Christian headcovering is the veiling of the head by women in a variety of Christian traditions. Some cover only in public worship, while others believe they should cover their heads all the time. The Biblical basis for headcoverings is found in 1 Corinthians 11. Some appeal to custom as the basis for their practice. Most contemporary Christians, however, do not practice headcovering.
During the ensuing centuries, women have worn head coverings during the meetings of the church, that is, when "praying or prophesying" take place (1Corinthians 11:5). However, during the twentieth century, the practice of headcovering gradually disappeared from many churches, which dropped their requirement that women cover their heads during worship services. At different points in history, the style of the covering varied.
The requirement that women cover their heads in church was introduced as a universal law for the Latin Rite of the Church for the first time in 1917 with canon 1262 of its first Code of Canon Law. It was not addressed in the 1983 revision of the Code, which declared the 1917 Code abrogated. According to the new Code, former law only has interpretive weight in norms that are repeated in the 1983 Code; all other norms are simply abrogated. There is no provision made for norms that are not repeated in the 1983 Code. Some have argued that it is still obligatory, advancing several grounds for their opinion, including the claim that headcovering for women is a centennial and immemorial custom (cf. canon 5 of the Code of Canon Law) It was never universally obligatory for members of the Eastern Catholic Churches.
In some countries where women no longer as a matter of course wear hats when going outdoors, Catholic women do wear headcoverings in church. Traditionalist Catholic women do. The forms range from a mantilla to a hat or a simple headscarf.
For men, the 1917 Code of Canon Law prescribed that they should uncover their heads unless approved customs of peoples were against it. In the Latin Rite of the Roman Catholic Church it is obligatory for bishops to wear the zucchetto headcovering during certain parts of the liturgy, while use of the biretta, once obligatory for all diocesan clergy (as opposed to members of religious institutes), remains permitted for them. In all rites of the Catholic Church, bishops wear a mitre or a corresponding headcovering in church. Nevertheless, the mitre is removed in certain parts of the liturgy, and the zucchetto is also removed during the Eucharistic Prayer, which is always done uncovered, even for bishops, cardinals or the Pope.
Among the Protestant reformers, Martin Luther encouraged wives to wear a veil in public worship and John Knox and John Calvin both called for women to wear headcoverings in public worship. Other commentators who have advocated headcovering during public worship include John Gill, Charles Spurgeon, Matthew Henry, A. R. Fausset, A. T. Robertson, Harry A. Ironside and Charles Caldwell Ryrie. In fact, until the 20th century no Reformed theologian taught against head coverings for women in public worship. While Anabaptists, Amish, and Mennonites advocate the wearing of headcoverings at all times, as a woman might pray or prophesy at any time, the Reformed teaching is that "praying and prophesying" refers to the activities taking place in public worship, as the Apostle Paul is dealing with public worship issues in 1st Corinthians, chapter 11. Their proof text is that women are in the same epistle commanded not to speak in the meetings of the church, so the apostle is obviously not addressing a practice women are to observe while they are publicly praying or preaching themselves. Anabaptists disagree and many women in their communities are so concerned with violating what they believe to be a command outside of public worship that they wear headcoverings to bed and in the shower, as they might offer a prayer then as well, and thus be in sin. Reason, however, would dictate that if Christian women were to wear head coverings at all times, then men, who in the same passage are commanded to uncover the head, would always be forbidden to wear hats or cover their heads. The Reformers understood the head covering mandate for women in public worship to be a sign of her submission to her husband, as the Scriptures declare "Christ is the head of man, man is the head of the woman". Anabaptists have argued, however, that a woman is obligated to rebel against her husband if he forbids her to wear the covering at all times, for it is better to obey God than to obey man. (1st Corinthians 11:3)
In Sweden the use of veil was common in older times, but faded away in the early 20th century and when women started going to church without a veil in the mid 1920s it caused little concern and within a decade most agreeed that Swedish Christian women were not veiled, nor ever had been, nor should be.
