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A Response to Fr. Alkiviadis C. Calivas’ “Clerical Attire in America: Suit or Rason?”

by Fr. Michael Monos

I recently obtained a copy of an undated article by Fr. Alkiviadis C. Calivas, “Clerical Attire in America: Suit or Rason?”, which has been “making the rounds” throughout the Internet community. Many of us who serve as priests in the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America remember Fr. Calivas in his capacity as professor of Liturgics and Sacramental Theology. As professor he never shied away from sharing his opinion on a multitude of subjects that intersected with the study of Liturgics, however as students we were never “treated” to a clear distillation of his thought on the topic of clergy attire such as we find in “Clerical Attire in America”[1] What follows is a response to that paper.

A worrisome problem or Fr. Calivas polemic against the ‘rason’?

Fr. Calivas begins his paper with the intriguing subheading, “A worrisome new phenomenon.” It is intriguing because it makes the curious assertion that “the rason, the anteri, and the kalemaukion[2] is a source of “concern among an increasing number of the faithful of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.” (Calivas, 1) It is upon this thesis that Fr. Calivas bases his paper. Since Fr. Calivas never provides us with any quantifiable data points, who these “faithful” are, and what “an increasing number” means, is left completely up to the reader’s imagination. Is this “concern” regional, age-based, influenced by ethnicity, or national identity. Has the author done any national surveys among clergy or laity? According to a study done by A. Krindatch[3], there are allegedly 476,900 ‘adherents’ and 107,400 ‘regular attendees’ of the more than 500 parishes of Greek Orthodox parishes in the United States. How many of those 107,400 alleged ‘regular attendees’ has Fr. Calivas interviewed? How many of those feel alienated from their own clergy? Statistical data would go a long way in convincing the reader that the author’s concern is based on a quantifiable reality, rather than a particular agenda.

Equally intriguing is that the author juxtaposes “the rason, the anteri and the kaleumakion[4] as “traditional clerical garb,” with the “dark suit with clerical shirt and collar” as “customary” and “the standard public attire of the clergy since the 1920s.” (Calivas, 1) Here we have the first hint of the author’s polemic against “traditionalists” which he develops throughout the paper. Those who wear the more ancient clerical attire are those who wear traditional clothing, i.e. clothing of the past, whereas those who wear the more modern attire of the suit wear customary clothing, i.e. those who wear clothing according to the customs of a particular place or society. Orthodox clergy in America ostensibly began wearing the “customary” clothing because suits are what American clergy of all types wear. The more recently ordained clergy who opt to wear the anteri, supposedly do so in contradistinction to the practices of the society in which they live – they wear clothing that is alien to the society in which they live. Apparently this is a source of confusion for the laity, presumably because they expect their clergy to look like other American (Christian) clerics.

To develop this point, Fr. Calivas provides a description of the “traditional garb,” as he likes to call it, with some historical background. He then goes on to describe how it is that the Orthodox clergy of America began wearing “customary” attire – attire that was in fact alien to their Holy Tradition. He cites the Pan-Orthodox Congress held in Constantinople in 1923, specifically a decision made that includes the following verbiage about clergy dress, “that the hair of the clergy is cut and that their external appearance in society, while not alien from the laity’s style of dress, preserve without deviation the ancient canonical legislation concerning colors and luxuriousness.” (Calivas, 1) Fr. Calivas points to this statement as the inspiration to adopt “civilian dress” among Orthodox clergy in America. Perhaps this is the case, but the decision makes no mention of the specifics of appropriate clergy attire, only that it should not be “alien from the laity’s style of dress,” and that it should preserve the ancient canonical legislation on appropriateness and modesty. What exactly might be considered alien is anyone’s guess, since it is not clearly stated: the customs of dress have so radically changed as to be unrecognizable from that period. This is evident in his citation of a committee report from the same Congress, which contains this startling statement: that clergy should wear traditional clergy attire in the Church alone, and when outside its confines, wear a “broad-rimmed hat and black overcoat (cape) reaching down to the feet according to the example of the Anglican clergy.” (Calivas, 2) How is it that an Anglican cape and a broad-rimmed hat are somehow timeless clerical fashions that are “not alien from the laity’s style of dress”? One can only guess at the motivation for such a statement – perhaps the result of self-loathing among the committee’s members or couture envy. Regardless, the citation is meaningless because (thankfully) the committee’s suggestion was never formally adopted by the Congress.

