PREPARING FOR THE HOLY SACRIFICE OF THE MASS
by Janice Smyth
Imprimatur: Msgr. Richard J. Burke
Diocese of Arlington
September 11, 1985
Book may be ordered from:
Our Lady of the Rosary School
904 W. Stephen Foster Avenue
Bardstown, KY 40004
Table of Contents
A Brief History of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass
The Sacrifice of Christ
Where the First Christian Worshipped
The Papal Mass in St. Gregory's Day
Holy Mass: My Sacrifice and Yours
Romanum Missalae or Former Rite of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass
Novus Ordo or New Rite of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass
The Christian Altar: the Altar of Sacrifice
A Brief History
Ecclesiastical Vestments: a Brief History
The Four Major Vestments and Other Vestments of the Roman Catholic Church
Sacred Vessels and Other Accoutrements
The Books for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass
Preparing for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass
Sacred Vessels and Linens
Preparing for Exposition and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament
Priests or Deacons' Vestments
Making the Sacred Linens
Care of Sacred Linens
Suitable Embroidery Patterns
Sources of Fabrics, Trims, Patterns, and Directions
ECCLESIASTICAL VESTMENTS: A BRIEF HISTORY
In the Old Testament, God not only regulated the details of divine worship,
but He also prescribed the type of dress to be worn by the priests in the
performance of their priestly office. "You must make sacred vestments for
your brother Aaron to consecrate him to serve as priest to me. The
following are the vestments you must make: a pouch or breastpiece, an
apron, a robe, a brocaded tunic, a mitre and a girdle, and they must use
gold, violet, purple, and scarlet yarn and fine linen." (Exodus 28).
In the New Testament no such regulations were laid down. Jesus recalled the
life of Paradise when He said, "Do not be anxious about your life, what you
shall eat or what you shall drink, nor about your body what you shall put
on." (Matthew 6:25) Perhaps for this reason, the early Church chose the
chasuble of the peasant instead of the toga or pallium of the free Roman
citizen. However, in all iconography, from the early Christian centuries,
Jesus Himself is invariably clothed in tunic or toga or pallium, never in a
chasuble. Very often the saints shown in early frescoes and mosaics, as
well as in medieval manuscripts are also so portrayed.
The ecclesiastical vestments of the Christian Church developed from
articles of dress worn in the Roman empire; the basic forms were inspired
by classical Greek attire. Christian archeology shows conclusively that
ecclesiastical apparel from the first century onward consistently follows
the Greco-Roman pattern and manner of wearing the tunic and the mantle.
The Greeks perceived that the tunic, like all form-fitting types of
clothing that drape from the shoulders, was expressive of the body and its
movements. They perceived that the enveloping cloak which draped around the
body with the head in the center, expressed the spiritual and intellectual
perfection of man. In the tunic, adapted by clasps at the shoulders and
held at the waist by a cord or a belt, and the mantle or cloak, which was
worn over the tunic.
The Church chose to accept the inspiration of classical Greece without
being bound by its proud rigour or intellectual formalism. The tunic or alb
continued to express the bodily nature of man, and the enveloping, circular
chasuble continued to express the fallen spirit of man healed by redemption
but not yet in possession of the robe of glory. In the full liturgy of the
Western rites, only the priest-celebrant is perfectly clothed, up to and
including the encircling chasuble. He is the complete man.
In the Greco-Roman world, a man at work wore only a tunic, but no Roman of
any standing appeared in public without a toga, the more elaborate Roman
form of the mantle. The tunic of the ordinary citizen was made of plain
white wool. On the tunics of knights and senators stripes of garnet color
descended from the shoulders to the hem of the tunic, front and back. The
mantle of the poorer classes was gradually supplanted by the paenula, or
casula ("little house"), a semi-circular piece of cloth whose ends were
brought together and sewn up the front, allowing enough room for the head,
and forming a bell-shaped garment. Originally worn only by slaves, soldiers
and others of low station, the casula was adopted during the third century
by persons of fashion as a convenient riding cloak. Finally, by law of the
Emperor Theodosius in 382 A.D., it was prescribed as the proper everyday
mantle of senators. The toga was reserved for state occasions.
Another garment that came into fashion in the Roman world during the second
century was the dalmatic which is a loose, unbelted tunic with very wide
sleeves, worn as an outer garment over the long white tunic. The dalmatic
was striped in the same way as the tunic of the knights and senators; it
has not changed form and is the outer garment of deacons today.
By the 4th century, garments worn at liturgical functions had been
separated from those in ordinary use, though they were still identical in
form. Priests could be distinguished by certain ornamentation added to
everyday dress, but there is a vast difference between the Jewish High
Priest officiating in his special vestments which were prescribed by God
Himself and the Roman priest officiating in the garment which every
gentleman wore every day. As late as the 6th century, the under tunic and
the upper tunic (dalmatica) and the chasuble (paenula or casula) were
common to both clergy and laity, and were worn in celebrating the Holy
Sacrifice of the Mass and in everyday life.
