Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Makeup (part 2) - The Instructor on a compendious view of the Christian life

This is a continuation of my series on Clement of Alexandria and his book, "The Instructor." If you are new to this series or are unfamiliar with Clement and his book, you may want to first read the introduction to this series. You may also want to read my introduction to this chapter as it will help you understand his views in this area.
"But it is monstrous for those who are made in 'the image and likeness of God,' to dishonour the archetype by assuming a foreign ornament, preferring the mischievous contrivance of man to the divine creation.The Instructor orders them to go forth 'in becoming apparel, and adorn themselves with shamefacedness and sobriety,' 'subject to their own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives; while they behold,' he says, 'your chaste conversation. Whose adorning, let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; but let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.'" (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 3, Chapter 11)
Clement contrasts the path of the world with the path of God; what the world is calling women to be with what God is calling them to be. The world desires a woman's outward conformity, giving lessons on  how she should appear and dress, requiring her to employ whatever means neccessary to be outward conforming to their perception of beauty. While God, however, looks on the inward person, the person of the heart, giving lessons on how to conform one's soul into the image of God, into the image of the one who is most beautiful of all. To pursue the world and its ways is at best only temporal and a counterfeit fix, swapping true beauty for that which does not last nor hides the true nature of the heart inside. However, to pursue God and His ways is the path to true beauty, a beauty that can never be hidden and will never fade away.
"In brief, 'A store of excellence is a woman of worth, who eateth not the bread of idleness; and the laws of mercy are on her tongue; who openeth her mouth wisely and rightly; whose children rise up and call her blessed,' as the sacred Word says by Solomon: 'Her husband also, and he praiseth her. For a pious woman is blessed; and let her praise the fear of the Lord.'" (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 3, Chapter 11)
In addition, a woman is not found beautiful merely by the condition of her soul but also by the manor of the conversation of her life. Beauty is not static but also dynamic. The beauty of the soul is often expressed through the beauty of our actions and behaviors as we live our lives day-to-day. As we live our lives as being truly free, with all holy dignity, and serving not only our own needs and also the needs of those near us, we display the same beauty that Jesus displayed as He lived among us as one who, "did not come to be served, but to serve." (Mark 10:45) A life that is lived beautifully is a life that is beautiful.
"And again, 'A virtuous woman is a crown to her husband.' They must, as far as possible, correct their gestures, looks, steps, and speech. For they must not do as some, who, imitating the acting of comedy, and practising the mincing motions of dancers, conduct themselves in society as if on the stage, with voluptuous movements, and gliding steps, and affected voices, casting languishing glances round, tricked out with the bait of pleasure." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 3, Chapter 11)
A life that is lived to be seen, as if "on the stage", is a life that is lived in pretend. It is a life that is lived in seeking to conform to the desires and expectations of others. It is a life that is captive to the notions of others and knows not its own nature, identity, or purpose. God has not called us to be what others want us to be but what He wants us to be. The sensual desires of men can be a cruel master to those who willing submit themselves to them as slaves. While one may win their approbation and adulation, it often comes at the cost of their soul.
"The eyes especially are to be sparingly used, since it is better to slip with the feet than with the eyes. Accordingly, the Lord very summarily cures this malady: 'If thine eye offend thee, cut it out,' He says, dragging lust up from the foundation. But languishing looks, and ogling, which is to wink with the eyes, is nothing else than to commit adultery with the eyes, lust skirmishing through them. For of the whole body, the eyes are first destroyed. 'The eye contemplating beautiful objects, gladdens the heart;' that is, the eye which has learned rightly to see, gladdens. 'Winking with the eye, with guile, heaps woes on men.'" (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 3, Chapter 11)
Why should one seek to arouse a carnal response in another, such a response as they would likewise feel obliged to resist within themselves? Flattery is a dangerous art for it trades in illicit amorous desires; tempting one with what one should not desire to be tempted. For those who have purposed to live a life not living for the lusts of the flesh, it is not right that they should appear, dress, or behave in a way as to purposefully elicit such lust in others. As much as we desire to avoid such lust ourselves, we too should desire to not be a source of such lust in others.

David Robison

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