In other cases, the choice may be individual, or vary within a country or jurisdiction. Among Orthodox women in Greece, the practice of wearing a head covering in church gradually declined over the course of the 20th century, and today is only practiced by very elderly women of a particular generation that is now over 80 years old. In the United States, the custom can vary depending on the denomination and congregation, and the origins of that congregation.
The male clergy of the Eastern Catholic and Orthodox Churches often have long hair and untrimmed beards if they are monastics, but married clergy often have standard haircuts. Eastern Orthodox clergy of all levels have head coverings, sometimes with veils in the case of monastics or celibates, that are donned and removed at certain points in the services. In US churches they are less commonly worn.
Within the congregation, a female Jehovah's Witness may only lead prayer and teaching when no baptized male is available to, and must do so wearing a head covering. Female head covering is not required when evangelizing or when participating in congregation meetings or Bible study courses being led by another, or any aspect of Christian or family life.
Jehovah's Witnesses males are instructed to remove headcoverings when they represent even a small group in public prayer. A male Witness may or may not choose to remove his headcovering while praying privately or listening to another's public prayer, according to "the dictates of his personal conscience".
Those espousing the practice of headcovering have used Apostle Paul's appeal to universal principles in 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 to argue that since the passage mentions “every man” and “every woman,” as well as the universal order of creation, this passage must apply to all Christians in all ages and of all cultures. 1 Corinthians 11:10 "For this cause ought the woman to have authority on her head because of the angels", ergo an argument can be made that if the angels are no longer in existence, then it no longer applies, but if there are still angels then it must still apply throughout all ages that angels exist. There are no Christian sects who dispute the continued existence of angels. Also, some Christians[who?] wear head coverings because Sarah (Abraham's wife) Genesis 20:16 and Rebekah (Isaac's wife) Genesis 24:65 wore head coverings. They hold that the Bible is not merely referring to hair, long hair, or submission, but rather a literal cloth headcovering (1Corinthians 11:6). They support this understanding from the original Greek, which uses two different words: one meaning covering, referring to the woman's hair (1Corinthians 11:15; Greek = peribolaion), and the other meaning veiling, referring to a literal cloth covering (1Corinthians 11:6; Greek = katakalyptō).
1 Corinthians 11:6 is also cited to refute the notion that the headcovering intended by Paul is merely long hair, ("For if the woman be not covered, let her also be shorn: but if it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be covered.") because it would be akin to saying "If a woman has short hair, let her hair be cut short."
Another argument for the covering of the head is simply that it is not difficult and it is advised to err on the side of obedience, adding to the argument that obedience, rather than division, to avoid displeasing the angels as stated in 1Corinthians 11:10(AMP).
Some Christians[who?] interpret the passage as a cultural mandate that was only for the first-century Corinthian church. However it cannot be said there is any evidence that Paul was seeking to distinguish Christian women from temple prostitutes with short hair. There appears to be a lack of historical evidence showing that short hair was the distinguishing mark of a prostitute in Corinth during Roman times or that Roman Corinth was a center of temple prostitution, bearing in mind depictions of prostitutes in Roman wall paintings (29) and Strabo's comments in Geography 8.6.20c referring to temple prostitutes which applied only to Greek Corinth in existence several centuries before the time of Paul, not the Roman Corinth of Paul's day; Other Christians believe that long hair is intended to be the headcovering (see 1 Corinthians 11:14-15). Still others believe that a woman’s husband is her covering. Yet another view, propagated by feminist theologianKatharine Bushnell, holds that 1 Corinthians 11 itself even teaches that women should not cover their heads at all.
^The practice is not universal even among Traditionalists: as can be seen in this video, not all the women attending Mass in the church of St Nicholas de Chardonnet in Paris, which is run by the Society of St. Pius X, wear a head covering, even those singing in the choir.[non-primary source needed]
^Susan C. Karant-Nunn, Merry E. Wiesner (ed.). Luther on Women: A Sourcebook. Cambridge University Press. p. 31. "Otherwise and aside from that, the wife should put on a veil, just as a pious wife is duty-bound to help bear her husband's accident, illness, and misfortune on account of the evil flesh."
