Tuesday 24 March 2015

Behold the Lilies of the Field

It is Traddy Tuesday, and I have had ample opportunity to consider the treasure that cannot be eaten by moths for, lo, the moths are back and have eaten a hole in the carpet underneath the armchair in the study. How cross am I? I discovered the bald patch--and one of the horrid little beasts--as I was hoovering today, and I have no-one to blame but myself. I should have hoovered under that chair last week.  Fortunately I still have anti-moth spray on hand, so spritz, spritz, spritz.

The study used to be the linen cupboard for the Historical House, and as the Historical House must be having another wee problem with wicked beasties, I am terribly glad it is not my lot to store altar linens and vestments.

Some people who love the Traditional Latin Mass and other ancient rites absolutely swoon over vestments. Benedict Ambrose was a liturgy nerd in his youth, and so knows all the names. He has slowly imparted them to me ("Darling, how can you not know what a cotta is?"), so that I don't look too dumb when dinner conversation turns, as it often does, to vestments.  Of course, we don't always used the proper Latin names. "If he wears that moss green piece of rubbish one more time, I'm not coming back," is one traddy icebreaker with which I am well familiar.

You may be wondering what vestments have to do with the Gospel, and so I will link at once to the 1914 Catholic Encyclopedia which will tell you what St. Jerome said and about the symbolism of it all. I will add that there are some passages in Scripture about wearing appropriate clothing to celebrations.

Traditional vestments remind the priest (and us) that he is a priest, and not just "Joe" or "Bob" or "John" or "Mike", and he has various prayers he is supposed to say while he vests (puts his vestments on). The vestments also hide the priest's personality and even his physical shape. The most visually noticeable thing about him should be his chasuble, which usually has ornate orphreys, including large gold or silver sacred images, like a sacrificial lamb or a crucifixion. If your mind should wander during Mass, at least your eye is trained upon that holy picture.

Traditional vestments also remind the congregation of what day it is. If you should happen to pop into a Mass in the Extraordinary Form on a weekday, and the priest is wearing red, you know it is the feast day of a martyr. If he is wearing black, you know he is saying a Mass for the Dead. My Seminarian Pretend Son has an absolutely smashing black funeral chasuble embroidered with skeletons, and I want him to lend it to someone (or wear it himself, come to think of it) for MY funeral. No "celebration of life" for me! I want everyone to stare death in the eye and burst into tears.

Where was I? No, but actually, I enjoy thinking of my funeral, for it will be a proper traditional one, not the awful rushed ones performed by Father Land Speed Record or, now that Fr LSR has at last been allowed to retire, one of the jolly ones by Father Perpetual Cheer. Instead of listening to Father Whippersnapper tell them that I was a grand old girl and am now looking down at my all my loved ones from heaven,  Pirate, Peanut and Popcorn will be given the uncomfortable impression, thanks to the awesome spectacle of Father Pretend Son and his skeletons, that unless they pray their brains out, I will be poked by demonic forks and slow-roasted under a grill. No one is allowed to smile or laugh at my funeral; they must all weep. They can smile afterwards at the Funeral Tea and then laugh until they cry at the Funeral Supper.

Back to vestments. After Seminarian Pretend Son's skeletons, I like best our FSSP priest's rose-covered chasuble. It comes out only on Laetare Sunday and Gaudete Sunday, and it is terribly heavy, so it doesn't make it out in bad weather or on long trips. Thus, sadly, I did not see it in Dundee this Laetare Sunday.  Here is is:

One of the things about a rose ("Not pink!" shriek all liturgy nerds everywhere) vestment is that men tend not to like to wear rose-coloured things, and some priests actually refuse to wear them the day they are supposed to, robbing us of the lightening of heart rose vestments bring to Advent and Lent. But the very donning of rose underscores yet again that the priest is THE PRIEST during Mass, not "Bob", "Larry", "Dave", et alia. We are not usually his pals, we are not there for a one-on-one on him. His personality doesn't matter; in fact, sometimes it just gets in the way. Which is why vestments are so helpful, and also why I think, quite a lot of the time, the homily would be best at the END of Mass.  The Extraordinary Form of the Mass seems to have a natural flow from the Gospel to the Creed, as I've noticed when, for good reasons, there hasn't been a homily at all.

Update: Any further thoughts on vestments have been interrupted by the sudden delivery of three bottles of white wine.  Apparently a reader in Germany took to heart my Mothering Sunday- inspired wails for flowers, breakfast-in-bed and "more wine",  for he has sent me the wine. So thank you very much, Michael. That was a very kind thought.


  1. Haha well there's a good reason not to wait for the end of Mass for the homily... no one would stay for it. Besides, preaching would be such an anticlimax after the Canon...

  2. "...when dinner conversation turns, as it often does, to vestments."

    Yikes. Thrills and spills, hey? :P


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