Why do nuns cover their hair?

2023-05-29 14:24:00, Kuriozitete CNA
Why do nuns cover their hair?
Illustrative photo

Even for those who don't know much about the Catholic faith, the idea of ??a nun is somewhat clear: a woman who dedicates her life to God. But the specifics on it are much more complicated than that. The New Idea portal summarizes 3 essential principles that nuns must follow: faith, poverty and chastity.

Nuns of all orders—Benedictines, Carmelites, Dominicans, and so on—also have to follow a daily schedule that usually includes lots of prayer, housework, cooking, etc., like the one listed on the Herfordshire Benedictine website, England.

And of course, there is the very familiar outfit that the nuns wear, called the "habit", sometimes black and white, sometimes gray, sometimes blue, and so on. However, all nuns' clothing contains one critical element: a covering often called a veil.

Veils and other head coverings are not exactly unique to Catholicism. Pju Research Center says that 89 percent, 86 percent and 59 percent of Muslim, Sikh and Hindu women wear head coverings when they go out of the house.

The same is true for 84 percent and 69 percent of Muslim and Sikh men, respectively. Jewish men may wear yarmulkes, while married Jewish women wear wigs in public. Catholic bishops may wear tall conical hats during services.

But in all cases, the head is considered a point of connection with the divine, and its covering is a symbol of piety before the Almighty. For biblical scholars, St. Paul in the New Testament mentions very clear rules for women who cover their heads.

In his first letter to the Corinthians, chapter 11, he writes: “...Any woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her own head. It's like shaving your head. Because if a woman doesn't cover her head, she might as well cut her hair. But if it is shameful for a woman to cut her hair or shave her head, she should cover her head."

Paul opens this passage by talking about "restraint from tradition," indicating that the idea of ??women covering their heads when engaging in religious practices was ancient, even at that time. Theosis Christian says that a nun's veil has "medieval" roots.

As early as the 3rd century, ardent Christian believers adopted a monastic lifestyle, devoted entirely to God, living apart from the rest of society. It was not until the 6th century AD that Saint Benedict founded the first monastic order of Catholicism, the Benedictines.

Women did not participate in monastic traditions until much later in the 13th century as a branch of the Franciscans, when St. Francis ordained St. Clare of Assisi in 1212. St. Clare, as Megan Styling says, kept her head as a sign of piety and covered with a veil.

Following the tradition and custom of St. Clare, nuns of Catholic orders have continued to cover their heads. Theosis Christian says that sometimes nuns shave their heads. Going back to 1 Corinthians 11, Paul says that a woman's long hair "is her glory," and that God gave women long hair "as a covering."

According to this rationale, cutting hair symbolizes further detachment from worldly ties, vanity and the desire to marry. Megan Styling reiterates this argument by saying that a veil is a "sign of devotion" to God.

It's like wearing a wedding dress every day. That's why nuns are often called "brides of Christ". Because traditions are always pushed back by generations, head coverings make it clear that they are not intended to oppress women or indicate some sort of inferior status. It is rather the opposite: veils are intended to signify a high status, symbolizing a protection in function of something sacred.

This feeling is also shared by Islam, where covering the head for women is considered a sign of modesty. Some Muslim women choose not to wear the veil on their heads, but this depends on their personal connection with their faith./ Adapted from CNA.al

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