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Thanks for such a great answer Zenovia. The reasons for forcing women to have their heads covered seem to range from "obedience" to their husbands to cultural traditions.
It is always a shock to people like me who come from a Slavic Orthodox tradition to find out about about Greek Church customs.

No woman wears a hat or scarf in my parish in the summer. IT is just too hot without airconditioning in this era of global warming. What is important is what is in our hearts. As far as clothing dress does, our "Sunday best", clean clothes and modesty for both sexes.

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Originally Posted by byzanTN
In some of the Western Churches, I would love to see a return to the practice of covering one's near nakedness. wink


Hear hear !!

Though it's not as bad in the UK as in some places - but I can still be surprised at what counts for Sunday-Church-going-gear

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I'm going to be a grouchy grump and take what is likely to be a very unpopular stand.

I actually resent the "refugees" from the Roman Catholic church who attend our Melkite parish and insist on covering their heads. In the last 6 or 7 years, we have had an influx of young adults from a nearby extremely conservative college. They are lovely people, and they do contribute to the life of the parish.

But if I were to experience some sort of spiritual crisis and decide to return to a western parish, I would not expect to bring some of my more visible Melkite practices with me to Sunday liturgy. For example, I would not take a place in the front row and stand throughout the entire liturgy (except the homily); such behavior would strike me as disrespectful and would even seem like a form of protest. And can you imagine the response if I were to tell a parishioner in a Roman Catholic church that it's offensive to hold her hands behind her back or to cross his legs when seated during liturgy? Yet someone told the preteen daughter of one of deacons (!) that she "really needed to cover her hair during liturgy."

As a guest in another parish, I follow the practices of that parish; why would I choose to be become a part of a parish that does not embrace practices I deem essential? If I viewed covering my head as an important discipline of obedience, why would I want to be among people who are blatantly disobedient? (Yes, I know that we are all disobedient, but I'm being extreme to make a point.)

Yes, I have taken this to confession, because it clearly rouses uncharitable reactions. On a lighter note, I have been less annoyed ever since one of my dearest friends told me that she keeps wondering why such otherwise-modest young women insist on displaying their underwear. In the part of Europe where she grew up, the kind of lace most of these women wear on their heads is used exclusively for undergarments and is never intentionally shown to the public.

-- Pentha, grouchily, grumpily, and gigglingly wishing they would either leave their underwear at home or take it to the Tridentine mass down the road

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Would an old fashioned Mexican style mantilla work instead?
Much Love,
Jonn

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Everybody's comments are so interesting and I want to comment so pardon me if I'm all over the place.

Zenovia, that is a fascinating observation and I do think you're right that face coverings were worn in the non-Muslim world too.(What else would those medieval style horn things be for?! I read a post on another forum from an over-40 Orthodox priest and he said his mother always covered her head during Mass (I guess he was a convert) and during Lent she covered half her face. It's safe to make the generalization that face covering will never make a comeback in the West because it's too closely associated to Islam.

Orest, I get the impression that some women prefer covering their heads for privacy. But then,it must be so difficult for Christian Iraqi women who are being forced to cover their heads. Resentment would suck all the spiritual benefit out of it and it's like regulating what color undergarments one must wear; such a private and personal decision. Also, I'd think it would be equally difficult for a Christian woman to cover their heads in Europe now, especially England and France, since everyone's up in arms with the Muslim veiling. I mentioned earlier that when I get in a mood I wear a head scarf and I would hate for someone to 'make' me stop doing that.

Soxfan, mennonite and amish women have always worn bonnets and they make a clear link between sexuality, hair and covering the body.

I don't quite understand why wearing a scarf is too much in the heat, black women have been wearing scarves and hats for centuries, especially in the heat.As long as it isn't a dark color it works out fine.

The scanty clothes look has to go. I think that's really up to the priest to lay down the law. Why don't they? At least these women aren't wearing head coverings, because that makes a mockery of modesty ; like the muslims girls who veil but wear skin tight jeans.

