“Hey Fr. Anthony, what’s with the hat?”
– Several St. Anna Parishioners
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
As we quickly approach the end of Great Lent and begin to turn our thoughts and prayers toward The Saturday of Lazarus, Palm Sunday, Holy Week and Pascha, I want to call attention to something, that quite honestly…has caught your attention.
Since the beginning of Great Lent, I have worn the traditional kalimafkion, or Orthodox clerical hat. Some priests wear them all the time. Some would never imagine placing it on their head. Some appreciate them. Some do not.
There was a time in the history of our Archdiocese, when priests were not permitted to wear “the ole stovepipe.” Assimilating into American and western traditions was the desire of our church leaders. Priests who would come here from Greece, in the early days of our experience, were given money for a haircut, a clean shave and a black suit.
In most recent times, traditional garb from Orthodox Motherlands have found their way back into this country. Some priests wear cassocks or robes, while other Orthodox clergymen choose to wear western collars. Incidentally, you have seen me, comfortably wearing both – at any and all times. I do not look negatively upon any of these traditions, for they are all part of Orthodoxy in America.
Years ago, His Eminence Metropolitan Isaiah of Denver released an Encyclical that stated he has no preference for how priests of his Metropolis choose to dress (collar and suit or cassock and hat) as long as we never look down upon our brother priests who dress differently than ourselves.
As always, wise and paternal advice from His Eminence.
Since I have been asked a few times now, why I am “suddenly” wearing the hat during services, I want to explain. Indeed, you don’t see me wearing the kalimafkion often. But you have seen it before. I wore it last year as well – only during Lent and Holy Week. Just like this year.
The entire demeanor of the Church changes during the Fast. The sanctuary is darkened. The music has a somber tone. The altar and the priest are vested in dark purples and muted hues.
The reason a priest wears a clerical hat, at any time of the year, is out of humility before the Lord and as a symbol of spiritual discipline. I choose at this time, to heighten these principles within myself, and to illustrate them to the parish.
For me, and I learned this from my Spiritual Father, the covering of my head during the divine services of Lent allows me to focus more clearly upon the themes, lessons, readings, and messages of these precious days. It is a penitential act. It is a pious (not pietistic) act of humility. It is something different, that helps define something…different.
Great Lent is different than the rest of the year.
Holy Week is different than even the days of Lent.
Pascha is more different, still, than anything else that’s been described.
So, when the Resurrection arrives, the hat gets put away for another year.
Please do not misunderstand, I don’t hang up spiritual discipline with the kalimafkion. My feeble attempts at true humility and pious practice don’t get put in a box until next spring (though regrettably, my actions speak otherwise), I just appreciate a heightened awareness during Lent. And the “silly hat” helps me accomplish this.
The days of the Lenten Fast are near completion. There is only one more, short week until the transitional days of the Saturday of Lazarus and Palm Sunday. Please, in way that you may feel is beneficial to your struggle, to your ascetic practice, to your pious discipline, engage yourself in the Good Fight and make the most of what’s left. It’ll be good for your soul.
With Much Love in Christ,