DURING the lifetime of the Apostles
and their immediate successors the form of the sacred vestments hardly differed from those used in everyday life. We are safe
in saying that the dress selected for the altar was of a superior quality, and so far as circumstances permitted, the most
suited among the garments then in use.
Vestments are always blessed by the
Bishop or priest before being worn at the altar. The vestments worn at the altar are the amice, alb, girdle, maniple, stole,
The amice was originally a covering
for the head and shoulders. It now consists of one oblong piece of linen with two strings and with a cross in the centre.
Members of many Religious Orders wear the amice as a cowl while they advance to the altar for Mass, and in beginning the Mass
let down the amice on the shoulders. The amice is their berretta or priest’s cap, which is taken off at the beginning
A berretta is a square cap with three or sometimes four corners. The four-cornered berretta belongs to Doctors of Divinity.
"At Rome," says Benedict XIV., "and in most churches, the
berretta was unknown as late as the ninth century. Its ecclesiastical use began when priests gave up the ancient custom of
covering their heads with the amice till the actual beginning of the Mass."
(Cath. Diet. p. 86.)
As the priest puts on the amice he
repeats the words: Impone, Domine, capiti meo galeam salutis ad expugnandos diabolicos incursus "Place, O Lord, on my head
the helmet of salvation, that so I may resist all the assaults of the devil."
After the amice comes the alb, which
was undoubtedly some sort of tunic or inner garment reaching to the ground. Formerly clerks in minor orders wore a shorter
alb; from this rose the surplice now worn by the priest and the rochet by the Bishop. The priest says: Dealba me, Domine,
et munda cor meum, ut in Sanguine Agni dealbatus gaudiis perfruar sempiternis "Make me white, O Lord, and cleanse my heart;
that being made white in the blood of the Lamb, I may deserve eternal reward."
The whiteness of the alb signifies
the purity of con science which should belong to a priest.
The girdle is required to fasten
the alb and to prevent it from trailing along the ground; it also signifies chastity: Pvacinge me, Domine, cingulo puritatis
et extingue in lumbis meis humorem libidinis, ut maneat in me virtus continentia et castitatis "Gird me, O Lord, with the
girdle of purity, and quench in my reins the fire of concupiscence: that the virtue of continence and chastity may abide in
Next the maniple. Originally it served
the purpose of a cloth or handkerchief, but since the ninth century it has become one of the priest’s vestments. It
is the same colour as the chasuble.
The priest says, while he places
the maniple on his arm: Merear, Dominc, portare manipulum fletus et doloris, ut cum exultatione vecipiam mercedem laboris
"May I deserve, O Lord, to bear the maniple of tears and sorrow, that with joy I may receive the reward of my labour."
The stole is really an abridgment
of the orarium. Round the neck was placed an oblong piece of linen, called the orarium, which was by women spread in time
of prayer over the head and shoulders, falling round the body like a veil. The orarium worn by ecclesiastics was bordered
with streaks of purple, and when in course of time its dimensions were contracted, these ornaments were retained as marks
of honour, while the plain linen portions were cut away, so that it was reduced to a band which surrounded the neck and fell
down below the knees on both sides of the body. (Rock, Hierurgia, vol. ii. p. 223.)
The stole is worn differently by
the deacon, priest, and Bishop at Mass. The deacon wears
it from the left shoulder under the right, where it is tied; the priest in the form of a cross across the breast, there it
is fixed by the Bishop at ordination; and as the Bishop has the cross on his breast, the stole drops down at either side in
the same way as the priest wears it while preaching.
Taking the stole, the priest says:
Redde mihi t Domine, stolam immortalitatis, quam perdidi in pvavavicatione pvimi parentis, et quamvis indignus accedo ad tuutn
sacrum mysterium, merear tamen gaudium sempitemum "Restore me, O Lord, the stole of immortality which I lost in the transgres
sions of our first parent; and although unworthy to approach Thy Sacred Mysteries, may I deserve to inherit eternal joys."
The chasuble is the chief vestment
worn by the priest at Mass. Originally its shape was very different from that in use now. It completely covered the body the
only aperture was at the top for the head. In the eleventh century the shape was altered and the sides were opened. It then
took the form of a Gothic chasuble. This shape was preserved until the sixteenth century. After that time the chasuble was
further cut away until it reached its present shape. On the face of the Roman chasuble we have the cross, on the back the
column, though sometimes in the Roman vestment there is a cross also on the back.
Originally there can be no doubt
the chasuble was the garment worn over other clothes, and corresponding to what we call an overcoat. The Romans wore a large
outer garment on military service, called the paenula or mantle. In the first half of the sixth century we find the first
traces of the paenula as an ecclesiastical garment. Did it at once become distinctive of the priesthood? The question admits
of no certain answer. (Cath. Diet. p. 162.)
The priest, while putting on the
chasuble, says: D online qui dixisti jugum meum suave est et onus meum leve, fac ut istud port are sic valeani quod consequav
tuani gvatiam "O Lord, who hast said, My yoke is sweet and My burden is light, grant me so to bear Thy yoke that I may obtain
Thy grace." (1 As there is no necessary connection between the various prayers just quoted and the vestments, no attempt has
designedly been made to explain the meaning of these prayers.)
The veil covers the chalice. The
burse holds the corporal, and is in shape like a square envelope. The corporal, so-called from corpus (a body), because on
it rests the Body of the Lord after the consecration, is a square piece of linen with a cross in the centre. The pall is a
linen covering on the top of the chalice to prevent dust or flies from falling into the Precious Blood. Originally the corporal
was larger than at present, and acted as a pall, being folded back over the chalice.
The purificator is an oblong piece
of linen cloth, stretched over the mouth of the chalice, and it is used to wipe the mouth, the chalice, and the paten.
Corporal and pall are blessed; the
purificator need not be blessed.
The chalice is the cup used in Mass
for the wine which is to be consecrated. The rubrics of the Missal require that it should be of gold or silver, or at least
have a silver cup gilt inside. The chalice is consecrated by the Bishop, who anoints the interior of the chalice with chrism,
using at the same time the prayers prescribed by the Ritual.
The paten is a plate used from the
earliest times to receive the Host consecrated at Mass.
The side on which the Host rests must be gilt. The paten is also consecrated by a Bishop.
THE COLOURS OF THE VESTMENTS.
The Church uses five colours at Mass
white, red, green, violet, black.
White is used on all great feasts
of the year with the single exception of Pentecost (when red is pre scribed in memory of the tongues of fire which on that
day descended on the Apostles), and for Confessors, Virgins, and the Mother of God.
Red is worn for Pentecost, for Holy
Innocents, when it falls on a Sunday, and always for its octave, for the Finding and Exaltation of the Cross, for Martyrs,
and for all the feasts of the Passion.
Green is worn on the Sundays and
Ferias after the Epiphany to Septuagesima, and from the octave of Pentecost to Advent on which no festival occurs (except
the Sundays within octaves, which follow the rule of the festival).
Violet, which is the penitential
colour, is worn in the penitential times of Advent and Lent, upon Vigils, and on the feast of Holy Innocents.
Black is used on Good Friday and
in Masses for the Dead.