Fr. Gavin - The Sacrifice of the Mass - Vestments
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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, and chasuble. 


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 of Mass. 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 me." 


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 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. 

  • CHAPTER THE FIRST. The Doctrine of the Sacrifice of the Mass 
  • CHAPTER THE SECOND. The Essence of the Mass 
  • CHAPTER THE THIRD. The Consecration of the Altar 
  • CHAPTER THE FOURTH. The Vestments 
  • CHAPTER THE FIFTH. The Asperges
  • CHAPTER THE SIXTH. The Ordinary of the Mass. Part the First: From the Beginning to the Offertory                                    
  • CHAPTER THE SEVENTH. The Introit, Kyrie, and Gloria in excelsis
  • CHAPTER THE EIGHTH. The Dominus vobiscum, Collect, Epistle                                   
  • CHAPTER THE NINTH. The Gradual, Alleluia, Tract, and Sequence   
  • CHAPTER THE TENTH. The Gospel and the Creed                               
  • CHAPTER THE ELEVENTH. Part the Second: The Offertory to the Canon                                   
  • CHAPTER THE TWELFTH. Part the Third: The Canon of the Mass                                   
  • CHAPTER THE THIRTEENTH. Part the Fourth: From the Pater Noster to the end of Mass                                    
  • CHAPTER THE FOURTEENTH. The Ceremonies of High Mass                                   
  • CHAPTER THE FIFTEENTH. Mass for the Dead                                    
  • APPENDIX: The Language of the Mass