Reflecting on 21 Centuries of Faith

Update: Liturgical Literacy and the Deacon’s Dalmatic

So, I posed a few questions to Fr. Z at What Does the Prayer Really Say? blog.  He was very generous to turn the answer around in under a day, THANKS!  Here is his reply:

QUAERITUR: Of subdeacons and tunics

From a deacon reader:

I was in the middle of some research last night and discovered some new tidbits on vestments. More precisely, the difference between a dalmatic and a tunicle. I captured a number of my thoughts on my blog ( Anyway, here are my questions:

* When celebrating the Extraordinary Form (EF) are the Subdeacons wearing tunicles or dalmatics? [Tunicles or tunics]
* Since the tunicle was abrogated in 1969, presumably because of the suppression of the minor orders, is it still the appropriate vestment for a Subdeacon in the present EF? [Tunicle is the vestment of the subdeacon.  If there is a man serving as a subdeacon in a Solemn Mass in the Extraordinary Form, he puts on a tunic.]
* With the ever-growing popularity of the EF, do you think that there is a need to ensure that Deacons are only wearing dalmatics and not tunicles (they seem to have become one and the same)? [Once in a while you can’t tell them apart.]

Sometimes you will see that classy vestments having sleeves with slightly different decoration.  For example, one will have two “stripes”, and the other just one.  This distinguishes the dalmatic and the tunic.  Most older sets will have some distinguishing sign.

Here is a more modern set of solemn Mass vestments.  You can see that the dalmatic has two stripes and the tunic one.

Another example:

Which is which?  Easy.

But some sets don’t distinguish, perhaps because pieces were lost or the makers, designers didn’t make a tunic, and the garments are identical.  Some more modern sets may have just two dalmatics (both with two stripes)

In that case, as soon as the deacon puts on his garment he is putting on his dalmatic and when the subdeacon puts on his his is putting on his tunic… even though they are identical.

In this shot the vestments are the same, but clearly the guy on right is wearing a dalmatic by the fact that he is the deacon, and the guy on the left is wearing a tunic by the fact that he is subdeacon.  It becomes a matter of pure coincidence that the garments are the same.

So too here.  If this is a Solemn Mass with the 1962 Missal, one of these guys is wearing a tunic that looks like a dalmatic.  If it Novus Ordo… well… if they are both deacons, then I guess they are both dalamtics.

Here you can see which one is the deacon.  He’s got more stuff on him.

When a bishop puts on his pontifical vestments, the first one he puts on is the tunic, even though there isn’t any difference between it and the next one he puts on.

Preserved Killick would be able to explain this:  “Which when he put’s it on, it’s a tunic, ain’t it, ya grass-combing lubber?”

Think of it this way.  When Jack Aubrey, of the celebrated series, while still just a commander took command of a brig-rigged vessel, that vessel became a sloop, by the fact of his being in command.


Anyway… the tunic was “suppressed” in 1969?  Pah!  Piffle, I say!

Let tunic abound.  Where ever there be Solemn Masses and, therefore, the role of subdeacon, let that subdeacon wear his tunic with distinction and pride!

And as far as the question of the suppression of the subdeacon is concerned, sure, let’s all read together Paul VI’s Ministeria quaedam.

Having read that, I have to ask, when the Holy See gives permission to the Fraternity of St. Peter to ordain subdeacons… what happens?  Are they subdeacons or aren’t they?  If they are, then I think they should put on the tunic they were ordained in.  If they aren’t subdeacons… what are they doing?  Pretending to ordain?  Would the Holy See sanction a pretend ordination?  Unlikely.  We have the use of the 1962 Missal.  Someone has to fill the role of the subdeacon.  When someone does that, he wears the tunic.

This isn’t hard.

One Response to Update: Liturgical Literacy and the Deacon’s Dalmatic

  1. The third and the fifth picture really attracts me towards it’s design. Thanks for these pictures. What is deacon and sub deacon?

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