Finally Fr. Calivas mentions certain remarks from the proceedings by then Patriarch Meletios Metaxakis. It seems the Patriarch was most interested in how the alteration in practice regarding clerical dress could serve as a recruiting tool: “I have the idea that the change of the external appearance of the clergyman will draw many good young men to priestly service.” (Calivas, 2)  Incentivize the office of the priesthood? Is that what he is suggesting?

It is from these little historical bits that Fr. Calivas has cobbled together and presented the history of the use of “civilian dress” among Orthodox clergy in America. Considering that the Orthodox do not have an infallible hierarchy, isn't it possible that the enumerated attempts at altering the then current (and still) nearly worldwide practice of wearing "traditional garb" by these hierarchs and their committees in the early 1920s were heavy handed? That possibility is never entertained. Instead, the committee members are presented as wise forward-thinking sages who got it right. The evidence and credibility of this assumption are so thin that Fr. Calivas glosses over the historical details, opting for an inchoate polemic against the “traditional garb”-wearers, the practitioners of a “conservative ideology.

“Traditional Garb” as the uniform of the Ultra-conservatives…

The second section of the paper begins with another bold assertion: “the ultra-conservatives within the Church have long been convinced that the Orthodox way of life has been seriously compromised…” (Calivas, 3) Who are these ultra-conservatives? From Calivas’ description, they certainly sound like an organized and well-led group. According to him, they “have been waging a quiet but persistent struggle for the hearts and minds of the clergy and of cradle and convert seminarians in their effort to exert greater influence over the affairs of the Church…” They are “determined little by little to reverse the current state of affairs by promoting stricter adherence to the canonical and liturgical regulations and the inherited cultural traditions and customs.” (Calivas, 3) Apparently the problem with these unspecified “ultra-conservatives” is that they like the “traditional garb” because it “sets the cleric apart and provides him with an unambiguous distinct identity.” (Calivas, 3) Upon review, it seems to this reader that these “ultra-conservatives” are simply “Orthodox,” as nothing in the description of their covert activities seem particularly problematic. Is Fr. Calivas implying that the Orthodox Church here and elsewhere would be better served by promoting an imprecise adherence to the Canons and liturgical traditions? Or that it would be better if the Orthodox clergy were unrecognizable and ambiguous? On what basis is this to be preferred? Neither Holy Scripture nor the Fathers support such a view:

“…If, nevertheless, anyone be caught innovating with regard to any of the said Canons, or attempting to subvert it, he shall be responsible in respect of that Canon and shall receive the penance which it prescribes and be chastised by that Canon which he has offended.” (Canon II, 6th Ec. Syn.)

You are the light of the world! A city located on a hill cannot be hidden. (Matt. 5:14) St. John Chrysostom explains Matt. 5:14 saying, Again, by these words He trains them to strictness of life, teaching them to be earnest in their endeavors, as set before the eyes of all men, and contending in the midst of the amphitheater of the world. (Hom. on Matt., 15, 1, 2)

I am proud of the cassock I wear and consider it more valuable and seemly than every other kind of garment, even than the royal purple robes of kings. I consider myself unworthy to dress in such a modest, honorable and holy garb, which was honored by numberless monastic saints, hieromartryrs, confessors and holy ones. I am saddened by and pity those clerics who reject the cassock and who shave their beards. (St. Philotheos Zervakos)

The “traditional garb,” according to Fr. Calivas, is an “emblem in this struggle” of the “ultra-conservatives.” He goes further and says that those who wear “the garb” have attributed “almost magical powers” to it, and so “idealized” it as to have been “turned into an idol.” (Calivas, 3) References please! The author manipulates the emotions of the reader without any substantiation. He attempts to use his own anecdotal perception of situations and persons to make an authoritative claim. As is well known, it is much easier to dangle before a hungry reader the tasty morsel of one’s idiosyncratic perceptions than to provide scientific or statistical measures to defend a claim. Fr. Calivas provides not one concrete example, let alone a body of evidence, to defend his claim about these super-power magic cassock wearers who believe they are impervious to demonic attacks by the simple act of donning “traditional garb.”[5] And what is one to understand about all the “traditional garb”-wearing Orthodox clergy throughout the world, in every conceivable context and continent – are they all “ultra-conservatives” simply because they wear such attire, or is it only the clergy in America who deserve that pejorative?

