Monday, October 25, 2010

"And Because of The Angels"

A woman wearing a mantilla, a Christian headcovering.

When I was working on a story recently about France's crackdown on conspicuous religious symbols in public schools, I stumbled upon some interesting blogs and articles written by Christian women who cover their hair for religious reasons.

This is nothing new to me. I grew up belonging to a conservative Pentecostal church, and modesty was crucial. Although it was never explicitly stated women should cover their head when they attended worship, many did with big, beautiful hats. The teaching comes from Paul's writings in I Corinthians 11:

"And every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head—it is just as though her head were shaved. If a woman does not cover her head, she should have her hair cut off; and if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut or shaved off, she should cover her head A man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man. For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. For this reason, and because of the angels, the woman ought to have a sign of authority on her head."

Our church often had joint/fellowship services with other congregations, and I remember women and girls having a piece of lace fabric pinned onto their hair. I recall thinking it was both strange and beautiful.

In college, I visited my best friend Giddel's Christian Brethren church where nearly all of the women wore what I use to describe as "the big doily things" since they looked like the doilies both of my Grandmothers displayed on their antique wood furniture. Some had them pinned right on to the crown of their heads, but Giddel's mother Ronnie, had a much more beautiful one. It was long and elegant, and could easily double as a shawl. I would later learn the proper name- "mantilla". I knew most chicks my age would laugh at the prospect of wearing something on their head because of the "angels" and all out scoff at that "authority" part altogether. Yet for some reason, Ronnie, and Giddel, and our friend Martha (also in her 20's), looked nothing short of beautiful to me.

Most Christian women no longer follow the practice of covering their heads (well, except for in cold or inclement weather) for a few reasons. First, the practice fell out of practice post Vatican II in Roman Catholicism, the largest Christian church. Over on the Protestant side of the cross, with the rise of nondenominational/evangelical churches and the modernization of mainline churches, women tossed the scarves and hats, too. Nowadays, most women only wear them for fashion, if at all. Even within some of the more conservative churches, many women take the above passage to mean their hair is their actual covering, so they don't or hardly ever cut their hair.

Many Christians take the passage above to be a cultural prescript to the Corinthians of that day. After all, many men wear long hair today, and many women, short. Since in many societies there is no shame to this, then the admonishment to cover is not for today. I've seen some women pull up a scarf or shawl at church ONLY during prayer, reading a Scripture or maybe even Communion, only to yank it down the minute she steps out of the sanctuary.

However, the blogs I found, like Free To Cover, written by a married, Orthodox mom named Alana, are advocating a return to the traditional. Not just to cover at church, either, but full time. She writes:

"You say that wearing a headcovering is a form of bondage?

I say it is an expression of my freedom in Christ.

You say that it oppresses women.

I say that it reminds me of the stole draped over my head when receiving the prayer of absolution after making confession.

You say that it is only "cultural" and does not apply to today.

I say, neither does turning the other cheek make sense in our culture. Neither does "blessed are the poor in spirit". Neither does "blessed are the meek".

You say your head is your own.

I say that I gave my head to Christ.

You say your hair is your glory and your covering.

I say that I can neither make my hair, make it grow, or keep it from falling out. Only my creator can do that.

The only things I can do with my hair are let it grow, cut it off, color it, or cover it. I have done all these things. But now I cover it.

What does this all mean? A question I have asked myself many times as the years have gone by. What does it mean that the husband is the head of the wife? Kephale in the Greek. Source. Submission. Harmony. And husbands love your wife as Christ loved the Church. Perhaps it is more than a "headship" covering. Perhaps it is a revolutionary statement. For more than just myself.

What does it mean, "on account of the angels"? Oh, to serve God with the purity of an angel!

For whatever reason, this will not leave me alone.

I do not belong to myself..."

Still, other young Christian women are embracing the veil, too- at least while worshiping. Cordelia, writing for Catholic Phoenix chimed in:   

"Growing up in the diocese of Phoenix, I never thought I would see the day when chapel veils would resurface, especially during a liturgical procession...

Even though we don’t have to wear the mantilla anymore, I’ve noticed that some women want to. Depending upon which parish you are at, you may see one or several ladies graced in lace at a regular Sunday morning mass. The ladies I have seen are mostly under forty. I bet some of you reading this post are guilty of being veil-curious, and maybe even own one, buried in the back of your sock drawer.

Can it be that more women are unleashing their inner bride and donning the mantilla at mass?

