Vestments, Chalices, Incense, & other Finery

I have an acquaintance who is appalled that the Catholic Church has chalices, monstrances, the Pope’s tiara, candelabra(?), etc., in its worship and churches. She says that Jesus never had any of these things, so how does His Church, which she does not believe the Catholic Church is, justify having all of this.
I saw in some previous research that God directed the Israelites to make vestments for Aaron. Are there Biblical passages which “justify” having all these ornate items where we worship God.
I really appreciate any help giving her an answer to what I essentially consider an objection to what I’ve accepted and been comfortable with in my 60+ years of being a Catholic.

These are part of our worship to God…and part of our Liturgy.

The Liturgy is one of the granduers of the Church to honor and worship God, which includes our cathedrals, Catholic art, images, etc.

The religion of Israel was centred on the Temple in Jerusalem.
Here were held the great festivals which enacted and renewed the
covenant between God and his chosen people. Everything about the
temple liturgies celebrated and reinforced this identity as a holy
nation set apart by their stringent laws of ritual purity, and
lifted the minds and hearts of the participants collectively
towards God. But above all this rich religious life of priestly
chant, endless sacrifices, processions, incense, and the turning
circle of feast days through the year, was designed to embody the
hope of the coming of the Messiah, spoken of in the unique Hebrew
tradition of divine prophecy. The Christ would gather a universal
people, bring in a perfect worship, joining the people’s praise
with the eternal worship of the angelic choirs, and finally
liberate humanity from the power of sin by engendering inner
purity of mind and heart, instead of mere conformity to ritual
law. He would bring about lasting peace and communion between
heaven and earth.

Some Christians of the Reformation have taken this command to
worship “in Spirit and truth” to mean that liturgical and priestly
actions ought to have been left behind now, and only individual,
spontaneous, inspiration is authentic “spiritual” Christian
worship. But this is to misunderstand the nature of the work of
Christ and the sending of the Spirit…The Church is the sacrament of the
Incarnation - the vehicle of the continuing work of Christ in the
Spirit. The sacramental economy of the New Testament invites,
requires and enables us to respond to God with personal faith and
love, but does not simply consist in the shared enthusiasm of
believers. The primary purpose of the Church’s liturgical worship
is not to express our feelings towards God, but to express and
impress the Personality of Christ upon us.

e may now understand a little more why the “language” of signs
that we use in our earthly liturgies is not an arbitrary one, not
ours to play with and re-invent as we will most particularly when
it comes to the sacraments themselves. It is true there is a
certain level at which liturgy interacts with culture.

The language and symbolism of the liturgy is not monophonic or
monotonous in mood. It is at times the language of the joyful
mysteries, incorporating all the beauty and simplicity of nature,
expressions of uncomplicated love and joyous devotion, as well as
the grandeur of human artistry in image and song. The liturgy is
also marked throughout by the sign of the cross.

Protestants often read the NT and come to the conclusion that Jesus was anti-Jewish or something. Quite the contrary. He was emphasizing a conversion of the heart. What good are vestments and chalices and all this nice stuff if you are hard hearted sinners going to hell?

It’s poor exegesis

You could point her to the Old Testament precedent, as others do. But she may disregard that.

Ask her how her church worships God. Did Jesus use a leather-bound bible with black ink and English language? Did Jesus use wooden pews and hymnals? Did Jesus use podiums and microphones? Did Jesus use buildings like the ones she worships in? Ask her why she thinks Jesus had to specifically use these items in order for them to be involved in Christian worship. Did Jesus have the Gospel of Matthew, Mark, John… or any of the New Testament works? Surely she uses those in worship.

If she gets this basic point, maybe what she really objects to is the elaborate decoration of such objects – gold and silver and such. Ask her who she thinks deserves the best of the best. Ask her how she thinks one ought to dress up for church. Ask her: If you knew that Jesus or even some other biblical figure – or some significant Christian leader in her tradition – was coming to your home, what would you wear? I’m guessing she’d wear more than pajamas or a pair of sweat pants. Remind of her the wise men and what they gave to the Holy Family. Remind her of Judas’ complaint in the gospels when he saw the woman “waste money” on Jesus – and remind her of Jesus’ reply.

Maybe it’s not so much the reservation of the best of the best for God. Maybe it has to do with images and art. Maybe she thinks they are distractions. Here you must explain to her what idolatry really is – and how the bible does not object to art or images as such (even God commanded the Israelites to make figures on the Ark of the Covenant). Explain how Catholics understand Christianity as an INCARNATIONAL faith. Jesus gave us the example in his own incarnation of how matter and the physical can be used to glorify God.

