Sunday, June 19, 2011


Tridentine Community News (June 19, 2011):
[Today’s column is an update of our June 25, 2006 edition.] If you have been attending the Tridentine Mass for a while, you have surely noticed that a greater variety of vestments is used than is typically seen at a Novus Ordo Mass. Today we will examine what they are, as well as their symbolism.

The base garment that a priest wears is the black cassock, or robe. This is the same type of robe that altar servers wear. Over the shoulders of the cassock, a priest wears an amice, a white hood-like garment that symbolizes the helmet of salvation.

Over the cassock, he wears an alb, a white outer garment that signifies purity of conscience. (Altar servers wear a white surplice over their cassocks.)

Around the waist, he wears a girdle, also known as a cincture, a cord which functions as a sort of belt and represents modesty and purity.

The stole is the long strip of cloth worn around the neck and crossed across the chest. It represents the Yoke of Christ. In the Novus Ordo, one often sees the stole uncrossed and [incorrectly] worn outside the chasuble, but in the Tridentine Mass, it is worn underneath.

The maniple, a short strip of cloth, similar to a shorter stole, is worn over the left arm. The maniple is a sign of subservience to the Lord, in much the same way that the cloth that a waiter in a formal restaurant wears over his arm represents his readiness to serve his patrons. The maniple is worn during Mass, but is removed for the Homily, which is technically not a part of the Mass. During the Homily, the priest is teaching the people, therefore the symbol of subservience is temporarily taken off. The maniple was made optional in the Novus Ordo.

The biretta is the distinctive hat worn by the priest, deacon, and subdeacon as they enter and depart the sanctuary. Subdeacons, deacons, and priests wear black birettas; bishops purple; and cardinals red.

A clear distinction is made between what a priest wears during the Mass, as opposed to before and after the Mass. The Aspérges, or sprinkling with Holy Water, is technically outside of Mass (before Mass) in the Tridentine rite. (In the Novus Ordo, the Aspérges is one of the options for the Penitential Rite, and is therefore considered to be within the Mass.) Similarly, if Benediction or a procession is to follow Mass, that is considered to be external to the Mass, as well.

For these reasons, the priest wears a cope, an ornate cloak with a small cape on top, draped over the shoulders and fastened with a clasp under the neck, for the Aspérges and many post-Mass services. When holding the monstrance with the Blessed Sacrament during Benediction and processions, the priest wears a humeral veil like a shawl over his shoulders and hands.

The chasuble is the principal vestment of the priest during Mass. It symbolizes the purple cloak Our Lord wore while being crowned with thorns; the priest is acting in persóna Christi. If there was an Aspérges before Mass, the priest removes his cope and puts on his maniple and chasuble before Mass begins. Most chasubles one sees today are “Gothic”, or poncho-like. Gothic vestments used for a Tridentine Mass are typically more ornate than their Novus Ordo counterparts. When most people think of the vestment of a priest in a Tridentine Mass, they typically recall a “Roman”, or “fiddleback”, chasuble, so named because the front side of the vestment resembles the shape of a string instrument. The back side is squared-off.

In a Solemn High Mass, two additional sacred ministers assist the priest: A deacon is the principal assistant; in place of a chasuble, he wears a shorter dalmatic. A subdeacon is the second assistant; he wears a tunicle, which is a slightly less ornate dalmatic. The subdeacon does not wear a stole.

Liturgical Colors

Violet vestments are used during Advent and Lent as a sign of penance. Rose is used on Gaudéte Sunday in Advent and Lætáre Sunday in Lent, to signify a break from the penitential season. Red is used for Pentecost and Feasts of Martyrs, to symbolize fire and bloodshed, respectively. Black is used for All Souls Day and Requiem Masses. White is used during joyful seasons such as Christmas and Easter and on Marian and other Feasts representing purity. Green, the Church’s “generic” color, is used on Sundays after Epiphany and Sundays after Pentecost. Gold vestments may be used in place of green, white, or red as a sign of solemnity.

Tridentine Masses This Coming Week

Mon. 06/20 7:00 PM: Low Mass at St. Josaphat (St. Silverius, Pope & Martyr)

Tue. 06/21 7:00 PM: Low Mass at Assumption-Windsor (St. Aloysius Gonzaga, Confessor)

Fri. 06/24 7:00 PM: High Mass at St. Josaphat (Nativity of St. John the Baptist)
[Comments? Please e-mail Previous columns are available at This edition of Tridentine Community News, with minor editions, is from the St. Josaphat bulletin insert for June 19, 2011. Hat tip to A.B.]


stpetric said...

There was a visitor to my church once who had never seen a maniple, and didn't know what it was. After Mass he commented to me, "Father, I notice you wear the stole over your arm..."

Sheldon said...

Most amusing, Stpetric. Reminds me of when cashiers in grocery stores in fly-over Baptist country point to the ashes on a Catholic customer's forehead and whisper, holding a wet wipe out, "Excuse me, but I think you've got a smudge on your forehead, if you'd like to wipe it off."

Sheldon said...

I meant to say "Ash Wednesday ashes ..."

Lady.Rosary said...

Yeah, a lot of people don't really undertsand these ashes on our foreheads. My daughter also once asked me about it, good thing I knew what it means.