HE CINCTURE is a very meaningful vestment, with a spiritual significance that is much deeper than its practical purpose of gathering the alb close to the body. In this post, we continue our series delving into the prayers offered by the priest as he vests for Mass.
This is the prayer that accompanies the tying of the cincture:
Praecinge me, Domine, cingulo puritatis, et exstingue in lumbis meis humorem libidinis; ut maneat in me virtus continentia et castitatis.
Gird me, O Lord, with the cincture of purity, and extinguish in my loins the desires of lust, that the virtue of continence and chastity may ever abide within me.
This prayer makes clear that the cincture is to be understood in a twofold manner. It is both a guard against the temptations of the flesh and a symbol of purity in mind, body, and heart. In other words, the cincture symbolizes self-mastery, which St. Paul praises as a Fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22).
The text of the prayer also beautifully evokes the many Scripture passages in which the encouragement is given to gird up one’s loins. In particular, St. Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians includes a symbolic description of the armor of God, in which he encourages us: “Stand fast with your loins girded in truth” (Ephesians 6:14). The most direct source material for the prayer, however, comes from the First Letter of St. Peter: “Therefore, gird up the loins of your mind, live soberly, and set your hopes completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:13).
The wearing of cinctures has a noteworthy precedent. Our Lady of Guadalupe, herself, appears on the tilma of Juan Diego wearing a black band about her waist. In the local culture, such a band was worn only by expectant mothers.
There is another story about St. Monica, who watched the young Augustine go down the wrong path, causing her great distress. One day, as Monica was praying for the conversion of her wayward son, the Blessed Mother appeared to her. During the vision, Mary wore black mourning clothes and a leather cincture around her waist. Mary then took the leather cincture and gave it to Monica as a sign of care & compassion. Thus began the devotion to Our Mother of Consolation, which has been the primary title used for Mary among the Augustinian order for hundreds of years. To this day, the Augustinian habit is all black and includes a leather cincture, in honor of this apparition of Our Lady.
The cincture, like the amice, is a vestment that is often disregarded or overlooked. Some albs have “built-in” cinctures, while others are designed to be so ample that the wearing of a cincture would be nearly impossible. Tying the cincture each time I offer Mass has been an opportunity to entrust myself quietly to the strength of God, which preserves & protects us from every evil.
Part 1 • Introduction
Part 2 • The Hand Washing
Part 3 • The Amice
Part 4 • The Alb
Part 5 • The Cincture
Part 6 • The Maniple
Part 7 • The Stole
Part 8 • The Chasuble