And then the theological mumbo jumbo…

It seems that the real problem with the “traditional garb” aside from creating distinctions and disputes among clergy or its use by “ultra-conservatives,” is that it makes the Church and her ministers too foreign. Apparently our open dialogue and engagement with culture requires that we all dress in the same clothing. The next time I meet a Sikh working at Costco I will tell him that until he removes his dastar (turban) I cannot possibly speak with him about the location of kalamata olives – they used to be on aisle 16B and now I cannot find them –  because, for goodness sakes, how can I converse with someone who wears a headdress like that? To drive this incoherent point home, Fr. Calivas quotes Met. John of Pergamon, who says in part, “The Church as a distinct community within the world exists in constant dialogue with whatever constitutes the ‘non-ecclesial’ realm, in an attempt to make herself acceptable to the world…” (Calivas, 4) Using this odd statement of Met. John, Calivas goes on to say, “To fulfill her mission effectively, she must make herself comprehensible and acceptable to the world. To accomplish this task, the Church must establish a relevant, coherent, and credible presence in the world. Trite theories, cultic trappings, exotic externals, and shallow gestures cannot and will not do the job.[6] (Calivas, 4) I am unaware of any place in Holy Scripture, or in the writings of the Holy Fathers, where it says that the Church needs to “make herself comprehensible and acceptable to the world” in order to “fulfill her mission”. Holy Scripture speaks differently of the relationship between the Church – the assembly of those who are mystically united to Christ through the holy Mysteries – and the world. (See Jn. 15:18 Rom. 12:2, 1 Cor. 2:4-9, Jam. 4:4, 1 Jn. 2:15, 5:4) St. John Kronstadt writes characteristically, “The Church is the eternal truth, because she is united with the truth, with Christ, and is animated by the spirit of truth: I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. His Body…which is the Church, says the Apostle.” And concerning her mission, St. Justin Popovitch writes, “The definition of the Church, Her life, Her purpose, Her spirit, Her plan, Her ways, all these are given in the wondrous Person of God-human Christ. Hence, the mission of the Church is to make every one of her faithful, organically and in person, one with the Person of Christ; to turn their sense of self into a sense of Christ, and their self-knowledge (self-awareness) into Christ-knowledge (Christ-awareness); for their life to become the life in Christ and for Christ; their personality to become personality in Christ and for Christ; that within them might live not they themselves but Christ in them (Gal. 2:10).” The Church does not require validation from the world; her relevance is an ontological truth: she is relevant because she is Christ’s body, who is the Living Truth. “…where the Body of Christ is, there is the truth.” (St. Ambrose, On the Resurrection, 2, 108) I am the vine, you [are] the branches! Whoever remains in me and I in him bears much fruit, for apart from me, you can do nothing. (Jn. 15:5)

At the heart of this entire section is the constant drumbeat that “traditional garb” creates an impenetrable barrier between the modern person and Orthodox clergy. To do this he employs false dichotomies: tradition vs. balance / inherited forms and institutions vs. the workings of the Spirit; and employs logical fallacies by asking loaded questions with assumptions built into them so they cannot be answered, “We have to ask what kind of Church we want: a prophetic interpreter of the times or an institution that seeks refuge and stability in an imaginary idealized past?” and “We have to ask, if being ‘traditional’ means clinging blindly to inherited forms and institutions or if it means being open to the workings of the Spirit…?” (Calivas, 3-4)

Are the inhabitants of America really so parochial that the particular clothing a clergyman wears easily effects a person’s ability to communicate with him? Can this really be true in the globalized world in which we live, where people move about constantly, and travel to far-away places for business and pleasure? Is this really the case in a country where you can encounter people of every race, nationality, religious tradition – who do not simply live in ghettos, but are our neighbors, co-workers, children’s playmates and family friends? The suggestion simply is beyond credulity.

