Since I have been here at St. Joseph, many of you have asked about my vestments and why I wear them. I appreciate these questions, and I am going to be writing regularly to answer them. Over the next several weeks, I will be answering the common questions about vestments and giving a little introduction to the vestments the Priest wears at Mass.
The Priest’s use of special garments for liturgical celebrations is actually older than the Church itself. From the time of the Temple worship in the Old Testament, the priestly class would don special garments when they would go to offer sacrifices in the temple. The Priest’s vestments take their origin from these ancient garments, but changed with the new kind of worship that Christ instituted with the New Covenant. After the resurrection amd ascension of Christ into heaven, the disciples would gather to celebrate the ‘breaking of the bread’, or the Eucharist as Christ has instructed when he told them to “do this in memory of me” (Lk. 22:19). The apostles (and first bishops) wore their everyday clothing, but eventually they went to distant lands and adopted the clothing of the people to whom they were proclaiming the Gospel. These styles of clothing became the basis for the garments of different liturgical traditions in various places, what are called ‘Rites’.
Our liturgical tradition comes from Rome, which is why we are called Roman Catholics. Our vestments differ from the Byzantine Rite Catholics, Ukrainian Rite Catholics, and the other Eastern Catholic Rites, which are 23 in number (all in union with the Pope in Rome). The vestments we wear are based on the daily dress popular at the time of the apostles who were in Rome in the first and second centuries. Saints Peter and Paul went there and as they began celebrating the liturgy, began wearing their ‘Sunday best’ to celebrate Mass, which were highly decorated variations of the daily clothing styles of the Romans. Vestment styles have adapted and changed slightly over the years, but are still basically the same as these early Roman vestments worn by the Apostles of Rome, Sts. Peter and Paul.
As you may have noticed, this is a new site design. I'm in the midst of updating and speeding up the site, so soon I'll be back to my regular posting. Ciao!
Isn't it strange how many Christians, who take their time and have leisure enough in their social life (they are in no hurry), in following the sleepy rhythm of their professional affairs, in eating and recreation (no hurry here either), find themselves rushed and want to rush the Priest, in their anxiety to shorten the time devoted to the most holy Sacrifice of the Altar?
- St. Josemaría Escrivá