Liturgical Observation on Lace

Yesterday afternoon, our friends over at the New Liturgical Movement posted a rather nice set of photographs from the “Papal Vespers on the Feast of the Presentation.” I am grateful as ever to Shawn Tribe for doing the legwork of finding and posting the photographs, together with appropriate notes.

Without having seen the broadcast of the Evening Prayer service, I can really can’t comment on more than the details I notice in the NLM photos. (Please note that I’m commenting here as a student of matters liturgical, with an appreciation for the catholic/universal dimensions of liturgical worship — not offering denominationally-driven commentary on what Anglicans once rather unfortunately called “papal enormities.”) In particular, I wish to remark about the use of lace in the surplices of the masters of ceremony.

I have an allergy to the use of lace in albs and surplices.

I have an even bigger allergy to the claim that the use of lace in vestments is somehow expressive of a “hermeneutic of continuity”. In my opinion the use of lace is expressive of a certain “baroque” sensibility, a particular aesthetic that seems to be once again in vogue. I do not share that aesthetic, and admit I’m rather fond of the more simple surplices that had been used prior to the appointment of the Rev. Msgr. Guido Marini as Master of Pontifical Liturgical Celebrations. While I’m sufficiently liberal to say “to each their own” concerning lace, I do not take kindly to the suggestion that it’s somehow expressive of “the Tradition,” with a capital “T.”

So I was pleasantly surprised to see that the use of lace in the surplices of the masters of ceremony was more restrained than it has been in the recent past — sufficiently restrained, in fact, that I did not see it immediately, that it was not the first thing that distracted me from the action of the liturgy as represented in the photos.

But I have a hunch that this restraint reflects the fact that, in the calendar of the Extraordinary Form, this Sunday past was Septuagesima, the beginning of the pre-Lent season. The paring away toward Lent has begun (as if the Church needs a season to prepare for a season of preparation!), and if I’m right, the lace will be diminshed over the next few weeks before it disappears all together on Ash Wednesday.

And yes, I see a cause for concern here. One might hope that, apart from celebrations in the Extraordinary Form, the norms of the Ordinary Form and its calendar — rather than a subtle devaluation of it, whether born of personal piety or something more nefarious (say, the dismantling of the legitimate work of an Ecumenical Council?) — would be embraced for papal celebrations. . .

. . . even if, in theory, that means more lace!

29 comments

  1. I celebrate the EF Mass with a modern alb, with a built in cincture and a neckline that covers my collar–some would decry that I don’t wear linen, true cincture and amice. I don’t have a lace alb. I don’t wear a cassock under the alb either–I will be derided by some for that too–but its hot in the south and I sweat with too many layers–but I suspect that could be viewed as a mortification that I should embrace. But nonetheless some observations:
    1. My Church is Romanesque/Gothic Revival of the 19th century type and a classic in that sense. So lace would not be out of place here. St. Peter’s is Baroque, pure Romanesque and lace certainly fits the place.
    2. Some would say the the Ordinary Form of the Mass is so “ordinary” that lace doesn’t befit it–I leave that to others to debate.
    3. Some say that real men don’t eat quiche. Are you suggesting the same for men wearing lace? And not to be critical, but in both cases does this betray crass “homophobia?” I think there are many out there that are concerned about priestly attire and vestments based upon a rather unfortunate stereotype.
    4. These comments are not meant to be divisive but I do think that we have to start living with the hermeneutic of continuity until the next Holy Father decides another, but somehow I don’t think that will happen, but I’m not clairvoyant.

    1. As an ex-Anglican, I suspect it’s just that Cody appreciates the noble simplicity of the surplice sans lace. I sympathise, feeling that lace can be intrusively fussy, but that might just be my Protestant background coming out!

  2. Thanks for the insight. I attend the Extraordinary Form the large majority of the time and also have an aversion to lace. I find that lace detracts from my worship to the point where my eyes are drawn to the lace designs and not the ritual itself. I would warn casual NLM readers that lacy albs and super ornate fiddlebacks aren’t standard fare at your average EF Mass, at least in North America. The priests at my current EF parish wear only gothic chasubles and plain albs that would easily fit in at an average parish celebration of the Ordinary Form. I don’t think they have a fiddleback anywhere in the sacristy! It’s good enough for me that the vestments are clean, simple, representative of an era of the western tradition, and well maintained.