Is Austere Asceticism the only way…or an overload of loaded questions…

Fr. Calivas returns to the “ultra-conservative movement” in the next section of his paper, and again he makes sweeping generalizations without providing data. “In general, the ultra-conservatives…tend to identify Orthodoxy with austere asceticism, negativity, and polemic.” “…They are fixated on a non-existent ideal past and revel in the external trappings of the faith.” (Calivas, 5) He speaks at length about monasticism and its proper place within the tradition and the “ultra-conservative’s” misapplied zeal for it. Here we find the old pap about priests who “turn the parish into a monastery,” who “impose a strict ascetical regimen,” who try to “make parishioners into spiritual disciples of some elder…” (Calivas, 6) This all has the scent of a caricature of reality – a straw man that can easily be torn down. Certainly Fr. Calivas is not suggesting that seeking spiritual direction is a practice alien to the tradition of the Church. Certainly he must know that it is in fact something deeply embedded within the tradition – and not something reserved for monastics.[7] Christ calls all of us to perfection, Therefore, be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect (Matt. 5:48) – and we need guides to assist us in the struggle for personal holiness, because we require accountability, counsel and instruction. The Ethiopian eunuch who, when asked if he understood the passage he was reading from the Prophecy of Isaiah, said, “How can I, unless someone explains it to me?” (Acts 8:31) Consider what St. Philotheos (Zervakos)[8] said concerning this very subject, “Strive to find a virtuous and discerning spiritual father, and follow his counsels. Pray and ask God to enlighten to not be deceived. And do not stray either to the right nor to the left, but walk upon the middle path, follow the straight and royal path. Walk upon the path of prudence and discernment, the path of the true Orthodox faith, of pure Christian love and hope, until you arrive in the calm and safe port of paradise and of eternal life, always having the most sweet Jesus Christ, the Deliverer and Savior of our souls, and Your spiritual Father as a guide…” (Paternal Counsels)

It would be interesting to see a little balance in Fr. Calivas’ presentation in this section. What about the evidence of an “ultra-liberal movement” that turned some parishes into spiritual wastelands? The parish where my father grew up, which was not unique, had bingo for many decades, but the priest fit the description of Fr. Calivas’ Archdiocesan glory-days.  What about the lack of Saturday evening Vespers or Sunday morning Orthros services? In many places those practices have only seen a resurgence in the last 20 years, presumably through the efforts of the same clergy who Fr. Calivas targets as “ultra-conservative.”

Asceticism is austere by its very nature – it requires self-discipline and obedience. However its austerity is not joyless, nor de facto without mercy. If some distort asceticism towards strictness, and others distort it towards laxity, should we be surprised? Is this fact anything approaching insight? Or is it just more red-meat to throw into the ring…?

Fr. Calivas makes the following curious assertion towards the end of this section: “While some laypeople applaud the zeal of these clerics, many more are perplexed and bewildered by it.” (Calivas, 7) How does he know this? He doesn’t tell. Could it be that our parishioners in this post-Christian world are simply more comfortable with clergy who do not challenge the cultural assumptions which they have assimilated lock, stock and barrel? Perhaps we ought to take St. Ephraim’s words to heart, “If a man is more industrious and diligent than others in acquiring the virtues, let no one despise him. On the contrary, we should welcome such people, because they are both dear to God and useful to the community.” (Evergetinos, 3, 47)

Wearing the ‘traditional garb’ or playing the garbeologist

In this section Fr. Calivas considers the various reasons why priests choose to wear “traditional garb.” Some think it is “neater,” some feel that it makes doing their priestly duties more convenient, others do it to “self-project,” and still others do so “out of conviction.” Where is the evidence for any of this? He gives absolutely none. Not surprisingly, he omits any discussion about the variety and particular choices made by suit-wearing priests. For example, why do some Orthodox priests who wear suits choose a tab style collar and others an all the way around neckband-style collar? What about priests who wear a bib-style clergy shirt? If sameness and identifiability are of such great importance, shouldn’t those who choose western-style clerical attire conform to some basic rules of dress?

