Tuesday, April 24, 2012

What would Jesus wear?

An anonymous poster has a dig at Bishop Davies and the clergy in the Wirral about their vestments:

We have a fairly good idea of what Jesus wore at the last supper, the first Mass, as we are told which of his clothes the Roman soldiers shared between them at his crucifixion. Neither embroidered silk nor polyester; nor alb nor rochet nor buskin nor jewelled pectoral cross...
Certainly, as a pious Jew, Our Lord would have worn clothing for prayer that was different from his ordinary garb. In addition the robe of Christ at His crucifixion, which has some mystical significance I needn't point out in the context of Holy Mass, would have been a beautiful or valuable garment - why else would the guards have gambled over it rather than ripping it into shares?

The vestments worn by Catholic clergy are pretty unchanged, I think, since the earliest days of the Church, in their basic form. Clearly there has been a great deal of development in terms of form depending on circumstances (a Roman chasuble makes more sense in a hot climate than a Gothic or Conical chasuble). They are in essence the dress of a Roman gentleman. That a priest should wear something different seems to be sensible - Catholic worship is about signs and over time each of the elements of sacred vestments have developed a meaning which is a focus of devotion and which puts the actions into the context of the saving drama of Christ's life and sacrifie. Unless your radical primitivism would favour, say, circumcision for all male believers or the wearing of 1st century sandals.

The Mass especially is Wedding Feast of the Lamb and it behoves Christ's ministers to dress accordingly. It would make sense that what they wear is stately and dignified and fitting (the clothes I wore to my own wedding feast were more stately and expensive than the cargoes and tee shirt I am wearing as I write this). It would seem appropriate that the materials and adornment of sacred vestments are the best we can offer the Lord. Going back to my wedding, Mrs P would have be less than pleased had I turned up in polyester or hessian.

I have attended Protestant communion services (Episcopalian, in Scotland, of an evangelical strain, in a wealthier part of Glasgow). The minister wore a rather trendy lounge suit. I think he looked vaguely ridiculous, if he meant to be taking seriously what he was doing. As a student the rather radical chaplain we had came and said Mass at a coffee table in the Hall of Residence where I stayed. He wore his ordinary cothes (tweed jacket, open collar, slacks) with a magic stole on top. It was not an edifying experience at a crucial stage in my spiritual development and gave me no sense of the Holy, brought me no closer to God.

I'd be interested to hear your views.