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Nicole Mata wrote:

Hi, guys —

  • I just want to know if there is any teaching about hair?

These verses just highlight braiding.

"Your adornment should not be an external one: braiding the hair, wearing gold jewelry, or dressing in fine clothes, but rather the hidden character of the heart, expressed in the imperishable beauty of a gentle and calm disposition, which is precious in the sight of God."

1 Peter 3:3-5

"Similarly, [too,] women should adorn themselves with proper conduct, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hairstyles and gold ornaments, or pearls, or expensive clothes, but rather, as befits women who profess reverence for God, with good deeds."

1 Timothy 2:9–10

Thank you.

Nicole

  { Is there any teaching in the Church about hair; these verses just highlight braiding? }

and in a similar question:

Nancy Mata wrote:

Dear AskACatholic,

  • Why did St. Paul say in 1 Corinthians 11:16 for women to not cut their hair?
  • Is it a sin to cut hair?
  • Are there any teachings on haircuts both for men and women?

Thank you.

Nancy

  { Why did St. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 11:16 for women to not cut their hair and is it a sin to cut hair? }

Bob replied:

Dear Nicole,

Thanks for the question.

There is no teaching on the keeping of hair in the Catechism, and the Scriptures merely point to the need for a Christian woman to distinguish herself from worldly women by a sense of modesty and inner refinement.

In the culture of his day, Paul would have noted the practice of women who adorned their hair with braids of gold, a show of wealth, vanity or even class distinction. In Christ, there are no rich or poor, and certainly we are not supposed to give an appearance that can put oneself above others. Paul is highlighting a spiritual lifestyle, and unity among the brethren, that can be diminished when people put too much stock in outward appearances or show their wealth on their sleeve.

So, in our own times, it is up to you to figure out how to dress yourself properly to both honor God and feel good about your appearance. Modesty and appropriateness can be achieved rather easily without sacrificing a personal sense of style.

In our times people do not wear braids of gold, but they do other things to try and show off wealth and class. Just be yourself, according to Christian ethics, and you'll be fine.

Peace,

Bob Kirby

Bob replied:

Dear Nancy,

Thanks for the question. 

This is sometimes a difficult part of Paul to understand because there are many different facets of his arguments.  It is actually very significant in light of today's issues as well.  But let me try to break it down into the basic point. 

Paul views long hair as a defining element in the distinction between men and women (in Roman, Greek, and Jewish culture men wore short or relatively short hair), according to custom, but really as a symbolic reification of the headship of man over women.  It is patriarchal.  Women are under the protection and headship of man (the hair is like a "tent"), but conversely, men are also tied inextricably to women inasmuch as they are born of women.  This is an ordering that comes from Genesis 2, and creates both a hierarchy and equality, a paradox of sorts, but nonetheless a distinction of the roles of the sexes, which really serves to point us toward the relationship of man under God.  All mankind is under the headship of Christ, and though we are not equal to God, He has condescended to us to bring us into His Own Life.  The veiling of women, which is really just the clothing form of the hair distinction (which reified the metaphysical distinction) serves as a reminder to us all of our place in God's Kingdom.

So, today you can see the culture seeking to dismantle all signs and evidence of distinction between the sexes, their roles, bodies and metaphysical dimension—-never mind the notion of a patriarchy ordering us under the headship of Christ.

For Paul, customs are significant because they can point to invisible truths—and Paul doesn't just like customs for the sake of customs; he is the first one to get rid of anything that might interfere with pure and true worship.  So for Paul to advocate for this act of women (having heads covered) really means he thinks it's important for greater theological symbolism. That's why in traditional Catholicism, women still use the veil for worship at Mass. There could be an argument made that if the Catholic Church did a better job of holding on to traditions that underline good theology, then perhaps the culture would not disintegrate so rapidly.

More than any institution, the Catholic Church is the most important bulwark against the corruption of morals, philosophy, theology, and metaphysics. But in these last decades we have undone ourselves. Let's pray we can do better.

Feminists point to patriarchy as a way to indict men as oppressors, rather than protectors, of women.  They are really indicting God, a continuation of the rebellion in the garden, for which we have all suffered.  Only when we are all under the mantle of Christ, will we not only be protected, but truly free. 

  • Have you ever heard someone pray to be covered by the mantle of Our Lady?

That is the ultimate clarifying point—she is under the total protection of her Son, and she has so much room (under this tent) to move because she is truly free, that she invites us into the space under her mantle.  That is the truest veil, not oppression, but freedom, joy, peace, love and sharing.  How I am happy to be "covered" by her tent. 

  • Do you see how much our Mother can show us the fulfillment of Gods design?

Don't buy into the culture which has been duped by satan to rebel against the beautiful design, harmony, and plan of God to make us all safe and joyful under his mantle.  Embrace your femininity and rejoice in how God made you.  We may not have cultural markers that underscore this important truth, but we can still live under the mantle of God's grace, through our Lady, and embracing our total personhood in Christ.

Peace,

Bob Kirby

Eric replied:

Nancy,

The short answer is, you probably don't want to know why Paul said this.

Suffice it to say that it was conditioned on certain erroneous physiological assumptions in the ancient world related to human sexuality. Therefore, it doesn't apply today, as our medical views are much more accurate and advanced.

If you have a burning curiosity, see:

Transcript here:

Hope this helps,

Eric

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