    Cost may deter priests from lace and ornate vestments. However I also suspect that many ‘traditional’ priests don’t care much for lace either even if they had the financial resources to procure fancy vestments. Even in the indult days the large majority of priests wore a simple alb and a modest chasuble. NLM likes to show outlier liturgies like Papal Vespers, but the view from the everyday world is much different and simpler.

  3. In defence of lace, not only do I find it more aesthetically pleasing than the ‘day spa’ robe style of vestment seen today in a certain type of Catholic church, but it has a particular, much more important, meaning for me. As a child, I was an altar boy at the Novus Ordo Masses (the only type then available) at our local church – the lace was crocheted by my great grandmother for me. She poured much love and devotion into making lace not only for me but for priests on the missions and elsewhere. Are we all so grand and post-modern now that we can sneer at such lay devotion?

  4. “But I have a hunch that this restraint reflects the fact that, in the calendar of the Extraordinary Form, this Sunday past was Septuagesima, the beginning of the pre-Lent season”

    A “hunch”? I think you may be able to go so far as to say that this is the actual reason. While most Catholics today wouldn’t even know what Septuagesima is, it’s not as though it’s some obscure or arcane idea. It was Septuagesima at every EF Mass this past Sunday, and just as most Catholics are familiar with the often-excessive liturgical barrenness of Lent in their parishes, those who attend the EF expect that there will be a gradual increase in liturgical solemnity over the next few weeks….often expressed in aspects of the liturgy such as the vestments and music.

    Less visibility of lace vestments when they are used would be a fine point to be sure, but exactly what would be expected from Msgr. Marini.

  5. I would like to seriously request Mr. (Rev?) Unterseher to clarify his meaning. While saying: “I have an allergy to the use of lace…” is amusing, it also seems to me to be trying to place the writer in the correct camp that sniffs at all manner of frou-frou as old fashioned and pre-Vat II. (Unless, of course, the sight of lace causes the writer to break out in hives and sneezing fits!). So, I would really like to know how the use of lace makes a theological/liturgical statement to which he can object. I do not believe that its use was ever outlawed for the liturgy that its present use can really cause one to worry about the “dismantling of the legitimate work of an Ecumenical Council”?

    Rather, it seems to me that an admittedly minor bit of liturgical nicety is being raised to a fear for the legitimacy of the whole work of Vatican II. However, it is really an argument over taste and the unease that people feel when one era passes and a new one begins. It is no secret that the Holy Father wants the two forms of the Mass to enrich each other, since he has clearly said so. So, that can hardly be a nefarious scheme. Rather, it is part of the current critique of the politics and ideologies that were part of implementation of the Council. And please note, that this critique is not a rejection of the Council, but a study of the politics that surrounded it. Since this study and critique is clearly a wish of the Holy Father, I fail to see how it is a danger to the Church.

    If I am wrong in my assessment, in all seriousness, I would appreciate the author telling me why I should join him in his concern.

  6. While I agree with Fr. McDonald that there are certain architectural settings wherein one style of vestment is more appropriate than another (and therefore, yes, in theory, a lace alb or surplice or rochet would fit the baroque setting of St. Peter’s Basilica), I would debate the point regarding a Romanesque or Gothic (or Gothic revival) building: medieval vestments did not have lace. They did have apparels, which are another matter.

    With regard to the query posed by Fr. Hauser, “I would really like to know how the use of lace makes a theological/liturgical statement to which he can object,” I would say that yes, the use of lace — particularly to the degree in which it has been used recently in Vatican liturgies — does make a theological statement. The alb and its diminutive form, the surplice — which once, as the superpellicium, was a fuller form — is fundamentally a lay vestment, the garment of all the baptized. Although these vestments have become almost exclusively the preserve of liturgical ministers, nonetheless they signify the real though essentially different priesthood exercised by all believers. A moderate amount of ornamentation may enhance these vestments, though the application of additional symbols to objects already symbolic in themselves may undermine their symbolic power. However, when such vestments are largely composed of, well, lace, their very form and recognizability becomes distorted — and with that, their meaning. This extends beyond personal aesthetic judgments, which I concede play a role here. Fashioning a garment originally intended to cover an otherwise naked body out of a material wholly inappropriate for that purpose has the effect of changing the garment’s meaning. In this case, the vestment becomes wholly clericalized, unrecognizable as something that would be worn by all the faithful.

