Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Chasubles and stoles, which goes over and which goes under

I know.

I have struck a nerve with liturgical hobbyist who send me emails protesting how "uncharitable and unchristian" my posts are with regard to liturgical abuse.


Now it's your turn at the receiving end.

Folks, the fans of the "liturgical Church Father" have no idea what humiliation those who just ask "why" about the liturgy have went through.  And now thanks to Pope Benedict XVI (ad multos annos!) gloriously reigning, and the Internet, we know that we have been duped with dialogues like "Vatican II said so." or "That is old.  In with the new." or "We are a community.", and other stuff like that.

SAVE THE LITURGY, SAVE THE WORLD, as what the great Fr. Z champions in his blog.  True.  We have seen a great deluge of the faithful and a growing apathy among Catholics in matters of faith and morals since everything with a sense of the sacred and the supernatural has been reduced to something trivial and mundane.  And we can all point a finger at how the liturgy was treated for the past 40 years.

To the readers of TPC, thank you for your support and encouragement.  Blogging is no easy thing to do.  It is lot of hard work actually, sifting through emails and wire feeds...

And so to my haters, thank you!  It means you keep tab on what I post in my blog.

To the members of God's Undercover Liturgical Police, keep those reports of liturgical abuse coming in.  And we will continue to tell the liturgical abusers, "We can see you!"

And we won't mince words.  We might even say "You hypocrites!"

Hey, hold on!  Don't get your pressure up.  I got that from the Gospels.  Matthew 23:13.  Look it up.

And now some more lessons from Fr. Edward McNamara about stoles over the chasuble.


ROME, JUNE 7, 2011 ( Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university.

Q: I have been in the habit of wearing my stole under the chasuble, as I was taught and as I have always found in the instructions. [ It actually is in the GIRM.] In our country, however, the stole is generally worn above the chasuble. Some bishops follow this practice, too. I was told several times that my way of wearing the stole was wrong. [E?] Somebody explained to me that the chasubles we use are "gothic chasubles"; they have no special decoration in the front, while the accompanying stoles do carry elaborate artwork. [If the chasuble is the plain white, table cloth material type.] This would be the reason for wearing them above the chasubles. I searched for further details about this matter, but I found none. If I am in the wrong, I would rather change my habits. Is there any indication about this? -- P.V., Colombo, Sri Lanka

A: Your practice of wearing the stole under the chasuble is correct, according to the Church's most recent legislation. The General Instruction of the Roman Missal says in No. 337, "The vestment proper to the priest celebrant at Mass and other sacred actions directly connected with Mass is, unless otherwise indicated, the chasuble, worn over the alb and stole."  [See told yah!]

The fashion for designing chasubles with external stoles became popular during the 1970s and early 1980s [Kumbaya era!] but is now definitively on the wane. [Not so yet here in the Philippines.] Some countries have received specific permission from the Holy See to adopt special liturgical vestments such as a kind of combined alb-chasuble [the chasu-alb as they call it.] which necessarily requires the external stole. But this rather ugly and ungainly vestment has never quite caught on[Have you seen this one turned into a habit, ultimately replacing the cassock and simar?  Yeah, that one.  Uh-huh.]

Traditionally the stole is seen as a symbol of priestly authority while the chasuble is a symbol of charity. It was often argued, therefore, that the reason why the stole is beneath the chasuble is that charity must always cover authority. [That is a beautiful symbolism!]

Whether this reasoning is authentic or not, the relative position of stole and chasuble has nothing to do with the use of gothic or Roman styles or with the decorative elements of these sacred vestments. Indeed, the stole is placed under the chasuble in all historical vestment styles. [Now take this.] The external stole is a recent and transitory fad which is now contrary to the universal liturgical law.  [And cannot be considered an organic development since quite plainly it is not a development!]

[Some liturgical history for us here folks about the evolution of the chasuble.]
There have been many forms of chasuble over the centuries. The earliest form of liturgical chasuble resembles the so-called monastic style, a full-cut roughly oval garment often falling to the celebrant's shoe tops and at times furnished with a hood. Modern monastic chasubles tend to be square-cut rather than oval.

Since this form of chasuble required the arms to be gathered up to be used freely, from the 12th century on, the sides were gradually shortened to ease movements. Thus the gothic chasuble was developed. This form gradually tapers from the shoulders to a near point at the base but with both sides of equal length. The semi-gothic form is similar but slightly shorter. Most contemporary chasubles are inspired by these two forms although frequently with a gradual rounding from shoulder to base or with rectangular or square cuts.

