Why do I wear a head covering when I pray?
I have been considering this question once again.
It started with a blog post and comments, here.
Then, I found a lovely explanation on the side bar of the blog “Morning Coffee,” here.
Every now and then, someone will ask me, and I can’t come up with a logical reason. To me, it just feels “right.”
So, what are my reasons for wearing a head covering whenever I pray?
How do I answer this question? The reasons are numerous and somewhat nebulous.
I wear a head covering because I feel compelled to wear one. This is perhaps the main reason why I wear a head covering. Some years ago, before I became Orthodox, but when I was re-discovering Christ and returning to a life in him, while praying, there was a compulsion to wear a head-covering. When I pray, I am standing in the presence of God. For some reason, I feel like I dare not approach him with my head uncovered. I don’t know why, maybe it’s “for the angels.” Maybe it’s because God sees everything, even the secret parts of me, and wearing a head covering is like keeping those parts of me that God sees for God alone. When I pray without my head covered, I am more distracted in prayer, I start worrying about what I’m doing or how I look, and I lose that connection with God.
I know that in the Bible women are called to modesty. Many times the reason given for modesty is so that we don’t distract others, especially men, and so that we don’t seek attention. But, maybe it has to do with being secret as well. In the Orthodox Church, many of the explanations of our faith are shrouded in mystery – the Trinity, the Eucharist, our salvation. In the Divine Liturgy, the most important acts, the consecration of the bread and wine, and the changing of that bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Jesus by the Holy Spirit is a mystery, something done that we don’t need to (can’t) comprehend in order to participate in. I think this element of mystery can be applied to women as well. We are creators and nurturers, and the act of growing life in our wombs, is a secret act, a sacred act. It sets us apart from men. The Theotokos, the Mother of our God, was set aside from all humanity in this way. So, in dressing modestly and in wearing a head covering, we continue that secret, that mystery, reserving parts of ourselves for God alone. I don’t know – this is just my train of thoughts.
I wear a head-covering because Christian women through-out history have worn them, and I want to emulate the saintly women who have done so. Wearing a head covering in a Christian church is not new, it’s a 2000 year-old tradition. Until the 1950’s, in the United States, women who went to church wore a head covering. In most parts of the non-Western world today, women wear head coverings when they pray.
I want to continue to draw closer to God and deepen my relationship with him. I want to emulate His mother, the Theotokos and virgin Mary, Saint Mary Magdalene (my patron saint), Saint Matrona, Saint Brigid, and all the saintly women throughout history who have prayed while covered. I look up to these women, and want to model my life after them, hoping to pray to God as they have.
I wear a head covering as a symbol of obedience to God. In 1 Corinthians 11, Paul states that women should have their hair covered while they pray. The exact meaning of his words is open to debate, but for me, it is a commandment from God. It doesn’t matter how self-conscious I am initially, my own opinions about male/female equality doesn’t matter. What matters is that God commands this. My body is not my own. I need a constant reminder of this. I cannot act out of my own will or self-interest, though many times in my willfulness I do. I want to always be striving to draw closer to God. I fail at that, a lot, and I need a reminder while I am in prayer to be humble and obey God. There have been times in my past when I have turned my back on God. I don’t want that to happen again, and if this little act of obedience will help me remember God, then I will do it.
I do not think every woman should wear a head covering. That is a decision made between her, her husband (if appropriate) and her spiritual father. I need to wear a head covering as a reminder of humility and obedience, I need a part of me to remain secret for God.