Saturday, July 28, 2012

thoughts on Headcovering

this is a beautiful thought by my friend and sister in Christ Charli on Headcovering.
"I've been thinking about headcoverings and husbands... When someone asked my husband once about making me cover, he cracked up laughing. We don't make each other do anything. 

But it's true that many churches that encourage or require women to cover have a low opinion of women. And it seems to me that churches that have a low opinion of women also have a low opinion of the Church! They justify their opinion of women by pointing out that men are like Christ and women are like the Church. The Church is human, Christ is God. The Church is weak, pitiful, sinful, in need of redemption. The Church, clearly, is subordinate to Christ. And so it is with women and their husbands.

But that position is based on an understanding of the Church that is foreign to Orthodoxy! The Church is the bride of Christ, unspotted, without blemish. The Church is also an icon of the Theotokos, the All-pure One, the one from whom our Lord took his body. The Church is, in fact, the very Body of Christ -- what Christ is, the Church is (by grace, if not by nature). 

The relationship between the Church and Christ is also understood to be like the relationship between Christ and the Father. Although Christ submits to the Father, Christ is not less than the Father. And the Father never, ever compels his Son to do anything. He never demands anything of the Son. He never uses any form of coercion or force. Even so, Christ never forces the Church to do anything, never demands, never coerces or forces. He stands at the door and knocks. He invites. He asks. So should a husband be with his wife.

Submission, subordination in the Church, and in a Christian marriage, is a free gift from one person to another who is equal in dignity, equal in honor, equal in every respect. It is not the submission of a slave to a master. Such submission in a marriage, according to John Chrysostom, shames the man who demands it. 

Paul Evdokimov says that the wife must be truly, absolutely free to say yes or no to her husband, just as the Theotokos was truly, absolutely free to say yes or no to God. Without the freedom to say No, it is impossible to say Yes. If your choice is taken away from you, and you can't choose, you can accept the situation with humility and grace. That's the way the confessors and passion-bearers responded to their situations. But that is not the submission of Christ to the Father, or the submission of the Theotokos to God. It is never the way it is meant to be in the Church, or in a marriage. 

So our headcoverings are not a sign that we've given over having our own opinions, and wait on our husband to make all our decisions for us. They are not a sign that we are less than our husbands. Our headcoverings can't be a symbol of that -- because that isn't true. The angels wouldn't ask for that.

So it's something else. St. Paul isn't entirely clear on what the something else is. A sign of our authority on our heads. Authority over what? Over the angels? Over our own person? None of those seem quite right. 

But I think that, whatever it is, we can joyfully reclaim the headcovering as something that is not a sign of oppression, but a sign of our own authority and our own freedom."


  1. whoa! my husband is on blogger and facebook tonight! YAY!!!