Pentha,old grump, you have a good point. If a woman is going to cover her head in a church where it isn't custom she should do it and shut up about it. Inflicting the custom on others really is too much and it also turns the practice into a cultural custom rather than an act of personal submission to God. And, oh, we want them to keep their underwear! We just don't want to see them. So the Spanish mantilla lace is used for undergarments in Europe? What kind of lace are they wearing on their heads?

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Indigo,

Great post, thanks!

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Dear Wondering,

Thanks for the web pages. I think I'll give a few opinions of my own for whatever it is worth.

What a woman wears under normal circumstances should be left to their own discretion. Unfortunately though, seeing what we see in church nowadays, there has to be some Church guidelines. I have seen some highly shapely girls in church that can be very distracting to men. Now some, being young, might not be fully aware of how distracting they are, but there are other older women, that are fully aware. They should be ashamed of themselves, especially when receiving communion. shocked

In the same context, I find most men and women that gossip and criticize over what's someone wears in church, as being foolish. It seems they condemn and gossip about some young girls for wearing clothes that are modest in comparison to the clothes of other girls. It seems it's the personal attractiveness of the girl rather than what they are wearing that offends them. crazy

God Bless,

Zenovia

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Indigo:
Quote
I don't quite understand why wearing a scarf is too much in the heat, black women have been wearing scarves and hats for centuries, especially in the heat.As long as it isn't a dark color it works out fine.


Here in the intense sun and heat of the Greek summer, a hat with one's hair up certainly helps diffuse the sun, (I personally like to wear a baseball cap on the beach) however, if one were to cover one's neck with a Muslim type of scarf, one would certainly suffer.

One day, walking in the 110 degree sun, in the center of the city, a Muslim woman walked by with full head scarf and long sleeves...a Greek man was overheard telling his wife in utter disbelief: "aren't they HOT with all that". Sweltering in the heat of the day, I couldn't have agreed more.

...this thought continues to something else Indigo said, especially in this part of the world--

Quote
Also, I'd think it would be equally difficult for a Christian woman to cover their heads in Europe now, especially England and France, since everyone's up in arms with the Muslim veiling.


Christian women *here* will probably NEVER wear anything that would remotely resemble Muslim clothing, even in church. On the other hand, I can see the Russian tradition of head scarves in church continuing, since their history and proximity to the Middle East is different--(not to mention, climate)-- than Greece's, and I respect that.

The headscarf has become a symbol of Islam, and after 400 years of Muslim occupation in this part of the world, and the resurgent fear of Islam, no one is voluntarily going to take up anything close to their garb. Even monasteries here do not require them. Only the Athonite monasteries in the U.S. do.

While I personally find that wearing them, while visiting those monasteries, takes one to a different spiritual level, a level of completely forgetting one's own vanity and sense of egotistical self, I also find them extremely uncomfortable. Wearing tight ones in the style of Islam renders me half deaf! I was once struggling so much with hearing my confessor, that he actually felt sorry for me!

On a lighter more trivial note: I just watched an interesting show highlighting life in Lebanon. They were on a beach, and ofcourse, the composition of Lebanon includes Muslims and Christians. Lebanon is very much like Greece...the summers are hot and the beautiful beaches are a part of everyday life. While the men are allowed to bathe in Western bathing trunks, the women must stay dressed. However, they *are* allowed to swim, and it showed them swimming in: trousers, long sleeved blouses and full covering head scarfs...all in the color black. (*EEK*) Another interesting tidbit is that the women on the beach were allowed to smoke the 'argile' or 'water pipe'...hmmmm.... wink

I find the the Islamic culture of the Middle East both fascinating and beautiful in tradition and respectfulness, while also being frightening and oppressive in practice.

Alice



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Originally Posted by Alice
I find the the Islamic culture of the Middle East both fascinating and beautiful in tradition and respectfulness, while also being frightening and oppressive in practice.


Indeed . . .

-- John

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Originally Posted by Penthaetria
I'm going to be a grouchy grump and take what is likely to be a very unpopular stand...
I actually resent the "refugees" from the Roman Catholic church who attend our Melkite parish and insist on covering their heads.


Pentha,

The hardest I laughed all week. My latin rite friends think this a most funny term - "refugees".

