Hierarchy of the Cosmos
from Order of Creation/Order of Redemption by Michael Azkoul, publ. Orthodox Research Institute, 2007, pp. 67-70.
Republished on our website with permission of the author.
There is no reason to call the teachings of 1 Cor. 11:2-16 Pauline. The Apostle informs us that he is speaking for himself; and likewise specifies that his advice is not mandatory. Here he directs the Corinthians to keep the traditions as I delivered them to you. Whose traditions are they? They are not the traditions of men, but the beliefs of the Church that Paul received from the other Apostles and God Himself. If he did not transmit them precisely as he obtained them, the gospel message would be incomplete; and there is but one gospel to which even angels must be obedient (Gal. 1:8). The part of Tradition to which he directs the attention of his brethren involves, among other things, a picture of reality as hierarchical.
To begin, St. Paul reminded the Corinthians that the Head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the Head of Christ is God (v. 3). Note every man (pantos andros) not merely Christian men. The verse, the head of the woman is the man points to Adam and Eve, the prototypes (or anti-types) of both genders. Christ had not only restored the fallen world, but also introduced it to a new Age. To be sure, the Christian man is not ontologically superior to the Christian woman, despite his headship. The structure of their relationship has the purpose of leading both to salvation. Finally, above every level of being whether the Theotokos, the angels, the martyrs and all the saints in Abrahams Bosom, the male and the female on earth is God the Father Who has taken dominion over the universe through the risen Christ in His Church (Eph. 1:22-23).
Verse 4 tells us that every man praying or prophesying with his head covered dishonors his head; but every woman that prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head. The covering is more than the recognition of her husbands headship. To pray (or worship) or prophesy with an uncovered head is the same as if the woman were shaven. For if the woman is not covered, let her also be shorn; but if it be a shame for a woman to be shorn (or shaven), let her be covered. For a man indeed ought not to cover his head or inasmuch as he is the image and Glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man. For the man is not of the woman, but the woman of the man. Neither was the man created for the woman, but the woman for the man. For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head, because of the angels (vv.. 4-10).
Here is another component of the prescription of veils that calls upon all females, young and old, to cover their heads, especially at public worship.(76) Angels are present at the divine Services; and it is an offense to them to see the immodesty of women that an uncovered female head reflects. Furthermore, St. Paul was compelled to mention the practice of head covering in order to counter the Gnostic influence on the Corinthian Church. Here was a heretical sect which crept into the house and led silly women captive They were ever learning, but never able to come to the knowledge of the truth (2 Tim. 3:6-7). Women were encouraged by the Gnostics to discard traditional roles in favor of egalitarianism that must have involved, among other things, dispensing with their veils the objections of their bishop and husbands notwithstanding.
As St.John Chrysostom suggests, the Christian women of Corinth were not faithful and steadfast. For their return to piety, the Apostle was required to repeat what they already knew about the liturgical practices of the Church. A person committed to the Faith is content with the tradition alone. He that is weaker, when he learns about the matter, both retains what is said with more care and obeys with much more readiness in the future(77) The loss of fidelity to the Church inevitably begins with a change of language and contempt for the pertinent symbols of religious worship.
76. Hauke says that the prescription of veils is quite obvious not an indispensable component of the original deposit of faith (deposition fidet) (Women in the Priesthood, p. 346.) A Roman Catholic, he affirms The Commentary on the Declaration of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on the Question of the Admission of women to the Ministerial Priesthood (http://www,ourladyswarriors.org/teach/intensi.htm). It is an appendage to Pope Paul VIs Inter Insigniores (15 Oct. 76) on the same subject. An Orthodox would never presume to delete a teaching of the Apostles (1 Cor. 11:13-15).
77. Comm.On 1 Cor., hom. XXVI, 1 PG 61 213
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