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black and white robes in monastic hierarchy


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#1 Todd G

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Posted 09 May 2012 - 10:32 PM

hello all, I am writing a phd dissertation on the syriac church between the 5th and late 8th century and am trying to contextualize a reference to black and white wearing robes for monastics. It appears that in the East Syrian church there developed a concept of non-married and non meat eating monks who wore black robes and "monks" that could marry and eat meat. This may turn out to be just a distinction between married and unmarried clergy when I look into it more, though there is very little to go on, and I only have two references. I can follow up with those who may be intersted.

But anyway, googling around I ran across some information that black and white clothing was used as a way of distinguishing clergy in the Greek church and is still part of orthodoxy today. What I am really looking for is primay texts from late antiguity up to the 10th century which gives information about this black and white clothing distinction. Although it is from a blog and only a hint of what is likely there in historical sources, I will post a bit from a blog I found this info RE orthodoxy and give the url too.

--quote---
Orthodox Priests and Deacons are divided into two distinct groups the married (white or parochial) clergy and the monastic (or black) clergy. The monastic clergy are by nature unmarried, but one seeking ordination to the ranks of the white clergy may now choose to be celibate (unmarried) or married, but must make the choice prior to ordination since, under Orthodox Canon Law, one may not marry after ordination. A celibate Priest or Deacon may not later marry and a married Priest or Deacon whose wife dies may not remarry. Also, one who has been divorced may not be permitted to be ordained. Bishops are drawn exclusively from the ranks of the monastic clergy, although a celibate or widower may be consecrated Bishop after having taken monastic vows. In ancient times married men were permitted to become Bishops (such was the case of St. Peter himself), but such has not been the case since at least the 6th Century.

URL: http://www.spcportal...?pg=885&lang=en

Edited by Olga, 09 May 2012 - 11:25 PM.
removed formatting tags


#2 Todd G

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Posted 09 May 2012 - 10:35 PM

and thanks in advance, for anyone who might know of primary or secondary sources that would shed light on this. if anyone knows a list serve for Byzantine or orthodox studies which may be of help, that would be appreciated too.

#3 Father David Moser

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Posted 09 May 2012 - 11:02 PM

But anyway, googling around I ran across some information that black and white clothing was used as a way of distinguishing clergy in the Greek church and is still part of orthodoxy today. ...

--quote---
Orthodox Priests and Deacons are divided into two distinct groups the married (white or parochial) clergy and the monastic (or black) clergy.


Todd, Do not make the common mistake of associating the terms "black" and "white" clergy with anything relating to the colors of clothing they might wear. There is really no correlation relating to these terms as colors and monastic/non-monastic or celibate/married clergy. All clergy within the Orthodox Church wear black. It is not uncommon to see non-monastic clergy in non-black garments, however, neither is it unknown for monastics to wear a cassock in something other than black. In the Russian Church, a bishop who is a Metropolitan Archbishop or patriarch wears a white klobuk as a matter of honor - and bishops are always monastics. I have seen both monastic and non-monastic clergy wear all sorts of colors: black, white and lots of other things in between (my wife won't let me wear white because I would spill on it and then she would have to wash it).

Fr David Moser

#4 Todd G

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Posted 10 May 2012 - 08:14 AM

Thanks Fr. David. Can you think of any historical sources, church canons etc, that discuss the black and white clergy/monk distinction? I have a feeling this is the kind of thing I could get eventually just by googling: "John Cassian and black white clergy monasticism" etc. I am writing a historical study and need primary sources and to be able to show the development of this.

Todd

#5 Father David Moser

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Posted 10 May 2012 - 01:49 PM

I'm not sure I can provide a lot of help here. One reason is that I'm not sure I really understand the distinction you are trying to demonstrate. The only distinction that I know of between black and white clergy is the distinction of whether one is monastic or not. There is certainly no other difference - a priest is a priest no matter whether a monastic or not. The only other issue is that since fairly early on, bishops have been chosen from the monastic ranks and thus a "white" priest is not eligible to be made a bishop, unless he first takes monastic vows (which usually means he is celibate or widowed although it is not unheard of for a married couple, having raised their children to both enter monastic life in separate monasteries). Other than that, the monastic (black) clergy and nonmonastic (white) clergy are equal in authority and ability and function.

There may well be other better historians of monasticism on this forum than I - so it may be the someone knows about some historical distinction that I do not.

Fr David Moser

#6 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 10 May 2012 - 04:45 PM

I don't believe there are any canons, only venerable tradition. Monastics under the vow wear the clothing associated with that monastic vow, which is traditionally black. There are two times when I have come across this "white/black" dichotomy. One is in differentiating between monastic (black) and married (white) clergy as a term of convenience, not in the canons. And the other is a more recent use evidently to differentiate those living under the monastic vow in a monastic community (black) and those living a semi-monastic asceticism but not under a formal vow or associated with a monastic community (white). This was the term I believe Met. Jonah used to describe older people living "in the world" but following a more ascetic lifestyle outside a monastery.

There is no formal designation of "black" vs "white" clergy or "black" vs "white" monasticism and certainly no clothing requirements other than the monastic traditional clothing specifically prescribed for those "under a vow".

I am aware of non-monastic clerics wearing white podraisniks in warmer climes and even other colors as well, but that is a local custom matter, not canonical. This "white/black" thing has nothing to do with clothing per se, other than Orthodox monastics tend to wear black, so "white" becomes a nice generic way to "contrast" in a rhetorical sense between them and those who are not them. "white/black" is easier to say/write than "non-monastic/monastic". Perhaps there are some linguistic nuances in the original Greek or Slavonic lost in English translation as well, I don't know.

Herman the very white Pooh (especially this time of year)

#7 Father David Moser

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Posted 10 May 2012 - 05:54 PM

Herman the very white Pooh (especially this time of year)


Get some sun Pooh - mow the yard, weed the flowerbed. That's the cure for white.

Fr David




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