Surprisingly, after denigrating the use of “traditional garb” and calling into question the intentions of those who choose to wear it, he says “Most clerics who have adopted the ‘traditional’ form of attire and appearance have done so out of conviction, motivated by a sincere desire to be true to what they consider are the sanctioned practices and norms of the Orthodox Church.” (Calivas, 8) So after all that preceded, he admits that most cassock wearing priests are not from the lunatic fringe. They are sincere, serious and have a pure love for the Orthodox tradition, even conceding that “these men should be commended.” (Calivas, 8) But, and it is a big “but,” according to the good father, it turns out that the “traditional garb” is really not traditional at all. Unfortunately these well-meaning priests have been duped into believing that their clerical attire, commonly worn by Orthodox clergy throughout the world, is in fact not ancient. This idea is developed in another section entitled, The historical development of clerical attire, in which he goes on to practice garb-eology – archeology of the garb – and demonstrates in painstaking detail that the earlier practice was for Orthodox clergy to wear “civilian” dress. Whatever evidence he provides, he cannot deny the fact that the tradition of clerical attire organically developed into what it is today, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Whatever cultural, contextual, or political circumstances that led to the rason and anteri, they are nevertheless part of the received tradition. As I read the sections relating to the development of this attire, I began to wonder how we should understand those Orthodox clergy, who in adverse situations and under threat of persecution, continued to wear their cassock, especially those from our own era who lived in communist contexts?[9] Were they fools who should have just done as their overseers demanded? Why did they risk arrest, imprisonment and death for a mere “external”?

If we make the mistake of looking for an earlier more “pure” era, we risk denying the organic nature of the living Church. Protestants all over the world are continually trying to “recover” the ancient Church, now stained through the accretion of “foreign” ideas and practices. Is that to be our program as well? Should we strip the Church of anything that has developed after a certain date, whether it be clothing, divine service, sacred hymn, architectural form, etc.? In the Church we celebrate the flowering of tradition, and rejoice in its many forms. We remain confident in the working of the Spirit and the overshadowing of divine grace that secures and guards the Church against destruction. The only place where tradition = dead form is in the mind of the author, not in the reality of the living Church. And so, brethren, stand firm and keep the traditions which we taught you, whether by word or by letter. (Thess. 2:15)

Issues of identity…or who does Fr. Calivas say that I am?

Fr. Calivas begins this section with the following humdinger of a claim: “The attraction to robes and beards among the younger clergy is both a cultural as well as a religious and psychological phenomenon.” Could one not simply turn this argument around and ask what religious and psychological phenomenon “attracts” the “older clergy” to clean-shaven faces and suits? I would suspect that if we inquired of one of these “younger clergy” as to the reasons why they keep a beard or wear an anteri, they would tell us that it is out of obedience to the tradition (obviously as they understand it). Perhaps they would prefer to shave and wear “civilian dress,” but they accept that their priestly calling demands certain sacrifices, including what they wear. While that certainly seems plausible, Fr. Calivas prefers to present us with a load of psycho-babble about the ever- and fast-changing world, and the yearning among people for stability. Poor younger priests, they just cannot cope with the rough-and-tumble unpredictability of life; so they put on alien clothing to help them achieve psychological stability in a completely unstable environment.

Then he goes on to say, “And if external differentiation is so important, how does the ‘traditional’ garb distinguish a canonical Orthodox cleric from an Old Calendarist, a rogue cleric masquerading as Orthodox, a Melkite priest, or another Eastern Rite cleric who also wear the same garb.” (Calivas, 13)  Strangely, he implies that to be “confused” with an Old Calendarist, with whom we share more in common than all other clergy, would be one of the worst things that could happen to a canonical priest.[10] And would not those who wear “civilian dress” encounter similar “confusing” situations? In their case, what is to distinguish a clean-shaven canonical Orthodox cleric who wears a suit from any number of thousands of “clerics” of heretical pseudo-Christian sects, charlatans and mega-church hucksters that blanket the American landscape, let alone Roman Catholic priests who now have to carry the unfortunate baggage of unchecked pedophilia. As for the last fear-mongering statement, “Moreover, how does the rason or anteri distinguish an Orthodox cleric from a bearded Muslim mullah who is attired in similar clothes?” (Calivas, 13) One has to wonder if Fr. Calivas is acquainted with the pectoral cross. In any event, cases of mistaken identity are easily remedied, whether one wears a suit or an anteri: “No sir, I am not a member of ‘that group,’ I am an Orthodox Christian priest.”

