Category Weekly Q&A

Weekly Q&A – 20140621

Identify three sacred vestments, when they are worn, and what they represent.  Name at least two ways that the symbol of pastoral vestments may be better understood by the faithful?

Vestments worn by the pastor during the Divine Service have a long history and each has a distinct history and meaning.  Three of the most common vestments are the Alb, the Chasuble and the Stole.  What follows is a brief description and historical meaning of each.


The Alb is the basic undergarment worn by pastors and others during the entire service.  The Alb is named such from the Latin word, albus which means ‘white’.  Historically, newly baptized Christians were dressed in a new white tunic to symbolize there new life in Christ.  Over the years these tunics varied in length with shorter lengths for the young and longer for the mature.  The longer tunic is typically gathered at the waist by a rope-like chord called a cincture or girdle.  Thus, the historic and modern Alb worn by pastors during the liturgy are the baptismal attire.  Given the centrality of baptism to the faith, the pastor wears the Alb to remember his own baptism and to remind the congregation of their baptism.  The cincture/girdle, in addition to securing the Alb and Stole, also denotes chastity and purity and is the girding of the loins with truth from Ephesians 6:14.

The Chasuble began as an loose over garment worn by the plain folk of the ancient Greece.  There is some reference to it being worn by St. Paul and at the time was called paenula.  Paenula were a simple cloak, similar to the poncho of Spain and Latin America, worn over the clothing during the work day and was adopted as a cover for the aristocracy while riding or traveling.  Originally a humble garment, the aristocracy begin to decorate their paenula and began to tailor the fit.  St. Augustine referred to the paenula as a Chasuble in his writings as it was a casula or ‘little house’ for priest and monks when they traveled.  Early versions were full and round typically made of skins or heavy material to keep the wearer warm.  Over time they became smaller being made of lighter materials particularly silk when it became available.  They also became more decorative including woven trim made of fine material or gold.  Much of the elaborate decorations were rejected during the English Reformation yet as time has past the clergy of these Christian churches have returned to more embellishment.  Pastors don the Chasuble for the sacrament of the Lords Supper as a yoke that recalls the love and charity of Christ from Colossians 3:14

The Stole has an even more humble beginning.  Originally, it was a handkerchief called a sudarium.  Over time it became a scarf like garment that was worn around the neck and called a oraria.  The oraria was used to clean cups and eating wear.  They began to be used to clean the cup and plate that held the Lord’s Supper elements.  The modern Stole recalls the prayer shawls that rabbis wear.  There length and narrow design also call back to carrying a weapon strap over one shoulder and a provisions strap over the other, thus the crisscrossing by the pastor as the authority of his office.  It also reminds the pastor to preach God’s Word with the courage and conviction of a soldier of God.


Weekly Q&A – 20140614

Choose one of the following theologies and explore how they are emphasized both in historic liturgical forms (i.e., the Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours) and in the German Lutheran Messe: theologia cruces, sola fide, the Real Presence of Christ.

My interest in this question stems from the fact that we have only one theology, that of the Cross.  Particulars such as sola fide and the Real Presence of Christ are part and parcel of the Theology of the Cross (theologia cruces).  Critical to this is that in his writings, specifically the Heidelberg Disputation, Martin Luther focuses three theses (19, 20 & 21) on defining who is and who is not a theologian.  Only later does Luther set forth the Cross as “our theology.”  Thus, it is that theologia cruces defines the theologian, but also the praxis of our theology in liturgy forms.Cross at Mission San Jose, San Antonio, Texas

The medieval Mass retained many elements of the theologia cruces, including the penitential Kyrie, the laudatory Gloria, the confessional Credo, the laudatory Sanctus and the penitential Agnus Dei.  Because these parts of the Mass remained focused on Christ’s work and our creaturely position, Luther kept them in the Messe.  As such these should remain as part of any modern liturgical forms.

All liturgical forms should remain focused upon ‘suffering and the Cross.’  Recently, two threats to the Lutheran liturgical form of proclamation have returned, these are the ‘decadent pietism’ identified by Forde and ‘functional Arminianism’ identified by Curtis.  These threats can be qualified as personal affirmation (of oneself and of others) and ‘making a decision for Christ.’  Each are a danger to true worship and are a degradation of the liturgy.

As theologians of the Cross and responsible liturgists, we should be on guard against these threats as we consider what is included and excluded from our services.  Over the years older hymns (chorales) and modern hymns that focus on God and His Christ as the actors and we as the passive recipients of His actions can and should continue to be included.  Modern and camp meeting (gospel music?) songs should be view critically before inclusion as they tend to affirm us and reinforce our own idolatry.

We must continue to teach and preach that all of us should be very cautious of what is brought into our congregations.  Very few, if any, resources found at the local ‘Christian’ bookstore have been seriously vetted as meeting the standard of ‘suffering and the Cross.’  All pastors and teachers should use the theological analysis that was discussed in class.  Although our class focus was on hymn analysis, these points seem to be a good starting point for what should or should not be included in the liturgy.  The points were: 1. Is the form about God’s grace and thanksgiving?; 2. Does the form include works righteousness?; and 3. Is the Cross central in the form?

Additionally, one could add that the forms should be true and beautiful.  Ultimately, those historical and modern liturgical forms that give all might, majesty, dominion, power, and all the glory of our salvation to God alone, have and will stand the test of time.  No other forms are more important and far-reaching than standing firm in the theologia cruce.