For years I resisted the mantilla... maybe a hat, if anything. But eventually, about a year ago, I decided to “pin one on”—and I have not stopped wearing it since..." 

What say you, Dear Readers? Do you think it's necessary? Even if you don't, how do you feel about those who do? Old fashioned? Strange? Nice? By the way, women within groups as diverse as the Jehovah's Witnesses to some Baptists all practice some form of head covering to different degrees.


Red Cardigan said...

Alisha, may I share an old post of mine on this question?

My thought, generally, is that as a voluntary act of devotion this can be a lovely habit for a woman to adopt, if she wishes to do so. But I am grateful that the Catholic Church stopped requiring head coverings when women stopped owning and wearing hats (which were more customary than mantillas in most of America; lovely old Catholic pictures show lots of hat-adorned ladies!), because for me personally the temptation to vanity is a threat.

Alisha De Freitas said...

"...because for me personally the temptation to vanity is a threat."

Very interesting point! While I love to see the lovely church hats (okay, one day I will buy one just because I LOVE them), I have to admit, they can be very distracting, and church can quickly become a fashion show. Women, all the while claiming modesty, can become very caught up in vanity.

I am going to definitely check out the link.

Alisha De Freitas said...

Erin, your post was so awesome (and funny), I'm going to have add it to the discussion. THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR THE LINK!

Alana said...

Wow! Imagine my surprise to click on this post and then find myself bloglinked! Thanks, btw!

I've personally gone back and forth between covering full time and coverng for Church and formal prayers at home...currently doing the latter. Rather addicted to Mantillas of late...something to do with these mini-hotflashes I'm also getting these days and the fact that other scarves are hot. ;-)

Michelle-ozark crafter said...

I have covered for a couple years and am the only one in my family or church to do so. it is wonderful the peace and contentment I feel in covering, knowing I am following what God wants for my life.

Alisha De Freitas said...

Hi Alana,

I think it's so awesome you found my blog and commented. I really found your site to be very informative, and I hope you don't mind the re-post here. Also- hot flashes???- I thought you were just a few years older than me (I'm 28). :-)

Hi Michelle,

Thanks so much for leaving a comment as well. Can I ask you, being the only one who covers, how do others treat you? Have you ever run into any problems because of it? Do you believe Christian women are commanded to cover?

I appreciate all the responses!

Leigh said...

I have been covering during church meetings for the last few is customary in the Brethren Assembly we have been attending. I will admit it is much easier to cover when it is common practice. Our small church of 6 recently discontinued meeting so now I am contemplating do I follow my convictions or do I make myself comfortable among the other women so as not to stand out. I do wear a lace veil. Been doing a lot of praying. My husband likes me to cover he thinks its symbol of Gods order of headship is an important statement in todays time. I do try to resist Feminism . oh well feel like a rambling on.

Alisha De Freitas said...

No, Leigh, you're not rambling at all! Are there no more Brethrn churches in your area? Where I live in New Jersy, there are at least two I know of within 20 minutes of my home. One is very conservative and is "closed" though, while the other I've visited (I'll probably be going there next week for their Thanksgiving service) was "open". What I liked about the women who cover during service never treated those who didn't with a bad attitude. They were all friendly, and I believe represented humility beautifully.

J in VA said...

I enjoyed your posting very much--this was my first visit to your blog.

Istarted covering full time about 9 months ago. I live in an area with many Mennonites so to see a covered woman is not totally unusual. I, however, label myself as Christian (no denominational ties at present). Sometimes, I think I am judged (mostly by other women) by those who meet me for the first time. Men usually have a very positive response (not a come on--but respectful).

If you are going to new fellowships, I would recommend following your conviction to cover. The response of others will tell you a great deal and you'll know fairly quickly whether you want ot visit again.

Alana said...

I know this is an older post, but I have to say...I am turing 41 in a few short weeks. I am quite a bit older than you, but also quite a bit young to be having hot flashes. Might have something to do with some surgery I had to have. Peace to you! My struggle continues as I move back into covering full time as 2011 is starting.

Kayla Na'ko Padgett said...

"...but that if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For long hair is given to her as a covering." ( 1 Corinthians 11:15)

It is good you wear a covering, I will not put that down in any way. Yet this why many feel having long hair is important and don't cut their hair because the scripture that says " since it is shameful for a woman to have her hair cut or shaved.." cut in the Greek is any cutting done to hair (no trimming). Only reading the beginning of this part of scripture leaves out the sense of it, as well as the meaning to what the covering should be. How can a women keep covering hair that they cant cut?

Long hair is our glory and covering.

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