by Derrick Celso
If there is something plaguing the liturgical praxis of the Catholic Church in the Philippines, the use of such abbreviations such as the cassock-alb and the chasuble-alb are probably one of the most serious problems. Serious, not in the level of Eucharistic profanation or outright indecorous actions at Mass in the Novus Ordo, but nevertheless serious in the level of liturgical vesture.
Unfortunately this trend is caused by things such as the ignorance of the clergy, or at least their outright indifference, or at least their conformity to the “standard” of the liturgy in this country, which in turn imposes their attitude to the manufacturers of the liturgical vestments, and then back again. A cycle of ignorance (or indifference) and over-compliance to the clients’ wishes and their fellow colleagues. Sometime ago the cycle has been done in reverse in some places.
In this country, you have clergymen not knowing the basic difference between a white cassock and an alb, or at least do not care about the difference. The former is for their streetwear or what they would wear underneath the alb or the surplice, the latter is for their use during the Mass in which they would add the stole on top of it, to which in turn the cincture is used to secure it in place, to which afterwards the chasuble is worn on top of it all, or the dalmatic for the deacon.
Despite all of these differences, the priests in this country would think that it is one and the same or will choose to omit both and would rather wear the flimsy chasuble-alb with overlay stole. The chasuble-alb, a chimera of a priestly vesture that combines the shape of a Gothic chasuble and the linen alb, whose drabness of the latter is compensated by the embroidery or otherwise the fabric of the heavy overlay stole, whose weight around the shoulders of the poor priest would cause him discomfort when compared to wearing a light alb with cincture securing a thin and relatively unadorned inner stole, and finally wearing a light Gothic or even a Spanish cut chasuble with little embroidery or no ornamentation at all, excepting galloon trimmings or gold braid.
A gothic chasuble decorated simply and is made of light materials. From the Dutch site Fluminalis.
On the other hand, oftentimes we can also see the stole worn by the deacon sideways overneath the alb, which sometimes they would not secure with the cincture, for the alb itself is like a cassock, and the stole has its own device in securing itself without the help of a cincture. This is an imporverishment. While it is true that the dalmatic in the Novus Ordo could be dispensed with in some other occasions, it should not be dispensed with altogether.
Ordinands somewhere in Spain during the ’50s. The light vestments and the simple aesthetics could be adopted by the Filipino clergy. Photo from liturgia.m.foros.net.
The cassock alb is the lovechild of novelty, laziness, indifference and/or conformity to the (sub)standards. The clergyman, not wanting to be too hot, nor wanting to have to wear a cassock or even a plain alb for streetwear or the Mass, had been given this cassock-alb for him to wear. Certainly this is not as worst as the other abbreviations of liturgical wear, it is nonetheless horrid considering the fact that this made the clergyman omit the cincture, whose symbolism is that of chastity and purity.
Another lightweight vestment. Note the simple single column orphrey. From Fluminalis.
All of the reasons behind these abbreviations of liturgical wear could be put to rest, the especially the reason that the full traditional vesture could be too hot for tropical weather by purchasing an alb whose fabric is light and airy, as well as stoles and chasubles that are lightweight and whose fabric are suited for tropical weather.
A chasuble decorated in a contemporary manner without being tasteless. From Fluminalis.
Such chasubles, dalmatics and stoles would lack heavy embroidery, being ornamented instead with a simple, light figure of Our Lord, Our Lady or some saintly or angelic figure, or even perhaps embroidery could be dispensed with and instead painted details be made as adornments to the vestments. It is also possible that all decoration could also be reduced to a single, thin column, y-shaped or tau-shaped orphrey of satin fabric or some other distinguishing fabric, or perhaps tone-on-tone fabric but set off by galloon trims or gold braids.
Saint Josemaría Escriva wearing a semi-gothic chasuble.
A tasteful, beautiful and simple solution to the problem of hot vestments in a tropical country. One could even reconsider ditching the full Gothic style with the Borromean or the trimmed-down 17th Century cut or the shortened but otherwise excellent semi-Gothic with pointed edges, often worn by the Opus Dei priests.
With regards to the cut of dalmatics, it the sleeves could be made loose or cut open or shortened. With regards to stoles, it could be made thinner. As with albs, they could be made of much lighter fabrics, as mentioned above, and be devoid of too much heavy ornamentation. The introduction of apparels could be laudable.
Of course, it should not be forgotten that the amice should be made in common usage again in the Novus Ordo. It lends a formality and grace to the entire ensemble by hiding the collar of the clergyman’s streetwear. It is also not as hot as it is assumed to be, provided it be made of a very thin and lightweight fabric.
The reverend Deacon or Father shouldn’t dispose of heavily-ornmanted and embroidered vestments of course, but if he is really bothered by the heat of the climate and the vestments, a simpler and cooler alternative could be sought after in a cheaper price rather than condensing all usage of individual vestments onto one “mega-vestment”.
For a Papal Mass, these chasubles are too austere. But for a parish or a chapel in a tropical country, this could be a suitable type of vestment, provided that the materials are light.
To be continued …
This post only pertains to the private opinion of the individual who wrote it, and is not to be taken as the official position of the Confraternity of the Holy Eucharist nor of Saint Andrew’s School nor any of its associates.