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§ 101. Liturgical Vestments.


Besides the liturgical works already cited, Comp. John England (late R.C. bishop of Charleston, S. C., d. 1842): An Historical Explanation of the Vestments, Ceremonies, etc., appertaining to the holy Sacrifice of the Mass (an Introduction to the American Engl. edition of the Roman Missal). Philad. 1843. Fr. Bock. (R.C.): Geschichte der liturgischen Gewänder des Mittelalters. Bonn, 1856, 2 vols. C. Jos. Hefele: Beiträge zur Kirchengeschichte, Archäologie und Liturgik. Vol ii. Tüb. 1864, p. 150 ff.


The stately outward solemnity of public worship, and the strict separation of the hierarchy from the body of the laity, required corresponding liturgical vesture, after the example of the Jewish priesthood and cultus,11021102   To which in general the Greek and Roman system of vestments is very closely allied. On the Jewish sacred vestments, see Ex. xxviii. 1-53; xxxix. 1-31, etc. symbolical of the grades of the clergy and of the different parts of the worship.

In the Greek church the liturgical vestments and ornaments are the sticharion,11031103   Στοιχάριον, στιχάριον(by Goar always translated, dalmatica), a long coat corresponding to the broidered coat (תנֶתׄכְּ, χιτών,tunica, Ex. xxviii. 39) of the Jewish priest, and the alba and dalmatica of the Latin church. and the orarion, or horarion11041104   Ὡράριον(from ὡρα, hour of prayer), or ὠράριον, corresponding to the Latin stola. for the deacon; the sticharion, the phelonion,11051105   Φελώνιον, φαιλώνιον, a wide mantle, corresponding to the casula. the zone,11061106   Ζώνη, girdle, cingulum, balteus, corresponding to the ַאבְצֵט the epitrachelion,11071107   Ἐπιτραχήλιον, collarium, a double orarion, a scapulary or cape. and the epimanikia11081108   Ἐπιμανίκια,on the arms, corresponding to the manipulus. for the priest; the saccos,11091109   Σάκκος,a short coat with rich embroidery, without sleeves, and with little bells. the omophorion11101110   Ὠμοφόριον corresponding to the Latin pallium (and so translated by Goar) but broader, and fastened about the neck with a button. the epigonation,11111111   Ἐπιγονάτιον,also ὑπογονάτιον́, a quadrangular shield, reaching from the ζώνηto the knee, and signifying, according to Simeon Metaphrastes, the victory over death and the devil. and the crozier11121112   ̔Ράβδος, sceptrum. for the bishop. The mitre is not used by the Greeks.

The vestments in the Latin church are the amict or humeral11131113   The linen cloth which the priest, before celebrating, threw about his neck and shoulders, with the prayer: “Impone, Domine, capiti meo galeam salutis ad expugnandos diabolicos excursus.” It is nowhere mentioned before the eighth century. It answers to the Jewish ephod. the alb (white cope or surplice),11141114   Alba vestis, tunica, camisia, the white linen robe which hangs from the neck to the feet. From the alb arose, by shortening, the surplice (superpelliceum, rochetturn; French: surplis; German: Chorrock), which is the ordinary official dress of the lower clergy. the cincture,11151115   Cingulum, balteus, zona, a linen girdle for gathering up the alb. the maniple,11161116   Manipulus, sudarium, fano, mappula, originally a napkin, hung upon the left arm of deacons and priests, afterward only of bishops, after the Confiteor. the orarium or stole11171117   The stola is a linen vestment hanging from both shoulders. The pope wears the stole always; the priest, only when officiating. The council of Laodicea after 347 prohibited the wearing of it by subdeacons and the lower clergy. for the priest; the chasuble,11181118   Casula, planeta, the mass-vestment, covering the whole body, but without sleeves, with a cross behind and before embroidered in gold or fine silk. From the casula arose the pluviale, a festive mantle with a hood (casula calcullata), used in processions and on other state occasions. the dalmatic,11191119   So called from the place of its origin. It is an overgarment of costly material, similar to the casula, and worn under it. the pectoral11201120   The pectorale, crux pectoralis, is the breast-cross of bishops and archbishops, and answers probably to the breastplate of the Jewish high-priest. and the mitre11211121   The mitra, tiara, infula, birretum, is the episcopal head dress, after the type of the Jewish תפֶנֶצְמִ (LXX.: κίδαρις, Vulgate: tiara, mitra), originally single, after the eleventh century with two points, supposed to denote the two Testaments. for the bishop; the pallium for the archbishop. To these are to be added the episcopal ring and staff or crozier.

These clerical vestments almost all appear to have been more or less in use before the seventh century, though only in public worship; it is impossible exactly to determine the age of each. The use of priestly vestments itself originated in fact in the Old Testament, and undoubtedly passed into the church through the medium of the Jewish Christianity, but of course with many modifications. Constantine the Great presented the bishop Macarius of Jerusalem a splendid stole wrought with gold for use at baptism.

The Catholic ritualists of course give to the various mass-vestments a symbolical interpretation, which is in part derived from the undeniable meaning of the Jewish priestly garments,11221122   On the Jewish sacerdotal vesture and its symbolical meaning, Comp. Braun: Vestitus sacerdotum Hebraeorum, Amstel. 1698; Lundius: Die jüdischen Heiligthümer, pp. 418-445; Baehr: Symbolik des mosaischen Cultus, vol. ii. pp. 61-165. but in part is arbitrary, and hence variable. The amict, for example, denotes the collecting of the mind from distraction; the alb, the righteousness and holiness of the priests; the maniple, the fruits of good works; the stole, the official power of the priest; the mitre, the clerical chieftainship; the ring, the marriage of the bishop with the church; the staff his oversight of the flock.

The color of the liturgical garments was for several centuries white; as in the Jewish sacerdotal vesture the white color, the symbol of light and salvation, prevailed. But gradually five ecclesiastical colors established themselves. The material varied, except that for the amict and the alb linen (as in the Old Testament) was prescribed. According to the present Roman custom the sacred vestments, like other sacred utensils and the holy water, must be blessed by the bishop or a clergyman even appointed for the purpose. The Greeks bless them even before each use of them. The Roman Missal, and other liturgical books, give particular directions in the rubrics for the use of the mass vestments.

In everyday life, for the first five or six centuries the clergy universally wore the ordinary citizens’ dress; then gradually, after the precedent of the Jewish priests11231123    The prevailing color of the ordinary Jewish priestly costume was white; that of the Christian clerical costume, on the contrary, is black. and Christian monks, exchanged it for a suitable official costume, to make manifest their elevation above the laity. So late as the year 428, the Roman bishop Celestine censured some Gallic priests for having, through misinterpretation of Luke xii. 35, exchanged the universally used under-garment (tunica) and over-garment (toga) for the Oriental monastic dress, and rightly reminded them that the clergy should distinguish themselves from other people not so much by outward costume, as by purity of doctrine and of life.11241124   “Discernendi a caeteris sumus doctrina, non veste, conversatione, non habitu, mentis puritate, non cultu.” Comp. Thomassin, Vetus ac nova ecclesiae disciplina, P. i. lib. ii. cap. 43. Later popes and councils, however, enacted various laws and penalties respecting these externals, and the council of Trent prescribed an official dress befitting the dignity of the priesthood.11251125   Sess. xiv. cap. 6 de reform.: “Oportet clericos vestes proprio congruentes ordini semper deferre, ut per decentiam habitus extrinseci morum honestatem intrinsecam ostendant.”



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