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Quick Orthodox Facts

Orthodox Fact 1: Why do women cover their heads during Church Services?

This Orthodox tradition traces back to the legacy of St. Paul the Apostle – and while most of the world’s Christians no longer do it, the Coptic Orthodox Church still insists on it.

If you were raised in the Orthodox tradition in Egypt and were visiting Orthodox churches once in a while, even back in your childhood, there is one thing that would definitely shock you after stepping into a Catholic or Protestant church (say, when on a trip to Europe): women freely walk into those churches bareheaded.

The reason is simple: in an Orthodox church, a woman should wear a headscarf.

But why?

In a simple reply: Because people should think of prayers while in church as St. Paul says “set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth” (Colossians 3:2).  Basically when a woman comes in (with her hair uncovered) it naturally attracts attention – and distracts from the holy services. 

This can not be argued or denied.  How many times are we riding the subway and/or eating in a restaurant when a woman walks in with a pretty hairstyle and sometimes we find ourselves staring and/or forgetting what we were discussing at the dinner table.

Unfortunately, the covering of a woman’s head has completely lost its sense in the modern culture. Nevertheless, the Coptic Orthodox Christians call themselves orthodox for a reason – and do not want to let the traditions of early Christians go.

A question we ask ourselves: do we want to be a distraction for others as we walk into church? Or as St. Paul reminds us “let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself” (Philippians 2:3).

Orthodox Fact 2: Why we pray towards the east?

Members of the Oriental Orthodox Churches, such as those belonging to the Coptic Orthodox Church, as well as the Eastern Orthodox Christians continue to pray facing east believing that it is the direction from which the Lord Jesus Christ will come when He returns (Acts 1:11). 

Coptic Christians pray privately in their homes in the eastward direction of prayer at seven fixed prayer times (canonical hours contained in the Agpeya); when a priest visits a home, he asks the family where the east is before leading them in prayer. 

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