Vestments for the celebration of Mass
Last Week I shared with you about the Amice and the Alb. (If you wish to review last week’s article, please visit us at sacredheartgallup.org).
No special dress was at first prescribed for the Christian priesthood. During the early days the garments worn at the Holy Sacrifice were not dissimilar in form to the clothing of civilians. They were distinguished, however, from everyday apparel in richness and beauty of decorations; and, of course, their use was restricted to divine worship.
Secular fashion changed, but because she does not rush after fashion trends, the church in her simplicity kept the old style. Thus it was that garments once common to all, presently became the privileged dress of the clergy. Faith then saw in each particular vestment a symbol relating to the Passion of Our Lord, and a reminder of some Christian duty. Practical changes have happened only slowly over time.
Cincture This optional vestment is a long cord or linen belt used for fastening some albs at the waist. It is a symbol of chastity as well as modesty, and also readiness for hard work in God’s service. It is usually white in color. The vesting prayer is:
“Gird me, O Lord, with the cincture of purity, and quench in my heart the fire of concupiscence, that the virtue of continence and chastity may abide in me.”
A stole is a long cloth, often ornately decorated, of the same color and style as the chasuble. The priest wears it around the neck, letting it hang down the front. A deacon wears it over his right shoulder and fastened at his left side like a sash. A stole traditionally stands for the office of the priesthood and is a reminder of the yoke of Christ and of obedience to him. The priest’s burden is a heavy one, which Christ nevertheless makes sweet. The stole also symbolizes the cords with which Jesus was tied to the pillar.
The vesting prayer is: “Restore to me, O Lord, the state of immortality which I lost through the sin of my first parents and, although unworthy to approach Thy Sacred Mysteries, may I deserve nevertheless eternal joy.”
The chasuble is the sleeveless outer vestment, slipped over the head, hanging down from the shoulders and covering the stole and alb. It is the proper Mass vestment of the priest and its color varies according to the feast.
In ancient times it was much larger, and because of its inconvenience two deacon assistants were needed to manipulate it. When it was necessary to use the hands, the garment had to be folded up on each side over the arms. The vestment was gradually cut and altered until it now has its present shape. It is usually ornamented with a large cross on the back, and sometimes on the front of the garment. Because Scripture exhorts us to put on charity over all the other virtues, the chasuble is a symbol of charity. It also represents the purple cloak worn by Our Lord when He stood before Pilate.
The vesting prayer is: “O Lord, who has said, ‘My yoke is sweet and My burden light,’ grant that I may so carry it as to merit Thy grace.”
Acknowledgement to catholicfirst.com for the Article Mass and the Sacraments by Fr. John Laux, and catholicdoors.com for permission for priests to use information for the preparation of homilies and reflections.