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Why can men not cover their heads whilst praying?

Discussion in 'The Ancient Way - Eastern Orthodox' started by Decanus, Apr 13, 2021.

  1. Decanus

    Decanus I don't even know anymore

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    Hi all,

    I'm not Orthodox, but in my experience on this site (it's been some years since I've been on) I feel that the Orthodox really know their stuff.

    So my question is about men covering their heads while they pray. I know that St Paul elaborates on this and says that men who cover whilst praying dishonour their head etc, but I have also read online (there seems to be very little information on this topic) that St Paul would have been addressing people whose custom it already was not to cover their heads whilst praying as opposed to Jewish people who did cover their heads. So they say this verse needs to take the local culture into account, but what does that mean for Christian men today? Why are priests and monks permitted to cover their heads whilst praying but not a layman?

    I know that benedictines often say it is to aid in prayer, a sort of blocking the world out as it were. I personally resonate with that and would like to cover whilst praying, but not if it is against what the Bible teaches.

    What are your thoughts on this? Thank you in advance.
     
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  2. Michael Collum

    Michael Collum Everything began with a voice, use yours Supporter

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    Good question, always thought it was about the length of hair.
     
  3. ArmyMatt

    ArmyMatt Regular Member Supporter

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    actually, there are some prayers where clergy are required to pray uncovered.

    but I always thought it was more cultural
     
  4. Decanus

    Decanus I don't even know anymore

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    So would you say it is permissible for a male to cover his head whilst praying unless a prayer specifically requires them not to?
     
  5. Pavel Mosko

    Pavel Mosko Arch-Dude of the Apostolic Supporter

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    @Decanus

    Hey there are a lot of nuances to this, if you take a look at Judaism for instance. Like a Kippah (cap) or Tallit (prayer shawl) on the head would not be considered breaking that command, because it is worn on the top of the head, but the hair is exposed. While women typically were expected to have their hair completely or mostly covered. Take a look at the Tallit link below.


    There are a number of reasons for this.
    1) For woman it goes back to Genesis 6:2 and their are notion of hair being erotic when you look at the ancient cultures of the Mediterranean. Some of the Greeks and Romans actually believed that long hair aided fertility if you look at some of the ancient medical writers of the day. But I'm personally doubtful that is true of the Israeli/ Jewish view.

    Besides this, I think there is a little bit of an aspect of early Genesis regarding Adam and Eve in the differences and roles between the two sexes both before and after the fall.


    2) For men I believe this is just a kind of priestly symbol, if they wear a cap or other liturgical head covering. It kind of reminds me of the topic of circumcision. That was a practice that was practiced widely (nearly half of the Mediterranean cultures did it for various reasons), but in Egypt it was done by the priestly class. So I see that as reinforcing or illustrating the verse where God says he wants his people to be kingdom of "Kings and priests" in the Old Testament.


    Tallit
     
    Last edited: Apr 13, 2021
  6. Sketcher

    Sketcher Born Imperishable

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    Out of curiosity, do these prayers also need to take place in a certain environment?
    If they would not require a certain environment, let's say one or more of these clergy went into space, and was on the moon or the surface of Mars or on a spacewalk - the environment requires being in a full spacesuit including a space helmet for them to survive. Would they not be able to pray these prayers?
     
  7. rusmeister

    rusmeister A Russified American Orthodox Chestertonian

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    It is a small and healthy tradition. What does it do that matters worth a hill of beans? It affirms that God created two distinct sexes, and that that division of the sexes matters. In a society gone mad on denying that, imagining silliness like “transgender” and confusing real and exceptional phenomena as some kind of legitimate rule or class of people, that men can “marry” men, and so on, it is very healthy indeed.
    Anything could affirm it. In more healthy periods, how we dressed affirmed it. The fact of different and distinct dress does the same thing. It doesn’t matter whether it is Scottish men wearing kilts or women in Christendom wearing dresses rather than pants. Even traditions like having men stand on one side and women on the other affirm it.
    It is notable that those intent on madness deliberately ape these traditions, “drag queens” and “butch lesbians” adopting the mannerisms that traditions distinctly mandated for the sex that they are not.
     
  8. Ezana

    Ezana Ιησούς Χριστός Νικά

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    Wouldn't you like to know what exactly these prayers are before taking things into space?
     
  9. ArmyMatt

    ArmyMatt Regular Member Supporter

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    there are certain prayers where the hats stay on, so I would say yes depending on the situation
     
  10. ArmyMatt

    ArmyMatt Regular Member Supporter

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    that's a very legalistic way of looking at that. of course you wear something on your head if otherwise you'd die.
     
  11. icxn

    icxn Bραδύγλωσσος αἰπόλος μαθητεύων κνίζειν συκάμινα

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    Tragically, if we cannot understand the spirit of these words, uncover as it were the veil of the letter from the head (mind) of the inner man, we indeed offer our prayers to God covered because of our carnal understanding. Sense perception, the woman of such a man (mind), if not covered with spiritual contemplations (thoughts) of material realities, is likewise a shameful thing.

    St Maximus the Confessor has a lengthy response to this question (Q. 25) in this book, if anyone is interested.
     
  12. Sketcher

    Sketcher Born Imperishable

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    Sure, why not.
    I'm just asking an exploratory question, since I'm unfamiliar with your tradition. My church doesn't have some prayers that can be prayed with a hat on and others that must be prayed with a hat off.
     
  13. ArmyMatt

    ArmyMatt Regular Member Supporter

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    sure, but do you really think that an astronaut would have to remove his headgear in space?
     
  14. Pavel Mosko

    Pavel Mosko Arch-Dude of the Apostolic Supporter

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    That whole line of questioning seemed absurd to me. I mean zero G and being in a Vacuum presents serious challenges to anything you do, let alone could you imagine trying to do a Divine Liturgy in it? I'm mean Earth bound rubrics for Communion elements, and swinging incense censers etc. kind of assumes an Earthly atmosphere and gravity. But seeing how Astronauts have trouble doing the most basic things, like going to the bathroom (they have to wear diapers) it is not surprising that High Liturgical prayers with their various prayers before vestments and with them would be difficult.
     
  15. Sketcher

    Sketcher Born Imperishable

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    No, I don't. As to what he could do with that headgear on, that answer may vary, and I'd rather ask than assume.
     
  16. ArmyMatt

    ArmyMatt Regular Member Supporter

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    I think the prevention of immediate death is a safe assumption
     
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