it isn’t as straightforward as it may first seem.
Table of Contents
History of headcoverings
In the past, women have worn head coverings during church worship. These are still practiced today by some Christians. While this practice is not required, many women find it an expression of their faith.
The Bible tells us that women should cover their heads when praying. This practice was considered important in early religious history. During the Old Testament, people were required to wear head coverings, especially in times of drought. It was also considered an act of awe before the Divine Presence. During the second century, it was universally accepted.
Women also wore head coverings during public worship. Several early Christian women and saints, including St. Mary of Egypt, wore them. Many of these examples are extremely rare.
Although Paul does not explicitly mention head coverings in his letter to Timothy, he indirectly supports the use of head coverings for women in 1 Corinthians. He argues that women should be subject to husbands and a godly woman should be submissive.
Paul’s argument from creation
There is a debate over whether or not the Apostle Paul’s argument from creation for headcovering is the best way to go. Some Christians claim that the principle requires a more modern affirmation. Others believe the symbol means nothing today. However, if you think about it, the most important part of the argument isn’t the symbol at all, it’s the truth that Paul is trying to communicate.
The argument from creation for headcovering is more than just a reiteration of a cultural custom. It’s also an example of the concept of cultural relativization.
Paul’s argument from creation in 1 Corinthians 11 makes some very important statements about men and women. One of these is that man is the image of God. Another is that woman is the glory of man. Both statements are true, but not in the same way.
The biggest drawback is that Paul doesn’t seem to directly link the principle to the need for head coverings. That is, he does make some relevant statements about the subject, but it’s hard to imagine him explicitly making the claim that women are supposed to wear head coverings while speaking or praying.
Respect for women’s choice
The Orthodox Church is no slouch when it comes to respecting women. Indeed, the church is one of the last bastions of gender equality. Those who are fortunate enough to be in the fold are often referred to as “cradle” Orthodox. Not to mention the fact that the majority of the Orthodox Church is female. In fact, most jurisdictions allow it to be women who decide if they should wear a veil or not.
The best example of this is the Orthodox Church’s ecumenical approach to the liturgy. Although most of the clergy are men, this does not mean that women are not allowed to participate. And women who take their faith seriously are often the ones who do most of the heavy lifting.
To be fair, a number of non-Orthodox countries have adopted the same stipulations. This has lead to a number of odd alliances, and some interesting twists on the usual. For example, the aforementioned head covering is not obligatory, but many women opt to go all out with the veil.
The tradition of headcovering for orthodox Christians traces back to the earliest years of Christianity. In the early church, women were recognized as deacons, musicians and teachers. Women were also expected to cover their heads during worship, as a sign of modesty.
However, some Christian churches have discarded the practice of headcoverings for their women, including those in North America. This practice has been criticized by feminism as being oppressive. Many converts to Orthodoxy are pleased to learn about this tradition from cradle sisters.
The Old Testament hints at the reasons for headcoverings. The Hebrew custom of covering the head was one of modesty and chastity. Several female saints, including Mary of Egypt, also have their head covered in icons.
Today, most Orthodox jurisdictions allow women to decide for themselves whether to cover their head. Some Eastern European Christian communities want to maintain traditions from the early days of Christianity. Other examples are rare, however.
One of the first things visitors notice when entering an Orthodox church is the presence of women wearing headcoverings. These are typically opaque hanging veils.