Clerical Attire as Cannon Fodder…

Inevitably Fr. Calivas addresses the issue from a canonical perspective in the section entitled The canonical tradition (Calivas, 13); and not surprisingly he turns the Canons on their heads. He begins by stating that Orthodox clergy “have never constituted a rigid sociological entity – a self-conscious antithesis to the laity.” Here he creates a convenient false dichotomy, one that allows him to assure his readers that, historically, clerical attire would have been mere variation rather than wholly other, i.e., “the same as that of laity, except for the color and quality of the garment.” (Calivas, 13) He then immediately quotes Canon 27 of the Penthekte Synod: “Let no one on the clerical list don inappropriate clothing, either when living in the city or when walking on the road; but, on the contrary, let him wear garments 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.” (Calivas, 13) By introducing the reader to the issue as he does, Calivas obfuscates the plain reading of the canon. Calivas contends that this canon supports his view that the “public dress” of the clergy was the “same as that of the laity,” even when quoting “…let him wear garments that have already been assigned to the use of those who are enrolled in the clergy.” But this does in fact seem to refer to some sort of uniform, for it describes clerical attire as “assigned” and uniforms are generally assigned. On the other hand, the laity do not have clothing “assigned” to them. This plain reading of the canon is also supported by St. Nikodemos’ interpretation of it where he warns against clothing “not becoming his profession,” which also seem to imply a uniform of some sort, and he even distinguishes it by stating what sort of uniform it should not be (military). Clerical attire ought to be “modest even in respect of their outward appearance…For God looks into the heart, it is true, but human beings look at the external condition of the body…That is why the present canon commands that no clergymen shall wear clothes that are not becoming his profession, that is for instance, costly silk garments, or military uniforms…” Though I am making no definitive claim about Canon 27, I find Calivas’ argument completely unconvincing, if not misleading.


The American landscape of the 21st century is not that of the 19th or 20th. Difference is celebrated, and distinctive clothing is seen everywhere. Orthodox clergy have no reason to fear discrimination, to be ashamed of their traditions, to hide their identity (and even if they do experience something approaching discrimination, they can rejoice in having been made worthy of that very small martyrdom). Orthodox clergy can be fully engaged in the American culture by challenging its assumptions and speaking to its people while wearing a cassock, just as the Sikh can wear his dastar, an Indian her sari, a muslim her hijab, a Jew his yamulka.

Today we live in a fractured post-Christian world. The American religious scene is a sea of utter brokenness, with a myriad of christianities, disparate and disconnected, with churches numbering in the tens of thousands. As a member of the Orthodox clergy, how well do I serve those around me if I simply disappear into that sea of nothingness?[11] People travel through the darkness of this world searching for a glimmer of hope, of some sign that God exists and is served, that His presence can still be found, that a blessing can still be received. By wearing “traditional garb,” the Orthodox clergyman is able to be found and to be known, so that he can do the work for which he was set apart and given especial grace – to bring the light of Christ to the world, to preach the Gospel of salvation, to celebrate the Mysteries and services, to comfort the wounded, and to lift up the downtrodden. Can an Orthodox priest who wears a suit do the very same things? Of course; but depending upon the context, he may be hampered by his near invisibility in American culture. Do an Orthodox priest’s distinctive traditional clothes make him holy? No. Will they carry him to heaven? No. Will they protect him from all temptation? No. And neither will a suit guarantee any of those things. All Orthodox people, whether they are clergy or laity, ought to receive the tradition as a blessing; we rejoice in all of what we have received, even if we do not always fully understand it – humble silence before the mystery of the living Church is not a matter of shame.

