Anglican Moment: Vestments

Anglican Moment: Vestments

Just like the worship of the Hebrews in the Old Testament, our worship is accompanied by certain sacred clothing called “vestments.” Everyone who has a special part to play in our liturgy wears a certain kind of vestment including the choir and acolytes. These vestments help us to remember that what we do during this time is important. The vestments also focus us away from our individual selves and on the role that we are playing as part of the worship of God.

This biblical principle of wearing sacred clothing is found not only in the Old Testament but also practiced in the worship of heaven.  Those who serve before the Lord in worship wear garments to reflect His presence.  They wear distinct clothing.  Specifically, the vestments of heaven and earth are Christ-centered, meaning they are all designed to remind us of some aspect of the presence of the Living Lord.  The vestments of the priest all derive from the clothing of a 1st century Roman, and have special symbolism attached to each piece. The vestments of the priest are visually appealing and based on the liturgical color of the day or season to help us reflect on the theme of the celebration at hand.

The first and most basic vestment the priest wears is the white alb. This was the most common garment in Palestine in the first century. It is to this garment that our Lord is referring when he speaks of the “coat” in Matthew (“If a man ask of thee thy cloak give him thy coat also.”) Being of white linen, the alb represents the purity of Christ and; therefore, symbolizes innocence, chastity, purity, and joy of those who have been redeemed by the blood of the Savior.

Just like the worship of the Hebrews in the Old Testament, our worship is accompanied by certain sacred clothing called “vestments.” Everyone who has a special part to play in our liturgy wears a certain kind of vestment including the choir and acolytes. These vestments help us to remember that what we do during this time is important. The vestments also focus us away from our individual selves and on the role that we are playing as part of the worship of God.

This biblical principle of wearing sacred clothing is found not only in the Old Testament but also practiced in the worship of heaven.  Those who serve before the Lord in worship wear garments to reflect His presence.  They wear distinct clothing.  Specifically, the vestments of heaven and earth are Christ-centered, meaning they are all designed to remind us of some aspect of the presence of the Living Lord.  The vestments of the priest all derive from the clothing of a 1st century Roman, and have special symbolism attached to each piece. The vestments of the priest are visually appealing and based on the liturgical color of the day or season to help us reflect on the theme of the celebration at hand.

The first and most basic vestment the priest wears is the white alb. This was the most common garment in Palestine in the first century. It is to this garment that our Lord is referring when he speaks of the “coat” in Matthew (“If a man ask of thee thy cloak give him thy coat also.”) Being of white linen, the alb represents the purity of Christ and; therefore, symbolizes innocence, chastity, purity, and joy of those who have been redeemed by the blood of the Savior.

The second vestment the priest wears in the cincture with which the alb I girded. It holds the stole in place and represents the rope with which Christ was bound to the pillar during flagellation. It symbolizes chastity, temperance, and self-restraint. “Spiritually, the cincture reminds the priest of the admonition of St. Peter: “So gird the loins of your understanding; live soberly; set all your hope on the gift to be conferred on you when Jesus Christ appears.  As obedient sons, do not yield to the desires that once shaped you in you ignorance.  Rather, become holy yourselves in every aspect of your conduct, after the likeness of the holy One who called you” (I Peter 1:13-15).”

Over the alb and around the neck of the priest is the third vestment is a colored stole that matched the color of the Church season. It represents the yoke of Christ referred to in the Gospels (Matthew 11:29); the yoke was an instrument that kept an ox in harness.  The stole therefore reminds the minister that he is to be doing Christ’s ministry and work. Therefore, the stole is a symbol of the office and work of a priest.

The final vestment is the chasuble. Derived from the Latin word casula meaning “little house.” Originally, the chasuble in the Graeco-Roman world was like a cape that completely covered the body and protected the person from inclement weather. This was the outer coat issued to Roman soldiers in cold weather. It represents our Lord’s coat without seams for which soldiers at the cross cast lots and the purple cloak Pilate ordered placed on Christ as King of the Jews. Spiritually, it represents protection and charity. Thus, the chasuble reminds the priest of the charity of Christ: “Over all these virtues put on love (charity), which binds the rest together and makes them perfect” (Colossians, 3:14).  The clergyman inside the chasuble (i.e., “little house”) reminds the people of Christ in the midst of His house, for at the Holy Eucharist, Christ comes to be really present with His people (sources: “An Instructional Commentary for the Order of Holy Communion” by The Rt. Rev. Ray R. Sutton; website article from the Church of the Holy Comforter in Cleburne, TX;  Catolicstraightanswers.com)

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