St.Anthony the great, I had read either in his life story or in the Philokalia I can’t quite remember, came down to speak to the Greeks or testify in front of a Judge.
He appeared in court clean-shaven and well-groomed/dressed.
Christ says in the Gospel we are not to worry about what clothing we are to wear but the emphasis here is on the worry not the clothes even though there’s a limit to what we can wear.
Anthony would have been a scruffy monk living in the desert and yet he scrubbed up pretty well when engaging with civil authorities and the world, why? Because Anthony was wise and clever. He knew that clothes are meaningless in Gods eyes and that all the fuss over fashionable clothing a load of horse-feathers but would often use the cultural dress code to help his argument that they may take him seriously.
It’s very important in this case to wear what everyone else is wearing and to blend in to the particular environment you find yourself in. Blend in and respect the cultural formalities as much as does not compromise your faith (I’m talking about women walking around looking like prostitutes you don’t have to succumb to that clothing.)
This means modern haircuts, clothes of the latest trend or whatever they’re wearing. For example you wouldn’t show up to a yuppie party wearing a track suit would you? Nobody would take you seriously and you’d be thrown out most likely.
No you’d show up in a nice crisp suit with all the bells and whistles. Clean shaven and practicing how to speak yuppie with a few marbles in your mouth.
Going to meet with the working class? Nice pair of jeans and a T shirt with sporty running shoes will do. Yes in case you’re wondering I’ve a whole wardrobe up there for every occasion.
It’s very important for the Christian to hide himself and blend in with modern society to date. The reason for this is because the children of Light cannot hide themselves among men and therefore they’re better off in a monastery and even then depending upon their spiritual progress they can come under a lot of heat by the worldly monks that live there.
But in the world the Christian whose job it is to evangelize and live out the faith cannot just get a tonsure like St.Anthony of Padua and wander around in an old worn out robe. The devil is always lurking around the subject you’re trying to bring back to the faith. He lurks around in their ignorance and when you put on a display of piety that is spiritually too much for the person you’re trying to convert, you give the game away and the person under the guidance of the devil goes into retreat.
Thats it now he’s caught you.
There’s a great movie out there called ”The Matrix” starring Keanu Reeves. I think it reflects the Christian story quite a bit and what I’m getting at here.
It’s a world where everyone is asleep and obvlivious that they’re under control of the agents. There is a rebellious group who make up a minority. They’re not strong enough to take on the agents because they’re outnumbered.
When they’re is a disturbance in the matrix the agents are immediately alerted and they’re onto it and a fight scene ensues soon after.
In Christianity the agents are the devil and the minority is the Christians. So when we put on a display of piety it makes the devil go wild. He hates prayer and immediately all heads turn on you and even though Jesus is stronger than the devil, the devil is much stronger than me or you in this world.
Therefore when I watch a yuppie Christian lady evangelist go into a real down and out estate full of hard children who’ve been in and out of prison before they’ve even hit 18, I can see straight away she won’t get anywhere with those kids. In fact there’s a real chance she’ll get beaten up.
No, you need to make it harder on the Devil to find you. That means hiding among them and behaving with their temperament and wearing their clothes.
Anthony the great knew what he was doing when he came down from his cave, hair cut, clean shaven and dressed to the nines. Even back then it worked and it still works now.
I write this because I’ve met or rather observed some radicals dresscodes. One woman had her children dressed in clothes from the 1930s. Totally no need for that but you can forget about that family being a source of evangelisation. In fact you can count on those young boys getting bullied.
So there you have it, build your wardrobe and the wardrobe of your soul. Make it well fortified, don’t give your enemy a foothold.