I have an English teacher that is from Russia and she is Russian Orthodox that asked a question about the same kind of regalia that I see a lot in the Catholic Church. She asked, ‘Why if we as children of God are small in his omnipotent presence, why is the clothing and hats so large and colorful? Why does the Orthodox and Catholic faith need to have such separation in clothing from the congregation?’ I had no answer for it, so I am asking you nice people.
It’s the Church visible. We try to give glory to God in everything we do, we want the best for Him, to reverance Him and show our love and adoration. This is why we try to do the best we can; use the best stuff we can in our worship. Ultimately, what matters is the worship, but we do what we can to add reverance in our human way!
I’m confused because Jesus said for Christians to be humble and to cast off the excesses and to live with one’s self humble with God. Where does it say to give tribute in dress to God by wearing exotic clothing?
Ex. 25:38–40, 37:23–24; Num. 31:50–51; 2 Chr. 24:14
It is appropriate for high-ranking clergy to wear such ornaments because such things have been part of the true religion’s liturgical practice since ancient times. God commanded that the ephod and breast-piece worn by the high priest be made with gold, precious stones, and gems, including the ruby, sapphire, emerald, and amethyst (Ex. 25:7, 28:6-29, 35:9, 27, 39:3-21). He commanded that the high priest’s turban have a sacred diadem (crown plate) made of pure gold (Ex. 29:6, 39:30, Lev. 8:9). Gold was to be used in the priestly garments in general (Ex. 28:4-5). The purpose of these vestments and decorations was to give the high priest and the priests “dignity and honor” or “glory and beauty” (Ex. 28:40). Catholic clergy conform to the Bible in using these materials to honor God and his holy ministry.
With respect to vestments and mitres and “exotic clothing”, man’s nature is such that he needs external helps to assist him in fixing his attention on sacred things. We are all impressed to a remarkable degree by “pomp and circumstance.” A king on his throne, clad in his royal robes, holding his scepter and wearing his jeweled crown, is an imposing sight; all these accessories indicate his dignity and help us to realise his greatness. The same king without these trappings of royalty would possibly be a very insignificant object.
For this reason it has been customary in every age and country to invest those holding any position of dignity or practicing certain avocations with some uniform or badge, by which their rank and duties are designated. The soldier wears his uniform, by which he is distinguished from the ordinary citizen. The policeman, the fireman… each has his special garb, marking him as set apart for some definite work.
This is done for a twofold purpose – that others may respect and obey him as far as is necessary, and that he may respect himself and be more conscious of his duties and more attentive to them, on account of the uniform he wears. This is even more true of the religious garb. The priest wears it that he may be thereby distinguished from other men, and that he himself may be always reminded by it that he is "taken from among men to offer sacrifices and holocausts for them "-- to be a mediator between the Almighty and His creatures.
In every religion since the world began, the practice has been in vogue of wearing some form of vestment. The priest has had a distinctive dress, whether he was a…“medicine-man” of some… tribe, an augur of pagan Rome, or a priest of Israel. Here, as in many other cases, our Church has shown her wisdom by making use of a meritorious feature of other religions.
Vestments are a sacramental – that is, they are set apart and blessed by the Church to excite good thoughts and to increase devotion in those who see and those who use them. They are the uniform of the priest when he is “on duty,” while he is exercising the functions of his ministry and using the sacred powers which he received at his ordination.
It’s the vanity of the bureaucracy trying to impress the lowly faithful. Most of it is a holdover from the courts of the Roman emperors. We all know that it doesn’t impress God.
If you want “proper court dress,” you should be wearing a dark business suit, light colored shirt (preferably white), and a conservative necktie (plain colored or discretely striped). But the Church changes very slowly so that by the time the leaders get around to more modern court dress, the fashion will have changed significantly and they will still be attired in archaic styles.