During the 4th and 5th centuries, the first distinctive vestments, the
sacred pallium and stole, made their appearance as ensigns of office and
dignity of the priesthood. The major development of specifically
ecclesiastical vestments took place between the 6th and 9th centuries.
Secular fashions altered with changes of taste and because of the barbarian
invasions. The Church retained the dress of the Roman empire of the 4th
century, which still conserved the modified classicism of a vertically
draping undergarment in the tunic or alb and an enveloping outer garment in
The first mention of a special liturgical garment for divine worship comes
from the East in Jerusalem. Theodoret in his "Church History," records that
the Emperor Constantine in 330 A.D. presented to the new church he had
built in Jerusalem a "sacred robe" of gold to be used by the bishop at the
solemn baptisms of the Paschal Vigil. But while this seems to be a special
liturgical vestment, we hear nothing more until 375 A.D. when we read in
the Apostolic Constitutions that the bishops "should celebrate the
Eucharist clad in a splendid raiment." But the garment would seem to be a
better version of the ordinary dress of the upper class of this period not
a priestly garment like the priest of the Old Testament used. (The Origin
of Priestly Vestments by the Very Rev. Alan J. Borsuk, V.F.)
The documents of the period reflect that many were divided on the question
of special liturgical garments. Tertullian rejected special dress while
Clement of Alexandria advocated it. Saint Jerome recommended it on the
basis of the Old Testament while Rome regarded the whole matter with
suspicion. Pope Celestine I stated, "Bishops should be distinguishable from
the people not by costume but by doctrine."
The period between the 9th and 13th centuries marked the final development
of eucharistic vestments in the West. Since by this time the clothing worn
by priests in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass was almost completely
distinguished from secular dress, vestments came to symbolize a special
dignity. In the second quarter of the 9th century, bishops, when fully
vested, wore a camisia or shirt, girdled, a neck cloth or amice, an alb
girdled, a tunicle, a dalmatic, a stole, a chasuble, and a sacred pallium.
This is observable on the ivory towers of a 9th century missal preserved in
Frankfurt am Main, Germany.
Until the 9th century vestments had been very plain; what splendor they had
was the result of material and color and the ample folds of their drapery.
But from this time onward they tended to become more and more elaborately
In the 9th century, pontifical gloves appeared. In the 10th century, the
mitre appeared, in the 11th century, the use of liturgical shoes and
stockings reserved to cardinals and bishops.
Today, following the Second Vatican Council, the Church speaks thus, "The
beauty and dignity of liturgical vestments is to be sought in the
excellence of their material and the elegance of their cut, rather than in
symbols or figures employed in decorating vestments should be sacred in
character and exclude anything inappropriate. (#306 Vatican Council II the
Conciliar and PostConciliar Documents.)
THE FOUR MAJOR VESTMENTS IN THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH
1. The ALB
The alb is a sack-like, full-length white tunic usually made of linen, with
long sleeves, secured at the waist by a cincture of white linen, silk or
cotton cord. Albs were originally plain, but about the 10th century, the
custom arose of ornamenting the hem and cuffs with embroidery, and this
became common in the 12th century. Such ornamentation at first encircled
the whole hem and cuff, but soon it became customary to substitute
rectangular patches of embroidery or fabric. These "apparels" or "Orphreys"
were usually four in number, one being sewn on the back and another on the
front just above the hem, and one on each cuff. A fifth was occasionally
added just below the neck opening.
2. The CHASUBLE
The Chasuble, the outermost eucharistic vestment, worn over alb, amice and
stole, is the distinctive priestly garment and the Mass vestment par
excellence. It retained for hundreds of years in both East and West the
classical form of its ancestor, the Roman paenula or casula. But in modern
times, no vestment is so difficult to recognize as descending from the
earlier Christian centuries.
Ornamentation was the first element that began to alter the appearance of
the chasuble. In order to strengthen the single front seam, it was covered
by a band, as seen in the 13th century sculptures at Chartres; the neck
opening was also strengthened and a transverse band became common. This "T"
led to the placing of crosses on the chasuble. The medieval custom was to
add oblique side bands to the central column, forming a "Y" or fork. This
is typical of chasubles from 13th to 16th centuries. As the sides of the
chasuble came to be cut down in later centuries, the "Y" was squared off to
form the Latin cross, which was transferred to the back of the vestment to
symbolize the carrying of the Cross.
Today there is no requirement for placing a cross or any other decoration
on the chasuble, however.
Traditionally, the chasuble, the stole, and the chalice veil are of
matching fabric and ornamentation. The frontal and antependium on the altar
are optional, but should match the vestments if used.