From the 16th century on, the size and shape of the chasuble was further reduced in length front and back and the arms were left completely free. This was done, above all, to facilitate certain movements such as joining the hands and incensing the altar. This kind of chasuble was often elaborately embroidered with Christian symbols and made quite stiff and heavy with the use of rich materials such as silk, gold and brocade. Within this form there were several stylistic differences.

One of the most common was the Roman, or fiddleback, chasuble with a rectangular front and a back vaguely resembling a violin. The Spanish-style chasuble is even shorter; its rounded front and back give it a distinctive shape sometimes referred to as a "guitar" chasuble. The Germanic style is simpler, with a rectangular front and back.  [I have met some priests who use the fiddleback even for the Ordinary Form of the Mass and asked them why they prefer it over the Gothic style.  I found their answer quite pratical: it frees the arm!]

The early 20th century saw a tendency to return to earlier forms, especially the gothic. At first this practice met with resistance, and the Congregation of Rites replied to a 1925 query in terms which many bishops interpreted as cautiously favorable. Thus the revived form slowly spread in the Church. In 1957 the congregation wrote to the bishops, leaving decisions regarding the use of older forms of the chasuble to their prudent judgment.

Present legislation allows for the use of practically all historical styles of chasuble.


If that is what the Church liturgical law says, then why is he doing this?
Really baffling, don't you think?


  1. You are right. Traditionally the stole is worn under the chasuble. The chasuble comes from the Latin word meaning "little house" and so everything should be under it. Prior to Vatican II, the stole worn under the chasuble but over the alb, was crossed. This is still the practice in some Anglo-Catholic Anglican churches. I do know some priests of the Episcopal Church in our country who stick to the old tradition. The chasuble is a Eucharistic vestment like the stole and must be used according to the instructions.

    The stole is a symbol of Holy Orders, the yoke of Christ and is a Eucharistic vestment in the Roman Catholic, Anglican and some sacramentally inclined Protestant churches. However there are special stoles or stole like vestments for hearing confessions and preaching. In the Anglican tradition there is a preaching scarf or "tippet" that is worn when the priest is preaching outside the context of the Eucharist. For instance during the service of Evening or Morning Prayer, the priest wears the tippet over the surplice.

    The stole is a Eucharistic vestment and as such must be understood in the the context of the Eucharist. The Old Roman tradition is that Eucharistic stoles are not used for Vespers (similar to the modern practice of Anglican clergy). Roman Catholic clerics wear choir dress in which they don't wear stoles. Anglican clergy in choir dress don't wear stoles but tippets over the surplice and if they are bishops, over the rochet and chimere. Only the Primate or Bishop presiding at Vespers may wear a special stole. In the Roman Catholic Church, by tradition only the Pope does. For example when Pope Benedict XVI co-presided with the Archbishop of Canterbury, he wore the stole presented by Dr Robert Runcie to John Paul II during his visit to Canterbury in 1982.

    The Anglicans are not confused about the stole and chasuble unlike we Catholics are. Evangelical Anglicans who don't subscribe to the Catholic theology on the Mass won't wear stoles or chasubles but just the tippet over the surplice even when celebrating the Eucharist. The stole and chasuble are so connected to the Real Presence!

    In the Philippines, we are confused. Priests wear the chasuble and stole in "prayer rallies", even after the Mass. One priest even dances on stage in a chasuble! The stole has become a fashion statement!

    The Eastern Church has a different idea on stoles. They wear different kinds of stoles for the Divine Liturgy, for preaching, for vespers, for hearing confessions and for deacons assisting at the Eucharist. But no respectable Eastern cleric will be seen using these stoles inappropriately!

  2. What is really the liturgical feast celebrated for that particular day? It's sooooo vague. Can't priests just wear the appropriate liturgical color stole/chasuble for the appropriate feast? Duuuuuh.

  3. how about a stole worn over a secular dress while celebrating mass? I saw someone on TV when that runner priest was still famous.

  4. I noticed that in the Eastern Catholic Churches the deacons place a part of their stole at the book of the gospels and at confession they also place a part of their stoles to the confessor.

  5. @Keb_17: Thats a part of their Tradition in the Eastern Catholic Churches, specially those Sui Iuris Churches under the Byzantine Rite. Well thats a part of their Liturgical rubrics different from the Latin Rite