On Women in Christ

IMG_0983St. Paulinus of Nola ca. 354-431

The Apostle’s authority has allowed only women to have long hair, for though their faith like that of men removes the veil from their hearts, fitting modesty demands a covering for their heads and a veil for their brows… Hair is unbecoming for men because Christ, the Head of every man, cannot be concealed… She is no one’s head, but the embellishment of her husband by the adornment of her virtue. We might say that she is placed at the base to support that body’s chain which is linked to God by the head of Christ, to Christ by the head of man, and to man by the head of woman. But Christ makes woman also belong to the Head at the top by making her part of the body and of the structure of the limbs, for in Christ we are neither male or female (Gal. 3:28)…

Let them realize why Paul ordered their heads to be clothed with a more abundant covering: it is because of the angels, that is, the angels who are ready to seduce them and whom the saints will condemn… A woman ought to cover her head especially in prayer and prophecy. Then she becomes pregnant with the Spirit, and accordingly rouses the hatred of of the tempter all the more when she leaves behind the boundaries of her womanly weakness, and aspires to human perfection… So because a woman becomes spiritually pregnant,… she has a power over her head, so that the wiles and snares of the enemy may not confront her. Her hair shows that by this power she is both guided and defended. Strength is bestowed on her by that very humility of heart by which through the guidance of self-control she restrains the arrogance of knowledge. (Letter 23: To Severus)

Comments

  1. Hello. Can you explain me about this issue on long hair? Priests, monks and even some laymen have long hair. Is it wrong? Or only priests (bishops, presbyters and deacons) can have long hair?

    Thank you.

  2. Matteo,

    Long hair is a tangential tradition that became common practice relatively later in Church history. It was always a practice of very ascetic Fathers (St. James the Lord’s Brother was described as wearing long hair akin to those under a Nazirite vow) and hermits since they just let their hair and beard grow as it would, even to the point of covering them as if it were a garment. St. Paul’s restriction on men with long hair is actually against “long ornamental hair” if you get into the Greek. There are some Orthodox apologetics that claim that the practice is directly from the Apostles and St. James, but if you google the earliest icons of Sts. Ambrose, John Chrysostom, Augustine and Emperor Justinian (he is accompanied by clergy) you’ll see that they had beards but short hair, therefore, it was not something passed down so definitively. As a matter of fact, there were some troublesome pseudo-hermits posing as holy elders that troubled the Church and look how they are described and what was prescribed for them:

    Canon 42 of Trullo (692 a.d.) – Those who are called Eremites [hermits] and are clothed in black robes, and with long hair go about cities and associate with the worldly both men and women and bring odium upon their profession— we decree that if they will receive the habit of other monks and wear their hair cut short, they may be shut up in a monastery and numbered among the brothers; but if they do not choose to do this, they are to be expelled from the cities and forced to live in the desert (ἐρήμους) from whence also they derive their name.

    You can google St. Paul of Thebes to see a holy hermit with the very long hair and beard. As has been demonstrated, even eastern monks and priests were tonsured with short hair; and they even wore a crown like Friar Tuck of Robin Hood fame. Here is an icon of St. Savas of Serbia from the 1200s: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Sveti_Sava_Kraljeva_Crkva.jpg

    Archdeacon Paul of Aleppo who visited Moscow in the 1600s describes the Muscovite priests as having the both the shaved crown AND long hair: “they clothed themselves in the sacerdotal dress, which is a cloth cassock with a broad-laced collar, and, shaving a large circle on the top of the head, plaited the hair over their foreheads., and drew it behind their ears, as the women do. The only part of their hair which they shave, is on the crown of the head; the rest they allow to grow: and by this slight change they appeared, suddenly, as though they were Priests of many years standing: for the Muscovites are exceedingly quick in their apprehension of any thing that is taught them.” (Excerpt From: Paul, of Aleppo, Archdeacon, fl. 1654-1666. “The Travels of Macarius : Patriarch of Antioch.” iBooks) Perhaps the transition in practice was taking place in Russia at that time?

    I’ve also read that long hair was a symbol of authority and it started to be worn by the hierarchs once the Empire fell and they became ethnarchs, and from there it spread to the priests. Therefore, long hair came to be in use from two sources: the desert and the empire. I’m still studying this issue but that’s what I’ve come up with thus far. I hope my answer helps and not hinders.

    in ICXC,
    Maximus

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