For guidance in selection of materials and ornamentation of vestments, see
The colors of the vestments necessary for a full set of Ecclesiastical
Vestments are the following:
a. White is the symbol of purity and is used at the following offices and
Eastertide other than those concerning the Lord's passion
2. Feasts and memorials of the Blessed Virgin Mary
3. Feasts of the Angels
4. Feasts of the Saints who were not martyrs
5. Feast of All Saints (Nov. 1)
6. Feast of Saint John the Baptist (June 24)
7. Feast of Saint John the Evangelist (Dec. 27)
8. Feast of Saint Peter's Chair (Feb. 22)
9. Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul (Jan. 25)
b. Red is the symbol of fire and blood and is used for the following
offices and Masses:
1. Passion Sunday
2. Good Friday
4. Commemorations of the Lord's passion
5. Commemorations of the martyrdoms of the apostles the evangelists and
c. Green is the symbol of hope in Christ and is used in the following
offices and Masses:
1. Those times (ordinary time) of the year which are not particular
d. Purple is the symbol of repentance and is used in the following offices
1. Penitential seasons of Lent and Advent
2. Masses for the Dead (optional)
e. Rose is the symbol of joy and is used on the following Sundays:
1. Gaudete Sunday, third Sunday of Lent
2. Laetare Sunday, fourth Sunday of Advent
f. Gold is the symbol of special occasions and can be worn on all special
occasions such as Easter and Christmas.
g. Black may be used for the Masses for the Dead, but rarely is.
3. The DALMATIC
The Dalmatic is a more elaborate tunic with color and fabric the same as
the vestments of the celebrating priest. The form has remained identical to
the original with open sides, wide sleeves with bands about bands the cuffs
and colored bands descending from the shoulders. As in early Christian
times, it is worn without cincture or girdle. The dalmatic became the
distinctive garment of the deacons of the city of Rome during the 5th
century and it is retained as the diaconal vestment.
4. The COPE
The Cope is a mantle reaching the heels of the wearer and worn when the
chasuble is not used. The use of the cope as a liturgical vestment can be
traced to the end of the 8th century. By the 13th century, the cope as an
ornamental, colored garment of finer material had supplanted the chasuble
in all non-Eucharistic functions. It is worn by priests and deacons.
The Stole is the sign of the authority of the Priesthood of Christ. It
symbolizes immortality and reminds the priest of how sweet it is to serve
Jesus. While putting on the stole, the priest may say, "Give me, O, Lord,
the help to be able to come to You in heaven." He kisses the cross on the
center back of the stole as he places it over his head and around the back
of his neck.
The stole is a band of silk or other fine fabric eight feet long and four
inches wide, marked in the center with a cross. If the stole is worn over
the alb and under the chasuble, the ends are worn loose. Bishops always
wear the stole over the chasuble with the ends of the stole hanging loose.
A stole is worn when a cleric is exercising his order in celebration of
Mass or in administering a sacrament such as Penance (Confession) or the
Sacrament of the Sick.
The Deacon's STOLE
A deacon wears a stole from the left shoulder to his right side, attached
at the hip level with a chain or tie. He wears the stole over the alb and
under the dalmatic when he is assisting at the celebration of the Holy
Sacrifice of the Mass, when he preaches the Word of God or when he assists
at weddings. He can wear the stole over the alb when he is baptizing or
when he is preparing to wear the cope for Exposition and/or Benediction of
the Blessed Sacrament.
An Amice is a rectangular vestment made of white linen and measuring 36" x
24" with two 36" strings of twill tape. It is worn under the alb, covering
the neck and shoulders of the priest and/or of the deacon at Mass.
Originally, it was a neckcloth to protect the valuable chasuble and stole.
Also, it is known that the amice was at one time a head covering for
priests and monks in cold monasteries. In legend, it is the helmet worn by
the priest going forth to do battle for his people. The amice is no longer
obligatory if the alb covers the neck.
While putting on the amice, the priest may pray, "Lord, give me strength to
conquer the temptations of the devil."
The Humeral Veil is worn so as to cover the back and shoulders (where it
gets its name) and its two ends hang down in front. To prevent its falling
from the shoulders, it is fastened across the chest with clasps or ribbons
attached to the border.
The Humeral Veil is worn by the priest or deacon in processions of the
Blessed Sacrament, in giving Benediction, in carrying the Host to its
repository on Holy Thursday, and bringing it back to the altar on Good
Friday. In processions of the Blessed Sacrament and at Benediction given
with the monstrance, only the hands are placed under the humeral veil; in
other cases, it covers the sacred vessel which contains the Host. The
Humeral Veil is usually and properly some shade of white (from ivory to
white is acceptable).
It is not possible to determine when the Roman Ritual first prescribed the
use of the humeral veil in processions of the Blessed Sacrament and
Benediction, but it was probably towards the close of the Middle Ages. In
many places outside of Rome, the humeral veil was not adopted for these
functions until very recent times. Saint Charles Borromeo prescribed its
use in Milan for processions of the Blessed Sacrament and for carrying Holy
Communion to the sick.