Maybe what she really has trouble with is why such precious materials are associated with mere men – like vestments or the papal tiara. Well in some of these cases, like the vestments, simply remind her of a few things: (1) we reserve the best for God, (2) beauty glorifies God, (3) Christianity is the fulfillment of Judaism, which used vestments in its liturgical life, (4) some of the clerical dress is simply old Roman clothing that the church simply never got rid of when fashion began to develop.

As for something like the papal tiara, remind her that the Catholic Church is 2,000 years old. Even if she doesn’t consider it to be the truth church, she will at least understand that the Catholic Church pre-dates all modern nations. It was there before America. It was there before our robust idea of democracy and individualism. It was there throughout the Middle Ages. It was there during Augustine’s time. It was there with Ignatius, who called communion with bishops as essential for unity in the “catholic church.” So the Catholic Church has endured many cultures. The papal tiara is just one of those residue items that does not translate well in today’s culture but was much more understood a few hundred years ago, when all Europeans acknowledged the pope as a divine establishment in the church and, therefore, the world.

You are allowed to admit that something like the tiara may scandalize us today. You can even say that the church has endured abuses, and that sometimes popes of past have acted more like lords than servants. I myself am not a huge fan of some of the pomp when it comes to the papacy (including the tiara). But the important thing to remember is the papacy has existed before the tiara, and it has existed after. It is just a cultural artifact that was meaningful and understood at a certain time in European history.

Remind her that Christianity is much more than American Christianity or Evangelicalism. Remind her that cultures throughout the globe today and throughout history have adopted Christianity in their own ways.

A more important point: Ask her how SHE knows how one ought to worship.

That’s nonsense…Jesus never had a car or a computer, or a cellphone and yet I wager she has all of that and then some, so her logic is fallacious.

Do priests’ vestments contradict Scripture?

As for candles…what exactly does she think Jesus used for lighting? :shrug:

A chalice is nothing more than a cup and Our Blessed Lord certainly had one and definitely at the last supper. So that’s an

I take it that she’s never seen pictures of priests in the OT? Show her this…

Then turn the tables on her and ask her where exactly does the Bible claim to be the only and final authority for all that Christians believe and practice. She feed you a number of verses that she thinks make her case but rake your Bible and show her things like context. You might wanna read through this thread to prepare for that discussion. It’s NOT in the Bible, okay?

Because while Jesus never took upon any of these for himself, we his servants acknowledge that he isn’t just anyone: he is God Almighty, and as such, is worthy of the best we can offer him. He never rejected precious things given to him.

There is indeed one passage in Scripture dealing with Jesus and precious items and someone being scandalized. That guy scandalized was Judas Iscariot.

I’d say those who object to giving Jesus the best of our material goods are not in good company.

Much of what you see in a Catholic Church, Mass, etc., has a historical and Traditional reason behind it. The vestments used by priests, bishops, etc are throwbacks to style of dress of earlier times. Candles must be of beeswax (don’t know if that has been softened a bit lately) because candles are what was used by early Christians in the catacombs and other places of hiding when saying and attending Mass could get you a date with the lions and the gladiators in the Coliseum. Monstrance, chalices, etc harken back to a period when God and Christ were worshipped more in their “kingly” identity. Stained glass windows and statues are products of a time when the vast majority of the Catholic faithful (and all the faithful for that matter) were illiterate and the depictions in the windows were used by the Mass celebrant to emphasize a particular point. (Pre Reformation times, pre printing press)

And by the way, much of what is used now is gold plate, silver plate and inexpensive metals that look like the real thing. And a lot of the newer things are composed of simple glass, brass, fired clay, gilding, etc.

As to your acquaintance, what she would prefer?. Maybe a mass said using a Big Gulp cup from 7-11, a lazy Susan, and a celebrant clad in levis and a tee shirt emblazoned with a Harley Davidson logo?
Your acquaintance is just another person who knows nothing about the Catholic Church and is eager to let everyone else know it. When will these people ever first try to learn something about the target of their criticism, before opening their mouth? Sorry if that’s a bit harsh, but one gets tired of hearing over and over the same lame criticisms, half-truths, and outright lies in criticizing my church. (and yes, I know, Jesus says “the world will hate you as it has hated me” …)


The bishop, and by extension the priest if presiding, represents Christ the King. The glory of the vestments reflect not his own glory but that of the one High Priest. An Evangelical pastor in an expensive suit draws attention to himself as “Pastor Joe”. A priest in vestments disappears into the ritual…he empties himself and simply becomes “another Christ”.

