There are lots of reasons that women wear hats or scarves or veils. Some people wear them because they want to promote a culture of modesty. Some wear them to identify with a group. Some wear them from obedience. (Obedience can be a shortcut to wisdom if you obey someone wise.)
I cover my head because of power. It’s part of the uniform of my rank in God’s service. I serve the Lord God of Hosts. Hosts is the English translation of Sabaoth, which is feminine plural. That’s right. Every Sunday around the world, we share the Seraphic hymn, “Holy, holy, holy Lord God of Sabaoth.”
Well, you might say, grammar is tricky. Maybe there’s some unknown reason that in this one instance, God’s hosts are written in the feminine plural rather than in the inclusive masculine plural. I believe that there are certainly layers of meaning. But one of the meanings is clear to me: The God of the hosts of heaven is leading women.
This isn’t a radical feminist idea. I have heard from several priestmonks, spiritual fathers whose wisdom I cherish, who have told me that mothers are strong soldiers in spiritual war.
But now what does this have to do with headcovering?
I wear a headcover as part of my uniform in the spiritual war.
Yes, we’re all meant to put on the armor of God, which includes the helmet of salvation. But there’s that extra tidbit for us women in another place in St. Paul’s letters, advising women to cover their heads “because of the angels.”
Some people have wondered if this is meant to be a reference to the nefarious nephilim who took human wives. But let’s set aside our modern obsession with sex for a moment and look at the more probable meaning. Jews had for centuries sung the Seraphic hymn, which Christians had taken up by that time. The angels whose song we sing would be the first to leap to mind when women heard those words — because of the angels — and the women who were athletes for Christ, entering into Christ’s sufferings through baptism in full knowledge that they could be plucked from their communities and killed in the persecutions of Christians — Those women would have thought of the Lord of Sabaoth.
Because of the angels. Because of the hosts of God. Because we’re part of that host ever since we emerged from those waters and entered into that song.
We are surrounded at all times by a great cloud of witnesses and the holy angels of God. We are part of the hosts.
I cover my head to remind me of the mercy -and the strength- that I need to be part of that number.