O&A tagged posts

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.