What gets ME mad about women's head coverings is that their husbands never wear a suit and tie. Ughhhhhh! The trad men make "their woman" (read this in snotty fashion) do this practice as a mark of obedience but the guys do not show a similar degree of respect for God in their dress. mad mad

Other than this, I do like tasteful eccentricities in fashion and don't mind the head covering.

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While the men are allowed to bathe in Western bathing trunks, the women must stay dressed. However, they *are* allowed to swim, and it showed them swimming in: trousers, long sleeved blouses and full covering head scarfs...all in the color black. (*EEK*) Another interesting tidbit is that the women on the beach were allowed to smoke the 'argile' or 'water pipe'...hmmmm.... ;\)


Dear Alice,

In my grandmother's time, I believe the men were allowed to swim freely, while women had to swim in bathing houses. They were houses that were built over the water so that one could bathe indiscreetly. As for the 'argile', (with the accent on the last e), I find that interesting too. Ha! biggrin What's a little smoke now and then? Is there hashish in them? confused

God Bless,

Zenovia

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Today just before this awesome Divine Liturgy celebrating The Transfiguration everyone was waiting in anticipation and all of a sudden four sisters ages 4-13 old whipped out their fuschia shawls and covered their heads! My godmother had begun wearing a shawl and covering her head in July, and her 10 year old daughter began doing the same this weekend. She saw the four sisters and just grinned! It was absolutely hysterical (thugh no one laughed)!

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In response to the original post (quoted below), I have worn head covering in Russian churches, where women wear longer, more modest dresses. They definitely are the uniform at the local ROCOR church. When in doubt, I say for women, wear more rather than less and carry a scarf. For men, dress it up rather than dress it down. (Lately, I'm seeing more immodest fashion boo boos on men than women.)

Several Serbian women I know are quick to point out that they don't like covering their heads and they like to wear dress trousers. They go to their church or to the OCA church, and they dress neatly and modestly in church, but you won't catch them praying with the Russians. One of my friends visited a Catholic monastery when she missed her church's Liturgy, rather than go pray at the ROCOR. And she's quite Orthodox and she dresses quite conservatively, but women in her experience are left to determine how they will appropriately dress.

When you have different churches and different nationalities, cultures, ethnicities, you get some variation going. I figure respect other people's practices when you are visiting their parish. So if you are visiting a church where it is the tradition to dress a particular way, try to do that. I agree with the comment in the thread, though, about the "refugees." If you are a traditional Roman Catholic roaming for a home, don't advertise being different by coming to an Eastern church and conducting yourself differently. That's not a good way to worship anyway. Try to fit in a little, don't give into to stubbornness and pride or whatever. Try to stand when others stand, sit when others sit, kneel when others kneel, Cross yourself when other Cross themselves, cover your head when others cover theirs and perhaps uncover your head when they don't, wear a suit if that's what other guys wear, whatever it takes to be a polite, respectful worshipper and not distract others.




Originally Posted by searching east
Some debate whether in the Latin church the custom of women wearing head converings was menat to be lifted. It was never officially changed, but it was not reinstated in a certain release of canon law. So some debate what this means. I am nt interested in that here, though people may say what they want.
My question is about the Christian East. I do not think I see women in head coverings the times I have visited Orthodox Churches. Maybe I just did not notice. But was this a custom in the East? For how long? and when did it change and why? I do not think the Orthodox even have canon law, so I would be interested to know how this played out in their churches.

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Refunis--you hit the nail on the head and one of my biggest pet peeves! When I go to church, I wear at least a pair of dress pants, a dress shirt and a tie. Sometimes a suit, but at least a tie. With dress shoes that I polish before I leave the house. I am so tired of going to church and seeing people in shorts, ripped and dirty t-shirts, sandals and torn jeans! It would have to be a bad day for me to show up in jeans. And my nine year old son is not allowed to dress in anything less than a pair of dress pants, dress shirt (or a polo shirt) and dress shoes. Tennis shoes are OUT!

What is worse is when I see altar servers wearing torn sneakers, sandals and jeans that have no heels. Clearly visible under their robes. I promise you, my son will never dress that way when he is a server! My mom and dad never permitted my brothers or I to wear jeans to church, even in the 1970's. I certainly won't do it now! How about a little respect for all that God has done for us?

Tim


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