    In this, I do see more than just a critique of the Council or its politics: it is symbolic of an apparently intentional move away from the ecclesiology that the Constitutions on the Church (Lumen Gentium and Gaudium et Spes) articulate.

    1. actually, our church, with construction begun in1893, but only completed in 1903 is French neo-Romanesque/Gothic revival. The parish was founded by the Jesuits and there is a strong Jesuit influence in it, they left in 1959–the same Jesuit brother who designed this one also built one in Tampa, Florida (Sacred Heart) in Galveston, Texas which was destroy in a hurricane in the early 20th century and a duplicate of the Galveston one in Augusta, GA named Sacred Heart. The one in Augusta was closed, (a terrible decision by the then bishop, as this building was a “symbol” of Catholicism in Augusta) and merged into another older Romanesque building (completed in 1863 and by slave labor, many of whom joined the Church after it was consecrated in 1863, but had to sit in the balcony and pump the organ which is fully restored today (Jardine) but electrified but still having the pump!). The justice in the slaves joining the parish is that after Sacred Heart was closed in 1970, an all white, thriving parish, I might add, with a “racist” reputation, it was merged with an all black parish “Immaculate Conception” which was also closed, into the Church of the Most Holy Trinity, the 1863 one (white) which was the smallest and poorest of the three congregations. Today it is one of the richest in our diocese, financially and from the black and white ratio. Sacred Heart, still magnificent, but no longer a church was purchased by a Methodist family of means and restored as a civic banquet hall/auditorium but with all the altars, statues and windows in tact, just no pews. You can rent it for anything and I mean anything, but we’re glad it is preserved. Still called Sacred Heart, but not Church, cultural center. (But I digress)–Lace albs fit very well into our French, neo-Romanesque/Gothic Revival architecture for it is quite bright and ornate. I will eventually buy a modest one to wear not only in the EF but also in the OF for major solemnities–what’s the big deal?

  7. Allow me to thank Fr. Unterseher for his very quick reply to my question. It is interesting to see how the use of lace can become part of a theological question indicating a move away his understanding of the ecclesiology of the Council. I find it fascinating that a comment on lace (of all things!) can so quickly move to a discussion about meaning of the Church. This certainly illustrates Fr. Unterseher’s declaration that symbols are important in understanding the church. Simply as a matter of taste, I am not fond of lace on albs and surplices; I do see how one can see its use as expressing an ecclesiology. However, I continue to believe that this is not a move away from the ecclesiology of the Council. As I said, the views of the Holy Father have been clearly articulated. His stated intention is to critique the interpretation of the Council, not to change the Council’s documents. The question is whether the interpretation of the past decades is the only way that the documents can be understood or whether it represents only one possible ideology.

    Indeed, it appears to me that my original question and Fr. Unterseher‘s reply shows an example of the Holy Father’s idea of the two hermeneutics of rupture and continuity. To explain, my question is born from my training as an art historian. I believe that the best way to explain artistic developments is to understand the continuity of one period and its past. Even major ruptures can be seen as a period’s understanding—and rejection—of its past. This means that one must always work within continuity and that it is impossible to somehow delete some part of a culture’s history.

    Fr. Unterseher’s understanding of the symbolism of the alb (a “fundamentally a lay vestment, the garment of all the baptized”) seems to me to be trying force a 2nd century reality onto the 21st century by denying the intervening history of the garment. Certainly the modern alb can be traced back to the tunica talaris of the late 2nd century, and so, could be called a lay garment. However, at this period it was a pagan form of dress rather than a distinctly Christian garment of the baptized. Further, as a pagan garment, it was used in art as the dress of the gods and heroes to signify their special status. It is this use of the tunica talaris that informs its use in the images in the catacombs. This long tunic shows the dignity of Christ, the Apostles and saints.

