Friday, April 8, 2011

Not all adiaphora are created equal

That's Prof. Charles Arand's phrase, and while I disagree with the good professor on the application of that insight, it is a very true insight nonetheless. I was reminded of this when it comes to a clergyman's dress while reading through Jacob Abbott's biography of Peter the Great. Here is what he says about Peter changing the uniform of his army.

He abolished the dress which the Guards had been accustomed to wear—an ancient Muscovite costume, which, like the dress of the Highlanders of Scotland, was strongly associated in the minds of the men with ancient national customs, many of which the emperor now wished to abolish. Instead of this old costume the emperor dressed his new troops in a modern military uniform. This was not only much more convenient than the old dress, but the change exerted a great influence in disenthralling the minds of the men from the influence of old ideas and associations. It made them feel at once as if they were new men, belonging to a new age—one marked by a new and higher civilization than they had been accustomed to in former years. The effect which was produced by this simple change was very marked—so great is the influence of dress and other outward symbols on the sentiments of the mind and on the character.

I suspect that when a Lutheran pastor decides to put away his alb, stole, and chasuble and take up the polo shirt, Birkenstocks, and khakis he feels much the same thing.


1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing this passage, good Father. I would like simply to add, to your suggestion that this may have some lesson to bear on the use and non-use of liturgical vestments, that we might consider the same thing with regard to the regular daily street clothes of the churchman, ie, the black shirt & clerical collar (and dare I say, even the soutane).


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