In regards to Our Lord not having expensive things…does your friend forget this exchange in the Gospel:

Matthew 26:7-12:
There came to him a woman having an alabaster box of precious ointment, and poured it on his head as he was at table.
And the disciples seeing it, had indignation, saying: To what purpose is this waste?
For this might have been sold for much, and given to the poor.
And Jesus knowing it, said to them: Why do you trouble this woman? for she hath wrought a good work upon me.
For the poor you have always with you: but me you have not always.
For she in pouring this ointment upon my body, hath done it for my burial.


…so you’re allowing Protestantism to cloud your vision?

…here’s what Christ said about the function of the Church:

[FONT=“Garamond”][size=]18 And I say to thee: That thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 19 And I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven. And whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose upon earth, it shall be loosed also in heaven.

(St. Matthew 16:18-19)

15 But if thy brother shall offend against thee, go, and rebuke him between thee and him alone. If he shall hear thee, thou shalt gain thy brother. 16 And if he will not hear thee, take with thee one or two more: that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may stand. 17 And if he will not hear them: tell the church. And if he will not hear the church, let him be to thee as the heathen and publican. 18 Amen I say to you, whatsoever you shall bind upon earth, shall be bound also in heaven; and whatsoever you shall loose upon earth, shall be loosed also in heaven. (St. Matthew 18:15-18)

… This is my body, which is given for you. Do this for a commemoration of me… (St. Luke 22:19-20)

31 And the Lord said: Simon, Simon, behold Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: 32 But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and thou, being once converted, confirm thy brethren. (St. Luke 22:31-32)

14 Let not your heart be troubled. You believe in God, believe also in me.

15 If you love me, keep my commandments. (St. John 14:1,15)

4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abide in the vine, so neither can you, unless you abide in me.

… Abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you shall abide in my love… 12 This is my commandment, that you love one another, as I have loved you. …14 You are my friends, if you do the things that I command you. (St. John 15:4, 8-14)

… “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” (St. John 20:21-23)

15 When therefore they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter: Simon son of John, lovest thou me more than these? He saith to him: Yea, Lord, thou knowest that I love thee. He saith to him: Feed my lambs. 16 He saith to him again: Simon, son of John, lovest thou me? He saith to him: Yea, Lord, thou knowest that I love thee. He saith to him: Feed my lambs. 17 He said to him the third time: Simon, son of John, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved, because he had said to him the third time: Lovest thou me? And he said to him: Lord, thou knowest all things: thou knowest that I love thee. He said to him: Feed my sheep. (St. John 21:15-17)
Did Jesus Command the Twelve to Write Epistles? …or to compile 73 Books into a single volume and title it the Bible?

Where in Scriptures does it state that Jesus called anyone an Apostle?

…and where did Jesus give any permission to create offices other than the Eleven Disciples?

…you see, my brother/sister in Christ, they are pulling at straws… the very first thing we know about Christ and the Church is that He stated that on Cephas/Kephas He was Instituting His Church, and that the Church, through Cephas’ Delegated Authority could bind (hold) and loosen (release). The Church, as an organism Guided by Christ and the Holy Spirit, will grow in both numbers (from a mere Eleven+) and in Doctrine (Worship methods and practices).

The elements which Jesus made manifest would be unfolded and brought into maturity as the Holy Spirit Convicts the Church:

12 I have yet many things to say to you: but you cannot bear them now. 13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will teach you all truth. For he shall not speak of himself; but what things soever he shall hear, he shall speak; and the things that are to come, he shall shew you. 14 He shall glorify me; because he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it to you. 15 All things whatsoever the Father hath, are mine. Therefore I said, that he shall receive of mine, and shew it to you.

(St. John 16:12-15)
…ask her: “why aren’t you appalled at the myriad of splinters that Protestantism has induced in the Mystical Body?” “Can Christ be honored by schism?”

Maran atha!




…yeah… but it wasn’t only Judas… though, he clearly had the most to gain!

Maran atha!


Hi, Joey!

…well, we can’t really blame her… after all, the Church insists on looking like the Church of the centuries… and she refuses to join the multiplex and entertainment centers, er newer ways of “worship.”