    By the 3rd century we see the use of Roman liturgical garments (including the alb) that are not worn in the workaday world. The alb was undecorated because it was nearly completely covered by the early Dalmatic (itself a type of tunica) that would be decorated. The lack of decoration, then is simply because it had become a liturgical undergarment. (See, for instance, the image of St. Apollinare in St. Apollinare in Classe, Ravenna where only the cuffs and hem are visible). By the 4th century it was understood to be a distinctive dress of the clergy during the liturgy. While not reserved exclusively to the clergy, the laity were not required to wear it at the Liturgy: deacons were. The Council of Carthage in c. 400 sees the alb as a ritual garment, and in England these Roman clothes were already beginning to be reserved to ordained clergy as early as the 4th century.

    While today we can historically trace the alb to Roman 2nd century dress, as early as the 8th century it was thought to be a development of Old Testament Levitical dress and began to be interpreted symbolically. Even though we do not accept this idea, it is important to take these early interpretations seriously in order to understand what the Church thought of its ritual vestments.

    Fr. Unterseher correctly says that the alb remained essentially undecorated. In the 9th century there is some decoration at the hem (which was all that was always visible), which then developed into the larger apparels. The use of lace developed from the apparel and was in use before the Reformation in the 16th century. The lace decorated alb was rejected during the Anglican Reformation, but in Rome the use of lace became more and more abundant especially from the 17th to the 19th centuries. (Interestingly, in England the undecorated alb was mandated under Elizabeth I because of the belief that it came from the Levitical priesthood. However, the Puritans rejected its use as too popish, and its use became a flashpoint in Elizabethan ecclesiology confirming Fr. Unterseher’s view that a garment can express conflicting ecclesiologies!).

    So, here we have some 1800 years of the history of development of this garment. According to Fr. Unterseher we are to understand the alb as an essentially lay garment that “signif(ies) the real though essentially different priesthood exercised by all believers”. As an historian, I do not see this interpretation of the alb being proposed until after the Second Vatican Council. Yes, in the second and third centuries the alb was worn by both lay and clergy, but it was also understood to be a liturgical garment proper for deacons and priests while at worship as early as the third century and continued to be so understood. While it could be worn by other ministers (lectors and singers, for example), it was symbolically understood to indicate a link between the Levitical priesthood and the Christian priesthood throughout much of its history.

    To understand the alb as a fundamentally lay garment in the way Fr. Unterseher asks, we have to jump over 18 centuries of the Church’s history back to the second century. Even then, I am unaware of any second century documents that would indicate this interpretation. Rather, it appears to be a new interpretation of the second half of the twentieth century. In my estimation, this hermeneutic is an improper understanding of the documents of the Second Vatican Council. I am advocating an ecclesiology that places the Church of our time within the sweep of the entire history of the Church. I do not think that this is a move away from the ecclesiology of the documents of the Council but a proper understanding of those documents.

    Once again, my thanks for the opportunity to discuss these issues.

    1. Father Hauser, thank you for taking time to post your well-considered reply. Much food for thought here, with evidence from artistic evidences — too often understudied among those of us who are academic students of the liturgy.

      Much further debate would, I think, undermine the value of what you have written. I would suggest, though, that the post-conciliar development of a symbolic understanding of the alb as the vestment of the whole assembly, even if perhaps a stretching of resourcement, was nonetheless a valuable and defensible outgrowth of the Council’s ecclesiology.

      In the end, I must return to what I originally wrote:

      “In my opinion the use of lace is expressive of a certain “baroque” sensibility, a particular aesthetic that seems to be once again in vogue. I do not share that aesthetic….”

      To which I might add “. . . for theological reasons.”

      Again, thank you for your insights.

      1. Dear Fr. Cody, I didn’t realize until I looked at your blog that you are Episcopal/Anglican. That puts things into perspective for me. My parochial vicar in Augusta at Most Holy Trinity was one of our “married priests” in the Latin Rite having come to Rome from the Episcopal Church. His wife was active in our parish, he had 7 children and many grandchildren. My parish was conservative, but embraced him and his wife and never blinked! He also was bi-ritual and was pastor of a “Greek Catholic” Melkite parish in Augusta. So lace in the Eastern Rite might be frowned on too, but I don’t know. Fr. Daniel Munn has since died, but he came to Rome in 1983 and was one of the first to be ordained a Catholic priest in this country and at Most Holy Trinity in Augusta and this made national news. I had him from1991 to 2004 and he died in 2006. There’s another married former Anglican priest in Augusta, but he is Melkite with Latin Rite faculties. He has a beautiful wife and two children.
        So come on over to Rome. Fr. Munn called himself a “Papist!”

