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Canons of the seven ecumenical councils

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 Let no one on the Clerical List don inappropriate clothing, either when living in the city or when walking the road; but, on the contrary, let him wear costumes that have already been assigned to the use of those who are enrolled in the Clergy. If anyone should commit such a violation, let him be excommunicated for one week.

(c. XVI of the 7th; cc. XII, XXI of Gangra.)



Clergymen and all who are in Holy Orders ought to be modest and decent even in respect of their outward guise. For God looks into the heart, it is true, but human beings look at the external condition of the body, according to what has been written: “A human being will look at a face, but God at a heart (Sam. 12:7). Hence from what they can see on the outside they draw inferences as to what is in the heart. That is why the present Canon commands that no clergymen shall wear clothes that are not becoming to his profession; that is, for instance, costly and silk garments, or military uniforms, neither when he is staying in the city nor when he is walking on the road: on the contrary, he must wear the garments that are habitual to clericsdecent, that is to say, and frugal. Should anyone do the contrary, let him be excommunicated for one week.



It is further to be noted that c. XVI of the 7th imposes penances on those in holy orders who wear splendid garments and fail to correct matters; likewise on those who anoint themselves with perfumes. Though it is true that c. XII of Gangra anathematizes those who criticize persons wearing silk garments with reverence, it does not conflict with the present Canon: 1) because this is speaking specifically of clerics wearing them, whereas that speaks of both clergymen and laymen in general who are wearing them; 2) because this Canon is speaking of those who are wearing garments of an uncustomary kind; 3, and lastly) because the same Council is correcting what it asserted in its said c. II by what it asserts in its c. XXI, which says: “We praise frugal and cheap garments, but we detest garments that are ornamented and soft.” And if that Council disparages soft garments in regard to worldlings, it disparages them far more when they are worn by clerics. So that not only is that Council not opposed in principle to the present one, but indeed it is in agreement with it and more strict in regard to this matter. But the Lord also says: Beware of those who want to walk about in costumes (Luke 20:46). And if the Apostle Peter forbids women, who are by nature a race of beings that love adornment, to wear luxurious garments (1 Peter 3:3); and if Paul forbids the same things to the same creatures (1 Tim. 2:9), do they not still more firmly forbid these things to clergymen? St. Basil the Great, too, wants us to have clothing that is decorous; and in his Homily 11 on the Six Days of Creation he says that if you see anyone clothed in a robe adorned with flowers or flowery figures, and dressed up with silk threads, scorn him outright. And St. Chrysostom, too, in his Homily 12 on the First Epistle to Timothy says: “Seest thou a human being wearing silk garments? Laugh him to scorn.” Isidorus Pelousiotes (in his seventy-fourth letter) when commenting on the question, What was the tunic of Christ that was woven from above and unsewed? says: “But who is ignorant of the paltriness of that dress which the poor among the Galileans used to wear, and that indeed with them it used to be a garment woven by some art and with some skill as close as corsets.” And at the end he says: “If, then, you desire these garments, imitate the paltry dress of Jesus. For luxuriousness here becomes stupidity there, and not a bright illumination.”



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