Maran atha!



…my God, what is the world coming to? Jesus is taking things from the poor–and liking it! :bigyikes::bigyikes::bigyikes:

…or the reality is that Jesus accepted this poor soul’s adoration as a prelude to His Suffering and Death.

…why can’t people see the Truth in Church Worship?

Maran atha!


The Ark of the Covenant .

St Francis of Assissi prescribed poverty for his order, and living as Christ had. St Francis was at odds with his order as it grew and these type of objects were introduced.

Hi J! :thumbsup:

You know J, I might be out of step with the in crowd today, but I attend Mass and generally hang out in a basilica. There is an incredible sense of “Presence” there; like the feeling of being in your Dad’s big old comfortable traditional house. The quiet, the Romanesque arches, the magnificent height of the dome above the altar,the crucifix over an incredible altar that, in the dark, seems suspended in air of its own accord. Oh and did I mention the twenty six magnificent stained glass windows, the beautiful six foot stations of the cross and the rows of seats filled daily by thirty to forty monks singing vespers. Somehow I just couldn’t seem to get the same feeling in a church sandwiched between a Dunkin Donuts and a movie theater showing Naked Cannibal Vixens of the Leather Fetish Planet… Guess it is just my antediluvian old self talking.:rolleyes::popcorn::whacky::nope:

There is also the oil.

Jesus also didn’t wear a suit (I’ll bet her minister wears a suit, not ‘vestments’). Jesus didn’t have a Bible and a podium (I’ll bet those are front and center). Jesus didn’t have guitars (sometimes I think, Lucky Jesus), bands, projectors, etc. And He didn’t have little wine glasses with grape juice.

He didn’t have big mega plex churches. Or televised ‘gospel preachers’. Or altar calls. Or a plethora of ‘ministries’ and outreaches and speakers. . .

Also I wonder if the OP’s friend has ever gone into a nice "high Anglican/Episcopal’ church with its priests in vestments, incense, stained glass, gold chalice, and criticized THEM. And she would probably drop dead of spleen walking into an Orthodox church. (Not to mention Eastern Catholic Churches, many Lutheran, Methodist, and other ‘mainstream’ churches OR the Mormon Tabernacle. . .as well asJewish synagogues, Buddhist temples with their giant gold buddhas, Hindu temples, etc. etc.)

Hi, Joey!

I truly envy that experience!

…it is sad how people continue to move away from such valued traditions… it is as though they are not even thinking about the reason why they seek to come together… sadly, too many Catholic parishes are being lured by the “modern” drum… first they remove Christ from the Cross… now some don’t even include Christ… soon there will be no Altar… of course ATM’s could be the next rave, along with starbucks and a video dispensing machine… ‘God? …whose that character?’

I remember as a child walking into my neighborhood parish… everything pointed to and drew us to God… incense filled the air during each Mass Celebration… the quietness, the respect… wow! People, both cultured and uncouth alike, knew the reason why they were visiting the Father’s House… they offered their seats to others, the slightest look would correct any disrespectful behavior and talk about the veneration that the whole Church (Clergy and Laity) would bestow upon the Consecration–God was the focus point of the experience of the Mass.

There was one parish that topped mime, the Franciscan parish; along with everything else they kept a twenty-four-hour vigil of the Holy Sacrament… when the doors closed the monstrance was moved to a special location that would allow parishioners to view it from outside of the Church… so those who could not commit to long periods of veneration could drop by for a few minutes at a time on their way to or from home…

The Protestants have moved away from this understanding… and, to our detriment, Catholics seem to be following right behind them… doing away with historical sound practices and employing the “modern” times rhetoric… we keep pushing God out of our lives, even our “religious” life, for the sake of modernism. :crying::crying::crying:

Maran atha!


Look through the worship described at various points in the book of revelation

Here is another way of looking at it.

The church had the authority of bishops who celebrated mass even in the first century.

The business of making the sacraments symbolic and removing vestments and other items from church was a modern invention of Zwingli during the reformation (16th century). Some later reformers followed suit.

Tradition does not support your friend.

Additionally, in Galatians 3, Paul indicates that Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified before their eyes. And no, he is not admonishing them for it. The admonishment relates to their legalism despite Christ’s sacrifice.

The OT also shows God commanding the making of images at certain times.

But St Francis was NEVER at odds with these objects being used for churches. In fact, he insisted that his followers use the finest possible in order to venerate Christ.

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