Restoration of certain vestments and other clothing?
Posted 17 September 2011 - 02:08 PM
Would there be anything wrong with this?
Why stop at 1453? The apostles didn’t wear special vestments. We know that the bishop’s sakkos and staff come from Byzantine court ceremonial, and are thus trappings of secular power. And shoes are very much a Western innovation—Jesus wore sandals! You can’t be lukewarm on this issue. A.D. 33 or bust!
Posted 17 September 2011 - 02:45 PM
Would there be anything wrong with this?
1. Kamilavki, mitres and the like are not inherently spiritually damaging, and are not today associated with the Tourkokratia by the vast majority of Orthodox. In fact, they are today part of Orthodox consciousness as to what a proper cleric wears.
2. Changing something just on the basis of tenuous scholarly claims an established form which not spiritually damaging would probably scandalize Christians and distract us from our real focus, which is on inner spiritual growth.
3. Mitres are cool. Those choir robes and hats worn by Romeiko Ensemble are NOT.
4. The Orthodox Church is based on a LIVING tradition. We are not here to exactly replicate the time of St. Gregory Palamas or any particular time, but to receive the customs and traditions of our fathers and make that a part of our lives.
5. Perhaps the riassa used to be a token of shame. So was the Cross.
Posted 17 September 2011 - 03:23 PM
3. Mitres are cool.
Mitres are NOT cool, they are HOT, as are kamilaki and skoufi, If you serve in the altar with the bishop on even a mildly warm day you will be hard pressed not to nice the rivers of perspiration (bishops don't sweat, they perspire) running down his face from the rim of the mitre. This is also noticeable on other clergy who have to wear headgear when they serve. For this reason, on especially hot days you will see clergy remove their hats whenever they can and only put them on for critical moments.
Fr David Moser
Posted 17 September 2011 - 03:30 PM
I was recently listening to a podcast by Fr. Thomas Hopko and he was discussing the various changes that were made to Orthodox vesture because of the Turks. Some of this includes the riassa (wide sleeved cassock, vs. tight fitting), the mitre (for bishops) and the kamilavka. He mentioned how these are all basically signs of Turkish dominance and occupation.
Not so sure I agree with his scholarship here. The riassa is the normal Arabic/Bedouin garment - you can see this clearly depicted in the film "Lawrence of Arabia" which like most historical fiction tends to get the "details" of culture and time period down pretty well. The headgear of bishops and other clergy are simply versions of the headgear of the surrounding culture adapted to the Church. In fact the only clothing proscription that I have found was that non-muslims were not allow to wear white clothing and turbans as this was reserved only for the Moslem citizens. (This comes from my current reading "Christian Presence in the Holy Land" by Faud Farah, past chairman of the Orthodox National Council in Israel).
Posted 17 September 2011 - 04:25 PM
There are a number of factors that I feel need to be highlighted this discussion. Firstly, the Orthodox understanding of authenticity in practice is not based on 'liturgical archaeology' -- i.e., digging up what is perceived to be the oldest practice, and claiming this to be the most authoritative and all other/later practices as innovations and wrong. Such a view is anathema to a Church that is the living Body of Christ, constantly guided by the Holy Spirit; and in any case is demonstrably not our practice. There are many things done in the services that were not done in other or earlier periods of Church history, from the means of distributing Holy Communion to the nature of the two entrances in the Divine Liturgy, etc. (and we might add: reciting or even having a Creed; having a Church calendar; serving a Litya...). But the restorationist practices of so much Protestantism are quite foreign to Orthodoxy, which does not 'restore' old practices simply because they are old (though at times the Church does restore certain older practices, this is not authentically done on grounds merely that they are old, but for practical or otherwise functional/pastoral reasons). This is why, even when we move past many of the myths of more ancient practice (such as the popular and quite untrue myth that the mystical prayers were in antiquity read aloud as standard) to those areas of practice that genuinely were different in the past, the Church does not simply 'revert' to antiquity for its own sake. She is not static, not lifeless.
Secondly, as an incarnational reality, the Church always incorporates and interacts with the cultures around her, including both the influences that she adopts of her own will/desire, and those that are thrust upon her unasked for. Our practice of always serving the Divine Liturgy on the bones of the martyrs (carried on today through the sewing of relics into the antimensia) was 'forced' upon the Church through the persecutions of the early centuries, which made so many martyrs and often encouraged or forced the pious to celebrate the Liturgy on the tombs of these witnesses; but we, knowing full well that prior to these persecutions this was not our practice, and that it came to us through the domineering influence of a state power, nonetheless do not abandon it -- the Church has transformed it into something life-bearing. Or we could be yet more dramatic and speak of the Cross, the very heart of our confession and life, which was of course thrust upon the Lord by a foreign power exercising its dominance. His Body has made of this external, foreign, oppressive trapping a tool of life, through which joy comes into the whole world.
These are (intentionally) dramatic examples, but they serve to prove a point. The fact that something comes to the Church through an external influence or source -- even if that source be oppressive, domineering, and anti-Church -- does not mean that it is to be abandoned. This is not the way of the Church who, as the Body of the Lord, takes the fallen things of the world and transforms them. Christ took the crown of thorns spitefully forced upon Him, and made it a royal diadem that we venerate today; He took the purple cloak of mockery, forced over His shoulders as a taunt and oppression, and transformed it into a robe of glory with which we clothe His bishops today. And the Church, too, takes those things sometimes thrust upon her for negative reasons, and transforms them.
Some of the vestments and garments of Orthodox clergy do date from the period of Turkish influence and domination -- of course. Some of these were forced upon the Church for less than noble reasons. Yet the Church has taken these and made them her own; she has taken the symbols of domination and transfigured them into symbols of life and truth. Garments that once had no symbolism but court fashion and state power, she has imbued with the symbolism of repentance, resurrection and life -- so the mitre, once merely an imperial sign of authority, becomes for the Church a symbol of the crown of thorns at one and the same time being a crown of kingship; so the podrasnik (cassock), once simply Byzantine street dress, becomes for the Church a symbol of a sinful life seeking redemption; etc., etc.
To suggest that these be done away with, simply on grounds that such vestments came into the Church's realm through outside forces, is to deny something fundamental and essential to the nature of the Church: that when she receives the worst that the world may offer, she transforms it into life. That many of these things come from later points in history (from the Byzantine, from the Turkokratia) is testimony to the ongoing nature of this reality, which has been essential to the Church's life from the very beginning. If one is to abolish such things on grounds of their foreign origins, let us abolish also the Cross, the crown, the tomb. Let us do away with the incarnation. But, of course, this can never be! And instead, we praise God that His Body yet transforms the world and turns it always toward His glory.
Some other threads that may be of interest:
- The richness of the Liturgy vs. visions of an early simplicity
- 'Mystikos' prayers - said aloud or inaudibly at the liturgy?
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