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Canons of the seven ecumenical councils

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45.

 Since we have learned that in some convents (or nunneries) the women about to be deemed worthy of that sacred habit, first dress themselves up in fine style with silken and all sorts of fancy costumes, and, what is more, worn in worldly fashion and ornamented with gold and precious stones, and show themselves off before those who are inducting them, and that while they are approaching the altar they take off all these materials, and that thereupon and without further ado the blessing of the habit is pronounced upon them and they are clothed in the black garment; we decree that henceforth this shall no longer be done. For it is not pious or meritorious for any woman that has already of her own free will and preference renounced every pleasure of delightfulness of life and has embraced the career modeled after God, and has confirmed this with undeviating strict vows, and thus has come to the Monastery, once more in remembrance to pass through this repetition of that perishable and flowing world whereof she has already committed herself to forgetfulness. As a result thereof she is rendered doubtful, and her soul is agitated, like as though billows were surging over it, and turning it this way and that, so that after all they do not even shed a tear, be it only once in a while, nor do they exhibit any contrition in their heart through their body. But even if a tear do for an instant, as is but natural, well up and leap out, it is less on account of any disposition in favor of the ascetic struggle than for their having abandoned the world and the things in the world, and rather with a thought to having others see it.

(c. CXXXV of Carthage.)

 

Interpretation.

The present Canon prohibits women from adorning themselves in attractive costumes and silk dresses when they are about to become nuns, and with jewelry of gold and gems, and while thus adorned to approach the holy Bema of the church in a convent (or nunnery) for nuns, and there to take off all these vain ornaments and at once put on the black garments of nuns, and receive the blessing of the habit. For it is not becoming in a woman who of her own free will has previously rejected every pleasure of life and has fallen in love with a career modeled after God, and with firm vows has confirmed this choice of hers, and has gone to the monastery thus on a solid basis, to recollect again such ornaments of those things which she previously had scorned and forgotten.[173] And not only this, but also for her soul to be agitated as a result of these ornaments and because worldly imaginations rise up against her like billows, so as not to let her shed even a tear as she is being tonsured and show thereby that contrition which ought to be in her heart. But even if she should let one little tear drop from the corner of her eye, it is perhaps just to make onlookers think that she shed it not so much because of her having been deemed worthy of the angelic habit, as because she has forsaken the world and all that is in the world.

 

 




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