Monday, January 09, 2006

I'm back!...With a question

I'm finally able to steal a moment to update here after all the craziness of the holidays. Hopefully I can get back to weekly updates now.

Anyway, the good news is that I've gone to church every Sunday (except for one) since I found my new church. I love the place and can't wait to get more involved. Anyway, as I was looking around at the congregation this past Sunday I thought of some verse I'd read as part of a World History class in college that said something about women covering their heads in church. I couldn't remember if that was true or not so I found a searchable Bible online and came up with 1 Corinthians Chapter 11, which pretty clearly states that women are to cover their heads in church. Verses 4 - 6 say:

Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head. 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.

So what's the deal with this? Why do no women cover their heads in church these days? I have no idea who wrote Corinthians (maybe Peter?) or what the larger context is, so I might be totally missing something.

Thanks and happy new year!


At January 09, 2006 4:57 PM, Blogger Colleen said...

Ah that Paul. If you continue to read on, you will note that he says (and I am modernizing and paraphrasing) "Well, if you want to argue the point, it is true that this is my opinion and not the Lord's command and it is not a universal practice but I think you should do it". (Well, what he actually says in vs. 16 is ". 16If anyone wants to be contentious about this, we have no other practice—nor do the churches of God.)

So we (protestants)have mostly ignored him.

Of course, until very recently, women going to Mass would cover their heads, but the covering got skimpier and skimpier over the years. Officially, I don't know what is going on today, but I rarely see any woman at Mass with her head covered.

At January 10, 2006 8:52 AM, Anonymous SteveG said...

As Colleen notes, Saint Paul was the author of 1 Corinthians.

My understanding of this is that what you have here is a discussion more about conformity and propriety than about it somehow being inherently 'wrong' for a woman not to have a head covering in church.

The norm in Greek society of the time was that women wore such a head covering in worship, but this was a cultural practice that Paul seems to using to illustrate a point about those who are trying to be 'different.'

After all, he also says in the same discussion regarding men...

Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears his hair long it is a disgrace to him.

..and since 1st century non-hellenized Jews would have likely had long hair (likely including the apostles and Jesus), I think we'd be hard pressed to include these issues as some kind of hard and fast moral teaching rather than an illustration using the cultural preferences he is familar with. Again, the underlying point is one of conformity and unity in worship and practice.

There is a fairly decent discussion of this on the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops website here...

1 Cor. 11

Prior to the Vatican II council it was actually legally required (under Catholic Canon Law) for women to wear a head covering in line with the tradtional custom/practice.

Canon law changed at that point and the 'force of Catholic law' no longer required it. If you want a really technical answer to this, see this article....

Head Coverings at Mass (this may interest Collen more than yourself as to answering the current state of things).

What's REALLY important in this question is that as you delve deeper into Catholicism, one of the things that you'll want to be very careful about is discerning between matters that are related to faith and morals vs. those that related to customs and practices.

While a good practicing Catholic will follow the church in both areas, they will also recognize that one area (faith and morals) is immutable, while the other is somwhat malleable (cultural customs and practices).

The bottom line here is that this issue of head coverings pretty clearly falls under the practice and custom heading rather than the faith and morals heading.

At January 16, 2006 7:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Try Samuel I ver. 15
Kill them all including the babies.

Who would worship a god who says to kill non jewish babies ?



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