HIS WEEK concludes our look at the vesting prayers, which accompany each of the priestly vestments worn at Holy Mass. Today we turn our attention to the chasuble.
This vestment, which is worn over the alb, cincture, & stole, has a long history. Like many other vestments, the chasuble is closely linked with the garb of ancient Rome. It is the most visible, and often the most ornate, of the priestly vestments.
Chasubles are worn only for the celebration of Mass, not during other Sacraments or devotions. In some places, it is common for concelebrating priests to forgo wearing a chasuble; if a chasuble is available, however, it should always be worn. Moreover, wherever concelebration occurs frequently or with large numbers of priests, it is laudable that an adequate supply of chasubles should be maintained.
Here follows the prayer to be offered as the priest vests with the chasuble:
Domine, qui dixisti: Iugum meum suave est et onus meum leve: fac, ut istud portare sic valeam, quod consequar tuam gratiam.
O Lord, Who said: My yoke is easy and My burden light; make me so able to bear it that I may obtain Thy favor.
This beautiful, short prayer is a direct reference to the Letter to the Colossians, wherein St. Paul exhorts us: “Above all these things, put on charity, which is the bond of perfection” (Colossians 3:14). Thus, the symbolism of the chasuble is the virtue of charity, which is literally “put on” over all the other vestments. Like the maniple, the chasuble is also a reminder to the one who wears it of the hardship entailed by the Gospel (cf., 2 Timothy 1:8).
There are, of course, many different styles of chasubles. The two major styles are the Roman and the Gothic. Roman chasubles, sometimes called “fiddlebacks” because of their shape, closely resemble the yoke worn by animals and alluded to in the above vesting prayer. Gothic chasubles, meanwhile, are said to symbolize the overflowing charity to which the prayer alludes. Both charity and the bearing of the yoke of Christ are requirements of authentic Christian life.
N CONCLUSION, the vesting prayers are a gift to us from the tradition of the Church. Their recitation is a pious practice which I highly recommend to all my brother priests. In these prayers, I have found a rich source for meditation and worthy preparation for the sacred liturgy.
Fr. Mauro Gagliardi, consultor to the Office for the Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff, says it well:
While it is possible to use different prayers, or simply to lift one’s mind up to God, nevertheless the texts of the vesting prayers are brief, precise in their language, inspired by a biblical spirituality and have been prayed for centuries by countless sacred ministers. These prayers thus recommend themselves still today for the preparation for the liturgical celebration, even for the liturgy according to the ordinary form of the Roman Rite.
I have witnessed the powerful effect of a priest who sets the tone by silently praying his vesting prayers. While visiting a priest friend some time ago, I had the opportunity to watch him prepare for daily Mass in his parish’s sacristy. It was a memorable experience for me, because I was confronted with the thought of how much more calm and prayerful his sacristy was than my own. The lectors, servers, and sacristan in his parish knew that Father was praying, and they instinctually decided that they should follow suit. Since that time, I have tried to set a similar example in my preparation for Holy Mass.
Too often, sacristies are places of hustling, bustling, and distraction. The sacristy should instead be a place of silence, focus, and prayerful preparation. As the GIRM states:
Even before the celebration itself, it is commendable that silence to be observed in the church, in the sacristy, in the vesting room, and in adjacent areas, so that all may dispose themselves to carry out the sacred action in a devout and fitting manner. (GIRM #45)
Similar advice comes to us from a sermon of Saint Charles Borromeo:
A priest complains that as soon as he comes into church to pray the office or to celebrate Mass, a thousand thoughts fill his mind and distract him from God. But what was he doing in the sacristy before he came out for the office or for Mass? How did he prepare? What means did he use to collect his thoughts and to remain recollected?
What better means could a priest use to prepare for the sacrifice of Calvary than to offer these vesting prayers, handed down to us through the tradition of the Church?
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