Seventh Ecumenical Council, Canon 16.previous | next
Every luxury and adornment of the body is alien to the sacerdotal order. Bishops or clergymen, therefore, who adorn themselves with splendid and conspicuous clothes need to be corrected; but if they insist upon it, they must be condemned to a penance. Likewise as regards those who anoint themselves with perfumes. But inasmuch as a root of bitterness growing up, the heresy of Christianocategori (i.e., accusers of Christians), has become a pestilence, and those who have joined it not only have deemed iconic representations in paintings to be an abomination, but have even rejected every form of reverence, being inclined to loathe those who live decently and piously, and that which has been written has been fulfilled in them, viz., “Godliness is an abomination to a sinner” (Sirach A.28) I’m not sure what the true citation for this verse is. If, therefore, persons are found laughing at those clothed in cheap and decent vestments, let them be corrected with a penance. For ever since the days of old every priestly man has contented himself with moderate and decent vestments. For everything that is worn not because of any real need or necessity, but for embellishment incurs the discredit of being frippery, as Basil the Great has said. But neither did they put on any garments made of silk fabrics and embroidered with various designs; nor did any of them add any differently colored appendages to the edges of their vestments. For they had been told by the Speaker of God’s language that those who wear soft raiment are in the houses of kings (Matt. 11:8).
(c. XXVII of the 6th; cc. XII, XXI of Gangra.)
The present Canon decrees that bishops and clerics who wear splendid clothes, as well as those who anoint themselves with perfumes, ought to correct this impropriety, since every embellishment and adornment of the human body is foreign to those in holy orders. But if they insist on doing so and will not correct themselves, let them be canonized with a suitable penance. Moreover, the iconomachists, besides rejecting holy icons, rejected also everything making for decency in the matter of clothing, and were wont to laugh at those wearing cheap or paltry garments (that is why they were wont to call monks “darkies,” that is to say, wearers of dark-colored clothes, making fun of the decency of the monkish habit, according to Metaphrastes in his Life of Stephen the Younger); accordingly, I say, let these men be corrected with a penance, for ever since the beginning men in holy orders have been wearing humble clothes. Hence St. Basil the Great (see his Epitomized Def. 49) describes as frippery every piece of clothing that is not designed to meet some need of the body, but only for embellishment or beautification; and they were not accustomed to wear garments embroidered with silk (for silkworms are called in Greek seres after the Seres, or Chinese, who used to cultivate these worms, and from there they were carried to other regions); nor did they attach to the edges of their garments pieces of a different color from that of their garments. For they had heard from the utterance of the Lord that those wearing soft clothes are found in palaces, and not in bishoprics and churches. See also c. XXVII of the 6th.
 The word “frippery” properly signifies any vain and unseasonable thing. The corresponding Greek noun (perpereia) is derived from the brothers of the Cecropides, who were named Perperi, who labored vainly and unseasonably, while loving unworthy persons (according to Dositheus in his Dodecabiblus, p. 514). That explains why the Apostle said, “Love is not addicted to frippery” (1 Cor. 13:4. Note of Translator. — This sentence is mistranslated in the A.V. “charity vaunteth not itself,” while in the R.V. only the word “charity” has been corrected to “love,” leaving the incorrect “vaunteth not itself” stand as in the A.V., in proof of the fact that the translators could not understand the Greek word at all and were only guessing at its meaning. The Douay Version of the Roman Catholics is worse yet: it says, “charity dealeth not perversely.” I have taken pains to translate the Greek word perperevetai here by its nearest English equivalent simply because it serves to show how ineptly the Scriptures have been translated into English by men unfamiliar with the Greek tongue, which to them is practically a puzzle), or, in other words, it does nothing in vain. Taken in a broader sense, however, the noun perpereia (like the corresponding English noun frippery) denotes vainglory and ostentation.
 For the Bible prohibits the weaving together of different kinds and different colors of threads in one and the same fabric, where it says: “Thou shalt not wear a garment of divers sorts, as of woolen and linen goods together” (Deut. 22:11), in expounding which divine Isidorus the Pelousiote says that Moses would not let even linen garments be interwoven with purple and scarlet, thus inciting his subjects to philosophy, and banning them every luxury. For by prohibiting the interweaving of wool and linen he precluded the manufacture of garments parti-colored or variegated with interwoven threads of different materials. By not allowing purple and scarlet threads to be woven with linen clothes he prohibited all luxuriousness and adornment of garments. And if God forbids these things to secular Jews, how much more He forbids them to Christians, and especially to His Prelates and Priests! But if these things are forbidden to Prelates and Priests and Clerics, how much more they are forbidden to monks and caloyers, all of whom have renounced the world and all its fantasy. Hence the garments worn by some monks today, which are embellished with more adornment than is to be found even among laymen, are indeed a veritable abomination.
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