^Edwin E. Jacques (1995). The Albanians: An Ethnic History from Prehistoric Times to the Present. McFarland. p. 221. ISBN0899509320. Retrieved 27 October 2012. "Poujade (1867, 194) noted that Christian women frequently used white veils. Long after independence from Turkey, elderly Orthodox women in Elbasan could be seen on the street wearing white veils, although usually their eyes were visible. Turkish influence upon the Christian community is seen also in latticework partitions in the rear of the Orthodox churches, the women being kept behind the screen during mass."
^ abKraybill, Donald B. (5 October 2010). Concise Encyclopedia of Amish, Brethren, Hutterites, and Mennonites. JHU Press. p. 103. ISBN9780801896576. Retrieved 13 November 2012. "During the 20th century, the wearing of head coverings declined in more assimilated groups, which gradually interpreted the Pauline teaching as referring to cultural practice in the early church without relevance for women in the modern world. Some churches in the mid-20th century had long and contentious discussions about wearing head coverings because proponents saw its decline as a serious erosion of obedience to scriptural teaching."
^Muir, Edward (18 August 2005). Ritual in Early Modern Europe. Cambridge University Press. p. 31. ISBN9780521841535. Retrieved 13 November 2012. "In England radical Protestants, known in the seventeenth century as Puritans, we especially ardent in resisting the churching of women and the requirement that women wear a head covering or veil during the ceremony. The Book of Common Prayer, which became the ritual handbook of the Anglican Church, retained the ceremony in a modified form, but as one Puritan tract put it, the "churching of women after childbirth smelleth of Jewish purification.""
^Morgan, Sue (2010-06-23). Women, Gender and Religious Cultures in Britain, 1800-1940. Taylor & Francis. p. 102. ISBN9780415231152. Retrieved 13 November 2012. "Several ardent Methodist women wrote to him, asking for his permission to speak. Mar Bosanquet (1739-1815) suggested that if Paul had instructed women to cover their heads when they spoke (1. Cor. 11:5) then he was surely giving direction on how women should conduct themselves when they preached."
^Mark, Rebecca; Vaughan, Robert C. (2004). The South. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 175. ISBN9780313327346. Retrieved 13 November 2012. "The red and orange turban described by the anonymous observer also looks forward to the flamboyant Sunday hats worn by African American middle-class women into the twenty-first century, hats celebrated stunningly by Michael Cunningham and Graig Marberry in Crowns: Portraits of Black Women in Church Hats."
^Haji, Nafisa (2011-05-17). The Sweetness of Tears. HarperCollins. p. 316. ISBN9780061780103. Retrieved 13 November 2012. "I went to church, something I'd never expected to do in Pakistan. Sadiq told me that his grandfather's nurse, Sausan, was Christian. Presbyterian. My second Sunday in Karachi, I went to services with her. I was glad of the clothese that Haseena Auntie had helped me shop for, because all the women in church covered their heads, just like Muslim women, with their dupattas."
^"Questions From Readers", The Watchtower, July 15, 2002, page 27, "There may be other occasions when no baptized males are present at a congregation meeting. If a sister has to handle duties usually performed by a brother at a congregationally arranged meeting or meeting for field service, she should wear a head covering."
^"Woman’s Regard for Headship—How Demonstrated?", The Watchtower, July 15, 1972, page 447, "At times no baptized male Witnesses may be present at a congregational meeting (usually in small congregations or groups). This would make it necessary for a baptized female Witness to pray or preside at the meeting. Recognizing that she is doing something that would usually be handled by a man, she would wear a head covering."
^"Should You Cover Your Head During Prayer?", The Watchtower, February 15, 1977, page 127-128, "Christian man walking down the street with a hat on might offer a prayer to God. If his own personal feelings urged him to remove his hat, he should do so. But God’s counsel about head covering does not specifically require it. What about prayers in congregational activities or in the family? In line with the principle of headship, if a baptized man is present, he should offer prayer with his head uncovered. That is true in the family even when just husband and wife join in prayer. ...Finally, what about head covering when you are part of a group but not personally voicing the prayer? ...Would a woman present during the prayer have to cover her head? No... If a man felt that he should take his hat off when represented by another’s prayer, he, of course, can follow the dictates of his personal conscience."
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