Thursday, February 28, 2008


If you took the quiz some weeks back you might have picked up from where liturgical vestments came, but there is also symbolic meanings attributed to them that we will start looking at today.

Though not all priests use them anymore, the amice would be, if used, the first vestment a priest would put on for mass. It is a white, rectangular piece of material with two long strings attached. The cloth part goes over the shoulders and tucks into the collar while the strings tie around the torso to hold it into place. Its use is to cover the collar and protect the alb but it symbolizes the helmet of salvation and is a sign of resistance against temptation.

This is the prayer that the priest may say when putting amice on: “Place, O Lord, on my head the helmet of salvation that I may overcome the assaults of the devil.”

The alb is a long white tunic reaching to the feet. It is jokingly referred to as liturgical underwear as it goes under all the other vestments. Its purpose is to cover all of one’s street clothes. The symbolic value should remind the wearer of the robe Herod had Christ dressed in when he was mocked. In this it further reminds us of His chastity, purity, and the eternal joy of those redeemed by His blood.

The prayer for the alb petitions God with the words, “Purify me, O Lord, from all stain and cleanse my heart, that, washed in the Blood of the Lamb, I may enjoy eternal delights.”

The cincture is essentially a belt. The cord wraps around the body and keeps the stole and the alb in place. This piece of vesture too has fallen out of use with many priests. It reminds us of the cords with which Christ was tied to the pillar for His scourging and symbolizes chastity, temperance, and self-restraint.

“Gird me, O Lord,” begs the prayer, “with the cincture of purity, and quench in my heart the fire of concupiscence, that the virtue of continence and chastity may remain in me.”

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