Abba Isaac said that Abba Pambo used to say, "The monk’s garment should be such that he could throw it out of his cell for three days and no-one would take it."
Reading: Luke 12:22-27
22 Then Jesus said to his disciples: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. 23 For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. 24 Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! 25 Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life[b]? 26 Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?
27 “Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labour or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendour was dressed like one of these."
I’ve never been very interested in what I should wear. I guess in the right situations I can scrub up reasonable well but mostly I wear much the same things week in and week out. Eventually, someone will buy me something new and I’ll wear it for a while, but often I long to be back in my comfortable old clothes.
The simplicity of monastic dress is intended to foster anonymity. When everybody wears the same denim work clothes or white robe, nobody stands out. The community has a better chance to become one when it is impossible to discern social status or wealth by the expensive or fashionable clothes someone is wearing. People can stop worrying about their attire; there are more important things to attend to. The Rule of St. Benedict advises monks to sleep fully clothed so that "they will always be ready to arise without delay when the signal is given; each will hasten to arrive at the Work of God before the others."
In an economy fuelled by personal spending, the pressure is on to prove, through the fashionable or expensive clothing we or our children wear, that we are making it. One of the saddest results of such thinking is that people who cannot afford to keep up with the current style go deeply into debt in order to maintain the facade that they are doing all right.
The simplicity of dress is deliberately countercultural; it announces that life is going to be different than the norm, especially the norm of buying into the superficial standards foisted upon society for commercial purposes. Yet, we do not have to succumb to such thinking. We, too, can embrace simplicity of dress and, in the process, court anonymity.
Today, whatever I am wearing, I’m going to think about what it is like to to be unable to afford to keep up appearances.
Lord, make me aware of my worth, made in image of God, even when I am not "looking my best", and free me from the unnecessary preoccupation to try to "look good".