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Chapter II.

Of the Monk’s Robe.

Let the robe also of the monk be such as may merely cover the body and prevent the disgrace of nudity, and keep off harm from cold, not such as may foster the seeds of vanity and pride; for the same apostle tells us: “Having food and covering, with these let us be content.” 642 “Covering,” he says, not “raiment,” as is wrongly found in some Latin copies: that is, what may merely cover the body, not what may please the fancy by the splendour of the attire; commonplace, so that it may not be thought remarkable for novelty of colour or fashion among other men of the same profession; and quite free from anxious carefulness, yet not discoloured by stains acquired through neglect. Lastly, let them be so far removed from this world’s fashions as to remain altogether common property for the use of the servants of God. For whatever is claimed by one or a few among the servants of God and is not the common property of the whole body of the brethren alike is either superfluous or vain, and for that reason to be considered harmful, and affording an appearance of vanity rather than virtue. And, therefore, whatever models we see were not taught either by the saints of old who laid the foundations of the monastic life, or by the fathers of our own time who in their turn keep up at the present day their customs, these we also should reject as superfluous and useless: wherefore they utterly disapproved of a robe of sackcloth as being visible to all and conspicuous, and what from this very fact will not only confer no benefit on the soul but rather minister to vanity and pride, and as being inconvenient and unsuitable for the performance of necessary work for which a monk ought always to go ready and unimpeded. But even if we hear of some respectable persons who have been dressed in this garb, a rule for the monasteries is not, therefore, to be passed by us, nor should the ancient decrees of the holy fathers be upset because we do not think that a few men, presuming on the possession of other virtues, are to be blamed even in regard of those things which they have practised not in accordance with the Catholic rule. For the opinion of a few ought not to be preferred to or to interfere with the general rule for all. For we ought to give unhesitating allegiance and unquestioning obedience, not to those customs and rules which the will of a few have introduced, but to those which a long standing antiquity and numbers of the holy fathers have passed on by an unanimous decision to those that come after. Nor, indeed, ought this to influence us as a precedent for our daily life, that Joram, the wicked king of Israel, when surrounded by bands of his foes, rent his clothes, and is said to have had sackcloth inside them; 643 or that the Ninevites, in order to mitigate the sentence of God, which had been pronounced against them by the prophet, were clothed in rough sackcloth. 644 The former is shown to have been clothed with it secretly underneath, so that unless the upper garment had been rent it could not possibly have been known by any one, and the latter tolerated a covering of sackcloth at a time when, since all were mourning over the approaching destruction of the city and were clothed with the same garments, none could be accused of ostentation. For where there is no special difference and all are alike no harm is done. 645



1 Tim. vi. 8. The Greek is σκεπάσματα, for which Jerome’s version has “quibus tegamur.” Sabbatier gives “victum et vestitum” as the rendering of the old Latin, but it is often quoted as “victus et tegumentum” by Augustine. “Alimenta et operimenta” must be Cassian’s own rendering from the Greek. “Vestimenta,” which he speaks of as being found in some Latin copies, is not given by Sabbatier at all, though Jerome quotes the text with “vestimentum” in Ep. ad Titum, III.


2 Kings vi. 30.


Jonah iii. 8.


Quia nisi insolens sit diversitas non offendit æqualitas (Petschenig). The text of Gazæus has inæqualitas.

Next: Chapter III. Of the Hoods of the Egyptians.