The monastic costume is not only intended to be a distinction in front of people. As a matter of fact, it has sublime spiritual value as well as holy symbols, since it represents the form of angels. The black color of the costume is to remind the nun that she has died to this world and is seeking eternal life.The monastic garments that are presently used in the ordinary ceremony of monasticism are long gowns with loose sleeves and a bonnet. The costume also includes a girdle that three crosses are braided on to and are all made of leather.

The Bonnet:

The bonnet used at present resembles to a great extent the one which St. Antonios used to wear. The bonnet covers the whole head and hangs down on the back of the head until the shoulders.

In the upper part of this bonnet, the part that covers the head, there are twelve embroidered crosses, six at each side, that symbolize Christ's twelve disciples. On the other hand, these crosses refer to the twelve virtues of the Holy Spirit. These virtues are:

First: Love
Second: Hope
Third: Faith
Forth: Purity
Fifth: Virginity
Sixth: Peace
Seventh: Wisdom
Eighth: Righteousness
Ninth: Meekness
Tenth: Patience
Eleventh: Tolerance
Twelfth: Asceticism

The cross which is embroidered on the back of the bonnet stands for the Lord Jesus Christ whom a nun bears in her heart and mind; he controls her thoughts and becomes the center of her interests and concerns.

In the middle of the bonnet is a rip that starts from above the forehead up to its third. This rip is sown with crochet, and the bonnet is tied to the neck with two thin strings.

The present design of the bonnet was derived from a story well known among monks. The story narrates that when the devil was enraged by the bonnet St.Antonios was wearing, that was covering all of his head, the devil wanted to take it away from him. When he caught it and tried to snatch it from the saint's head, St. Antonios clung to it real hard, but the devil pulled it so violently that it was torn in the middle. When the saint called for God's help and sealed himself with the mark of the cross, the devil's power was destroyed, he turned to smoke and disappeared leaving the saint with his torn bonnet. Hence, the saint sewed it with a thick needle which he used in sewing the braids and wore it once again.

The present shape of the bonnet is also similar to a soldier’s helmet to protect his head, the most important part of the body.

The Girdle:

“Fasten on your waist all the bonds of God and the power of repentance through our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever, Amen”. The girdle is also made of leather, as well as the three crosses braided on it. The nun puts this girdle on her waist so that it is located directly over the kidneys opposite to the center of the sexual drive. With the power of these crosses and stamps the nun is able to keep her purity and suppress the desires. This also helps in fasting and enduring hunger as well as in making successive genuflections.

The Scarf:

The scarf that a nun wears on her head refers to the fact that she threw the world behind her back.

The Nuns of St. George Convent, Old Cairo

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