Each piece serves a purpose

By | October 5, 2011

This weekend’s Gospel speaks of wearing appropriate wedding garments to a celebration. Perhaps many are hoping this article will address current dress (or lack of it) at liturgies. Pat Kasten wrote a fine editorial on this subject in the Sept. 23 issue so I have been spared.

This weekend pay attention to the one person, who Sunday after Sunday, liturgy after liturgy is always dressed in a wedding garment appropriate to the celebration. That person is the priest presider.

Each piece that the priest wears serves a decorative, a functional or symbolic purpose. Prayers have passed down through the centuries that a priest says privately as he is vesting. These prayers (one for each item of clothing) focus on the priest humbly preparing for the celebration that is to come and his reliance of God’s grace to carry his priestly ministry in a faithful manner.

The first piece donned is the amice, a square rectangular cloth, with long tapes that cross and tie. Originally, it began as a hood that the priest wore until he approached the altar. Now it serves a practical purpose. It keeps the alb and the chasuble free from neck stains.

The alb is the baptismal garment of all Christians. It is a full-length gown made of white fabric. It may have embellishments at the sleeves and hem, which usually can be seen from beneath the chasuble.

The cincture is a cord with tassels at the end. While it helps to secure the alb it also reminds the priest that he is to bind himself in purity.

The stole is a long, narrow strip of cloth draped around the neck, a symbol of ordination. Usually it is the same color as the chasuble and for the most part is worn under the chasuble. Many of you however may recall seeing very ornately decorated stoles worn over the chasuble.

The most beautiful of the vestments is the chasuble. Chasubles are in the liturgical colors of white, red, green, rose and violet. A chasuble can be embroidered magnificently, cut from spectacular brocades or simple silks or contain various shades of fabric in geometric designs. Chasubles are wearable art. The chasuble is only worn for the celebration of the Eucharist.

The vesting prayer that accompanies the chasuble, perhaps best sums up the purpose of each piece of liturgical vesture and the expected intent of the priest who dons them; “O Lord, who hast said, ‘My yoke is sweet and my burden light’ grant that I may so carry it as to merit thy grace.”

Zahorik is director of worship at Most Blessed Sacrament Parish in Oshkosh.

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