Vestments for holy Mass17 Apr 2015, by Sacraments in
The Catholic Church is such a rich Church! Yes, but don’t get me wrong. I mean, the Church is so blessed with so much heritage, highly ritualistic to the extent that people misunderstand our faith for idolatry. Anyone who understands the traditional, ritualistic, sacramental, and symbolic touch of our worship of the almighty God will never stop appreciating the Catholic Church’s heritage. I am always proud to be a Catholic and a Catholic Priest.
In our celebration of the sacraments and our liturgy in general, some signs and symbols may be involved that many none Catholics may not comprehend; even some Catholics do not really understand some of the things we do. I always say that anyone who understands the Catholic faith will ever live to appreciate it. The Church has a way of expressing her faith symbolically, and this symbolism is sometimes confused for something ells by some persons of little understanding of the tradition or the faith of the Catholic Church.
There are many things that are symbolically expressed in the Church. Still, in this article, I will focus on the sacred or liturgical vestments of the priest, especially the ones he uses for the celebration of the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist.
By sacred or liturgical vestments, we “mean the vestments that, according to the rules of the Church or from ecclesiastical usage, are to be worn by the clergy in performing the ceremonies of the services of the Church, consequently, above all, at the celebration of the Mass… .” The name “liturgical vestments” is not restricted to the vestments worn by the clergy (priests and deacons) but also the ones used by the selected lay faithful during liturgical ceremonies. The General Instruction of the Roman Missal says that “in the Church, which is the body of Christ, not all members have the same function. This diversity of offices is shown outwardly in the Celebration of the Eucharist by the diversity of sacred vestments, which must be a sign of the function proper to each minister… The vestments worn by Priests and Deacons, as well as the attire worn by lay ministers, are blessed before being put into liturgical use according to the rite described in the Roman Ritual.” (335). I will, however, concentrate on the ones used by the Priest. They are Amice, Alb, Cincture, stole, and chasuble.
AMICE: Amice is a liturgical vestment worn by clergy in the Catholic Church; it “is a piece of white linen, rectangular in shape, with two long ribbons. The priest places it on his neck, covering the clerical collar, and then ties it by crisscrossing the ribbons in his front…bringing them around the back, around the waist and tying them in a bow.”
The Roman soldiers used the amice; they wore it under their helmets to absorb sweat. The Church uses the amice for this same purpose, to protect the alb (Alb is also a vestment that is explained below) from the sweat’s effect. Symbolically, this vestment is associated by faith with the helmet of which St. Paul talked about in his letter to Ephesians 6:17: “And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” As the priest puts on the amice, by faith in Jesus Christ, he reminds himself of the need to constantly be on the helmet of salvation. The amice symbolically represents this helmet of salvation, which the priest carries in his heart by faith. As he wears it, he prays silently; LORD, GIVE ME STRENGTH TO CONQUER THE TEMPTATIONS OF THE DEVIL.
ALB: The word “alb” means “white.” It is that long white garment or robe which the priest and deacons wear, and when they wear it, they sometimes tie their waists with a cincture (a thick cord with tassels at the ends).
The alb must be white, and therefore it symbolically reminds the priest of his own baptism, of how he was clothed in white on his baptismal day. The alb reminds him of his freedom from sin through baptism in Jesus and the need to constantly remain pure to matins Christian dignity. He should reflect the nature of those people John saw in his revelation dressed in white (Rev. 7:14). As the priest wears this vestment, he prays in silence; “MAKE ME WHITE, O LORD, AND PURIFY MY HEART SO THAT BEING MADE WHITE IN THE BLOOD OF THE LAMB, I MAY DESERVE AN ETERNAL REWARD.”
CINCTURE: As motioned above, “the cincture is a long, thick cord with tassels at the ends which secures the alb around the waist.” In the ancient world, the cincture may have been used as a belt just as it is still used
today to secure the alb, however, it symbolically and by faith tells the priest to be mindful of what St. Peter said; “therefore gird up your minds, be sober, set your hope fully upon the grace that is coming to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in all your conduct.” (1Peter 1:13-15). The cincture is a symbol of chastity, a reminder that the priest is called to chastity and holiness; it is a reminder of the need for bodily mortification. John saw Jesus wearing the Cincture round his breast (Rev. 1:13). So, as the priest wears the Cincture, he prays, saying; “GIRD ME, O LORD, WITH THE CINCTURE OF PURITY AND EXTINGUISH IN MY HEART THE FIRE OF CONCUPISCENCE SO THAT, THE VIRTUE OF CONTINENCE AND CHASTITY ALWAYS ABIDING IN MY HEART, I MAY BETTER SERVE THEE.”
STOLE: “The stole is a long cloth, about four inches wide and of the same color as the chasuble, that is worn around the neck like a scarf.” Historically it is believed that Rabbis wore something very similar as a sign of their authority,
and even the Roman soldiers wore something like stole also but crisscrossed. The stole forms part of the Churches’ liturgical vestments for priests, and it reminds him of his authority and dignity. It reminds him of the call to preach fearlessly and authoritatively preach the word of God. As the priest wears the stole, he prays: “RESTORE UNTO ME, O LORD, THE STOLE OF IMMORTALITY WHICH I LOST THROUGH THE SIN OF MY FIRST PARENTS AND, ALTHOUGH UNWORTHY TO APPROACH THY SACRED MYSTERY, MAY I NEVERTHELESS ATTAIN TO JOY ETERNAL.”
CHASUBLE: This is the outer garment worn by priests; it is worn over the other vestments explained above; it is the outermost vestment. It is a vestment that reminds the priest of the charity of Jesus Christ,
“And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony” (Colossians 3:14). The Chasuble reminds the priest also of the yoke of Jesus Christ upon him. As the priest wears this garment, he prays, saying, “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.”
As we celebrate and thank God for the gift of the priesthood and the Eucharist, let us listen to the admonitions of St. paul:
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.
Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand
against the wiles of the devil. For we are not contending against
flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers,
against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual
hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Eph. 6:10-12.