Liturgy Matters — More on vesture

By Dr. Judy Bullock

Dr. Judy Bullock
Dr. Judy Bullock

This column continues the study of the vestments and other apparel worn during the celebration of the liturgy.

The alb

The most commonly worn vestment for liturgy is the alb, a long white, loose fitting robe. Depending on the design of the alb, it may have a rope-like belt called a cincture. The alb, given a religious symbolism from the very first use in the church, was the garment worn by the newly baptized as a sign of purity and membership.

At the Easter vigil, the newly baptized neophytes are presented with a white alb after they come out of the waters of rebirth. The alb is therefore the foundational garment for liturgical ministry. It is the undergarment for all other liturgical vestments worn by the ordained minister and it may be worn by lay persons serving in a particular liturgical ministry.

The cope

The cope is a floor length cape that may be worn by the bishop, priest or deacon over an alb and stole. At one time the cope functioned more as an outer garment for warmth, but is now formal vesture for some solemn occasions.

Although not part of the vesture for Mass, the cope may be worn for the celebration of sacraments outside Mass. For example, the priest or deacon may wear a cope when presiding for a wedding liturgy without Mass.

The cope is worn by the ordained minister for exposition of the Blessed Sacrament and Benediction and may also be worn when he is presiding for the solemn celebration of the Liturgy of the Hours.

Vesture for a bishop  

When a bishop celebrates Mass, he wears the same vesture as a priest, with some notable additions. Under his chasuble he wears a pectoral cross on a chain or chord. On more solemn occasions he may also wear a light, white dalmatic under the chasuble as a sign of his full ministry.

On his head he wears a skullcap called a zucchetto. Over this he wears the miter, the distinctive headdress of a bishop. The miter has stiff front and back panels, shaped something like inverted shields. Hanging down the back are two short strips of cloth called lappets. The miter is worn during processions, for blessings, but not during the prayers of the liturgy.

The crosier

Another distinctive insignia of the bishop’s office is the crosier, an ornamental pastoral staff shaped like a shepherd’s crook. The bishop carries this staff in his left hand in procession, holds it during the proclamation of the Gospel and for solemn blessings.

Dr. Judy Bullock is the director of the Archdiocese of Louisville’s Office of Worship.

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