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Sunday, November 28, 2010

Looking at Liturgical Vestments

Fr. Uwe Michael Lang offers us an eye-opening reflection on the issue of liturgical vesture. The focus on his article revolves around the term "noble simplicity.

A lot of the times, when we see or hear the word "simplicity", we often associate this with a bare bones notion of things. But, as Fr. Lang explains, that is not necessarily the case:

In face of Judas' protest that the anointing with precious oil was an unacceptable "waste", given the need of the poor, Jesus, without diminishing the need for concrete charity towards the needy, declared his great appreciation for the woman's action, because her anointing anticipated "that great honor of which his body will continue to be worthy after his death, indissolubly linked as it is to the mystery of his Person" ("Ecclesia de Eucharistia" No. 47). John Paul II concludes that the Church, as the woman of Bethany, "does not fear to 'waste', investing the best of her resources to express her adoring wonder in the face of the incommensurable gift of the Eucharist" (ibid. No. 48). The liturgy calls for the best of our possibilities, to glorify God, the Creator and Redeemer.

Sadly, whenever the subject of doing something to beautify our liturgies is brought up, whether it's about sacred furnishings, vessels or vesture the same argument that Judas made is used by those who do not want to make the investment. They say that the Lord would rather we spend the money on taking care of the needy than by glorifying Him. However, while taking care of the needy is an important component, as Fr. Lang notes, we must remember that the first commandment is to love God. Loving God also means offering him the best that we have for worship. We need to be imitators of Abel and not Cain.

Even in parishes that may not have many resources, care must be made to give God the best that they can. While the vestments may not necessarily be made from silk and precious fibers, they should be of noble appearance and clean. They should be something that is worthy for use in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

When the Lord dictated to Moses the specifics of how He was to be worshipped by Ancient Israel, He laid out some very specific parameters, down to how the priestly vestments should look. The Church, as the New Israel, maintains the same demand for the best that can (and should) be offered and used. The sacred furnishings, the vessels and the vestments are dedicated to the service of the Lord so that, through these, we can offer fitting worship, worship that is worthy, dignified, solemn and noble. Fr. Lang reminds us that beauty is an important component of the Mass. While the beauty that we strive to offer the Lord pales in comparison to his own Divine Majesty, it gives us a foretaste of the mangnificence of the heavenly liturgy in the new Jerusalem.

Fr. Lang's article can be read in its entirety by following this link:ZENIT - The Noble Simplicity of Liturgical Vestments

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