Liturgy Lesson: The Chasuble

Liturgy Lesson: The Chasuble

Liturgy Lesson: The Chasuble

As with nearly all of our ancient Faith practice, we're formed by the things we see. Those visual clues—the silent sermons—in the liturgy, the altar, its adornments, the sacred vessels, and the vestments assist us in growing our Faith and relationship to our Lord. Not surprisingly, then, there is a silent sermon with donning the chasuble, as well. The most conspicuous garment worn by the priest during Mass is the chasuble, or outer vestment, from the Latin casuala, meaning "small house." The beauty and dignity of this most visible Eucharistic vestment is essential in a properly ordered liturgy. When a new priest receives the chasuble at his ordination, the bishop exclaims to him, "Receive the sacerdotal (sacred and priestly) garment, for the Lord is powerful to increase in you charity (love) and perfection (holiness, completion)." The chasuble literally and symbolically overlays all the other vestments—as all other virtues begin with and rely on the supreme virtue of charity—God's unchanging love that can make us all complete in Him. The celebrant dons this last and most comprehensive vestment to signal the holiest work at the altar is about to begin. In ancient times, it heralded the end of the Mass of the Catechumens—also called the ante-communion—that part of the service those being trained for confirmation (catechumens) were allowed to worship in. When the chasuble was donned, it silently instructed the catechumens to depart while calling those who had been confirmed—the faithful—to prepare for the Canon (standard) of the Mass—the consecration of the Body and Blood of our Lord to be distributed to His people. The silent sermon here reminds us all we are allowed to the Holy Table only by God's Grace and partake of it unworthily at great peril. It tasks us to examen, confession, and submission to our Lord before celebrating His one sacrifice and taking His nature for ours. It also reminds us of our baptism in the Holy Spirit and fire—and our immersion by that inward and spiritual grace in the Lord Himself. Once the Canon of the Mass ends and we have taken upon us Christ's nature through the Sacraments, the celebrant removes the chasuble as the signal that we are now ready to be sent into the World to carry God's Grace and to demonstrate our lives in Him to the World. Removing the outer garment preaches to us that we are open to the world's inspection and are ready to work in the fields for the Kingdom. The ancient Church underscored this in the dismissal when they used the Latin "Ite, missa est," meaning "Go, you are sent," referring to our work continuing the work of the Apostles—carrying the Good News to the World around us!

The Collect for the Eighth Sunday after Trinity.

O GOD, whose never-failing providence ordereth all things both in heaven and earth; We humbly beseech thee to put away from us all hurtful things, and to give us those things which are profitable for us; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.