But why is my freedom judged by someone else’s conscience?…And so, whether you eat, or drink, or whatever [else] you do, do it all to the glory of God. (1 Cor. 10:29,31) If an Orthodox clergyman wishes to wear “traditional garb,” or some other type of clerical attire, it ought to be done in freedom for the glory of God. In a land where religious liberty is guaranteed, we ought not enslave ourselves to the secular ideologies of conformity and sameness. We are, after all, a distinctive race – the Race of Christians, a race that knows no distinction in blood, nation, sex, or worldly position, a brotherhood unlike any other, a spiritual kinship founded upon mysterial grace granted by the water of the baptismal fount and the Body and Blood of our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ. Therefore, let us set aside coercive argumentation and divisiveness and work towards our common goal, in brotherly love and with open hearts toward one another.


[1] The book Orthodox Priestly Attire by Arch. Emmanuel Kalyvas [Τὸ Ὀρθόδοξο Ἱερατικό Σχήμα, Ἀρχ. Ἐμμανουήλ Καλύβας], addresses the same topic as Fr. Calivas’ paper, but from a traditional Orthodox perspective. It is hoped that Newrome Press will make this book available to English speaking readers in the near future.

[2] The rason or outer cassock is a black floor-length loose fitting garmet with wide sleeves. It is worn by clergy in most Orthodox countries ecclesiastically and as outer-wear. The anteri or inner cassock is an ankle length, close fitting garment with a high neck and long sleeves, and is always worn under the rason. In the United States it more common to see a priest wearing his inner cassock as outer-wear with a vest sans rason. The kalemaukion (kalymavchion) is a felt-covered stiff black cylindrical hat; the Greek style has a flattened conical brim, the Russian style has a flat top with a flared brim. In Orthodox countries, the kalymavchion is worn ecclesiastically and as outer-wear.

[3] Krindatch, A. (2011). Atlas of american orthodox christian churches. (p. 56). Brookline, MA: Holy Cross Orthodox Press.

[4] Most priests who serve in the Greek Archdiocese were first introduced to wearing an anteri at the seminary in Brookline, MA. Every seminarian is required to purchase one after admission, and is  encouraged to wear it to chapel services and to class.

[5] Super-power magic cassock wearers aside, it seems unwise to mock the limitless power of the Living God. If the Lord worked wonders through Apostle Paul’s garment and so too those of the Most Holy Theotokos, why not a priest’s cassock?

[6] A keen reader will notice that if this proposition were applied consistently, it would have the deleterious effect of emptying the Church of its sacred content. She would, finally, be no different than countless other “churches” that seek to encounter culture by mimicking it.

[7] Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology, the Seminary where Fr. Calivas taught, requires every seminarian to choose a spiritual father. One could assume that this is where some seminarians first learned about the practice of spiritual fatherhood.

[8] One cannot overestimate the importance of this Blessed Elder’s spiritual authority in Greece. He was a Father Confessor for 68 years (1912-1978), hearing confessions throughout mainland Greece, her islands and abroad in Africa and Turkey.

[9] Consider the struggles of Fr. Paul Florensky who was arrested many times by Soviet authorities for refusing to divest himself of his cassock and cross when teaching.

[10] Both new and old calendarists would do well to follow the counsel of St. Philotheos (Zervakos), “…if you want to be saved, follow Christ and not calendars, because salvation is from God and not from the calendars…” The high-mindedness of either party is destructive, and should be abandoned.

[11] The theme of the three most recent Clergy Laity Congresses of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America were, 2012 “Chosen and appointed by God to go and bear fruit,” 2010 “Gather my people to my home: Come and See,” 2008 “Gather the People to me, and let them hear my words.” These mission-oriented themes seem to imply that the clergy have a mandate to work towards bringing people into contact with the Orthodox Church. If so, wearing the distinctive clothing of Orthodox clergy cannot but assist in this mission, since it differentiates him from other clergy. Even if this visibility is not immediately understood, it allows for the opening of dialogue, which is the first step towards conversion.

Fr. Michael is proistamenos of St. Luke Greek Orthodox Church in Columbia, MO and founder of Newrome Press, a publisher of beautifully printed Orthodox books and cards. He also offers an impressive selection of custom Byzantine fonts.