My understanding is that the alb is nothing more than the white baptismal garment, while the chasuble is a variation on normal street attire that has been held over. In other words, the chasuble was at first a sort of a “Sunday best” cloak in white. By and by, liturgical colors were added to the line-up and the chasuble became a garment set aside for only one use.
As the years went by, street fashions changed, but it was decided it was not wanted that the attire of the priest be changed. It is true, though, that when the Sunday dress of the laity became more baroque, the vestments picked that up. As in architecture, that was slower to recede in the Church than in secular society. There is no reason to think this was purely a “top down” decision, though. If you don’t believe me, have a cruise over to the “Traditional Catholic” forum and see for yourself.
Consider that this “superiority” in clothing is only during the sacred liturgy, when the priest acts in personi Christi in a way that the laity do not. A priest does not wear these vestments for other occasions. At other times, the attire of priests is very often recognizable, but hardly conveys an attitude of trying to be superior. A Roman Catholic priest’s attire is practically Amish in its simplicity.
As far as being different goes, a priest is different. There is nothing wrong with dressing so as to be recognized as such. Certainly, when you go to a hospital, you like to have the staff dressed so you know who is there to render treatment and who is there for some other reason.
This willingness to be recognizable, I might add, has exposed priests to no small amount of abuse from total strangers in recent years. It is open to the laity to dress so as to be recognized as Catholics, by wearing a small crucifix, for example. So the question becomes not “Why do priests and religious dress so that they might be recognized as such?” but “Why is it that other Catholics don’t?”
Who exactly decided that a *business suit *is proper attire for leading worship? According to your analysis, isn’t that just trading the dress of the old power structure for the new one?
“Hey, Father, don’t dress like an Emperor. It’s 2008. You ought to dress like the President!” No vanity there! Again, even a priest’s street dress shows that he is in a totally different “business” than the other men on the street. Even in feudal times, you could tell a king from a bishop by their dress. This is not a bad reminder to see.
Notice your use of the word “archaic” in place of the no-less-appropriate “ancient” or “traditional” or even “old”. Do you see how choosing “archaic” is loads your rhetoric in favor of the recent over the older, for no other reason than that it is more recent? Why? Is novelty inherently edifying?
In fact, if a priest dresses in a way that no one dresses except for worship, the priest avoids showing solidarity with the fashionably dressed over the more modestly dressed. That, I think, is entirely edifying, gold edging or no.
If you had ever worn those vestments in an un-airconditioned church in mid-summer; Nay, even in a normally heated church in winter you would know that it is not motivated by vanity and the desire to impress.
I have seen scripture both for and against, but I think it basically comes down to the concept of glorifying God during the mass, or re-representation of the one sacrifice. Keep in mind, you have over 2000 years of history, custom, etc., involved. In just over 200 years, our country has developed many customs. Is the wearing of any of these considered dogmatic teaching of the Church, I don’t think so (could be wrong), but more than likely has some historic background. Not sure about Canon Law.
Amice, alb, cincture, stole, maniple, chasuble… The first is just a talith or prayer shawl worn by Jewish men during prayer. It is worn draped over the head which is how the priest puts it on before dropping it onto his shoulders. The next is a standard garment in white to symbolize purity. Try a white shirt and trousers. Cincture is just a belt; nothing unusual or odd about it. Holds up your pants. Stole is similar to a chain of office. Substitute a tie with the Vatican coat of arms. Maniple is a cloth to wipe the face. Put a clean linen handkerchief in your pocket, or tuck it into your shirt sleeve. Chasuble is an outer garment. Put on your suit coat. Now you are dressed in the current equivalent garments as specified for celebration of the Tridentine Latin Mass. What could be more Catholic than that?
If you are in doubt about my “interpretation” of the garments, see the St. Joseph Daily Missal published by E. J. McDevitt Co. and copyright by Catholic Book Publishing Co. 1959.
As you can see none of this requires the ornate decoration or expensive material that is typical of the robes ordinarily worn.
Side note: How is it that with the attention shown to the rest of his attire, the Vatican never said anything about footwear?