The vestments of the clergy are meant to catechize and remind us of our Lord and His passion. The Bishop and the Priest are ordained for sacrifice and minister in persona Christi capitas. This means that all the Sacraments related to sacrifice and/or the forgiveness of sins are oriented and ministered by them alone.
The vestments of our ministers also teach us about their ministry and serve to draw us deeper into the Paschal Mystery of the Christ. In particular, the stole and cincture stand out when thinking about the Passion of our Lord.
As we know, the stole is the symbol of a priest/bishop’s authority. A kind of kerchief or neck-piece, it was a daily piece of clothing donned by the upper class in Rome. Gradually, it was adopted and reinterpreted by the Church to represent the spiritual authority of the clergy. The bishop and priest wear the stole over their shoulders while the deacon wears it draping over his left shoulder to his right hip. This vestment also has a secondary meaning that is steeped in centuries of tradition.
Our tradition tells us that the stole is also to remind us of the cords with which Jesus was tied. It too invokes images of the cross our Lord carried and, particularly with the bishop and priest, the yoke upon their shoulders. For the bishop and priest it is a constant symbol of the heavy burden they carry which is made light and sweet by the love of the Christ.
The cincture was used out of necessity during walking and activities requiring exertion to gird up a long garment. It’s spiritual significance is that of the cords that bound our Lord to the pillar during the scourging. It is also a symbol of modesty and the readiness to work in God’s service.
Consider the two prayers that the clergy pray as they are vesting:
“Restore to me, O Lord , the state of immortality which I lost through the sin of my first parents and, although unworthy to approach these Sacred Mysteries, may I deserve nevertheless eternal joy.”
“Gird me, O Lord , with the cincture of purity, and quench in my heart the fire of concupiscence, that the virtue of continence and chastity may abide in me.”
I would love to hear what your favorite vestment is and why…