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Chasuble

CHASUBLE

The outermost vestment normally worn over the alb by the priest celebrant of Mass. The original chasuble, a genuine everyday garment of Greek-Roman times, was conical in shape, reaching close to the feet on all sides. Its use was not at first restricted to priests or to the celebration of Mass. The restriction came about with the gradual introduction of an investiture ceremony as part of the rite for ordination. The first clear evidence of the chasuble's presentation to the newly ordained priest appeared in the 9th-century Roman Ordinal 35 (27.31; M. Andrieu, Les 'Ordines Romani' du haut moyen-âge 4:3839).

Reverence for the garment explains the existence of ornate chasubles from early times. This very ornamentation was responsible for the first alteration of the original vestment's appearance. The orphreys on the chasuble were at first bands of material used to hide and strengthen the seams. Often a vertical orphrey was applied to the front and back. In the medieval period oblique side bands were joined to the central vertical orphrey to form a Y.

Orphreys became more elaborate with the use of embroidered figures of the Lord and the saints. Since medieval Christians placed greater emphasis on the sacrificial rather than on the meal aspect of the Mass, it is not surprising that the customary image was that of the crucified Lord, causing the Y to be squared off to form a Latin cross.

The second alteration in the form of the chasuble came about as a result of the use of brocades. Medieval and Renaissance love of color prompted vestment makers to employ what were considered at the time the very best weaves. Unfortunately many of the great brocades were heavy and unwieldy. This led to a reduction of the material falling over the arms. Eventually only the front and back panels remained, the back one being decorated with a large cross. By the end of the 18th century particular models of the abbreviated vestments were favored in different countries and were known as the French, Italian, and Spanish chasubles. The last, which broadened toward the bottom, was the most imperfect of all.

The 19th-century renewal of interest in the Middle Ages led to an attempt to restore a more ample style vesture to liturgical functions. Unfortunately, the Gothic revivalists did not offer a restoration of the original chasuble at all, but a garment quite different and imperfect in form, which they called "Gothic." Its use gradually spread despite the opposition of the Congregation of Rites (1863, 1925).

In the wake of Vatican II, the skimpy design and heavy ornamentation has given way to a more ample and noble vestment that is more faithful to the dignity of the original Greco-Roman vestment. In addition to a revival of the Greco-Roman style, the Vatican II liturgical reforms also introduced the chasuble-alb (casula sine alba ), a long and ample vestment developed for the presider in accordance with the norms of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal. The use of the chasublealb removes any need for an alb. With this new vestment the stole is worn outside; it thus makes more evident the sign that the presiding minister acts in persona Christi. Only the stole need be of the color required for the day or season.

Bibliography: e. j. sutfin, "The Chasuble in the Roman Rite," Liturgical Arts 24 (1956) 76104; "How to Make a Chasuble," ibid. 25 (1957) 6686.

[m. mccance/

a. d. fitzgerald]

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