  8. As Fr Hauser says, you can’t just skip over 1800 years!

    While I have often seen it asserted that the alb is somehow really the baptismal white garment, I have never seen any evidence to support the contention that the alb is derfived from the baptismal garment. I was VERY interested to read Fr Hauser’s explanation of the alb, which makes a good deal of sense. If anyone has any EVIDENCE to support the idea that the liturgical alb is really a baptismal white garment, I’d love to see it.

    As for Rev C. Unterseher’s argument that the surplice is a really LAY garment… well I’m sorry to be direct, but that’s just absurd. The surplice is worn over the “vestis talaris” which is – and has been for over a millenium – a garment of CLERICS. Indeed, one of the arguments I have seen advanced against the practice in some places of Acolytes wearing the cassock and surplice is exactly that the surplice is a clerical garment whereas the Acolyte is (now) a layman. So which is it, a lay garment or a clerical garment? A clerical garment which lay people wear or a lay garment to be worn only by clerics???

    As to some sort of post-Vatican II understanding that the alb is the “vestment of the whole assembly”, WHERE does Rev. Unterseher find such a suggestion in any authoritative document? The G.I.R.M. speaks of the alb as being the “sacred garment common to ordained and instituted ministers of any rank”. Ordained and instituted minsters, not the entire assembly.

    As to the surplices worn at papal vespers for the Presentation, Rev. Unterseher has “a hunch that this restraint reflects the fact that, in the calendar of the Extraordinary Form, this Sunday past was Septuagesima, the beginning of the pre-Lent season.”

    In fact Msgr. Guido Marini has on several ocasions at papal liturgies worn suplices of the the “more simple” style which Rev. Unterseher says he prefers, including very recently at the papal vespers for the Conversion of St Paul on January 25th – which was BEFORE the traditional pre-Lent. So maybe the wearing of lace surplices is not part of some terrible consipracy to undo the teaching of Vatican II?

    1. I’ll do some digging for evidences this weekend — the idea wasn’t, after all, pulled out of thin air. Immediately coming to mind, however, is the title for the first Sunday after Easter in the ancient missals: Dominica in albis, meaning both Sunday in Albs or Sunday in White — it’s the last day of the Easter Octave, the final day that the newly baptized wore their white garments (whatever they were) in public.

      As I said, I’ll do some digging to substantiate this more fully.

  9. This is of course largely a matter of taste, but objectively the celebration of liturgy does require dignified vestments. Personally I find lace to be beautiful and thus meeting this requirement, but I agree that the baroque style is excessive sometimes. The Renaissance variety is more refined. That said, the Easterners often embroider their albs very elaborately and no one ever has any problem with this although it is basically the same thing.

    Regarding Septuagesimatide, the Church has long felt a need for preparing for the preparation for Easter. In fact I personally feel this need and consider it odd to be parachuted suddenly into Lent on Ash Wednesday. The Church, in its wisdom, recognized this need and made provision for it in its calendars (Western and Eastern – the Byzantine Rite still includes a corresponding time of preparation). Bugnini’s commission didn’t think the practice had any value, but did they really speak for the Church?

  10. “But I have a hunch that this restraint reflects the fact that, in the calendar of the Extraordinary Form, this Sunday past was Septuagesima”

    Cue evil theme music!

    Really, this sort of writing lends itself to the most hysterical of stereotypical interpretations. It is highly unlikely to promote good-faith dialogue in these matters.

    1. Really, Vincent? I thought it was careful and responsible speculating. I was glad for an insight which wouldn’t have occurred to me. Isn’t it interesting how we read things differently? Quidquid reciptur…

      1. I considered my reading validated by the comments that proceeded from the above cited comment:

        “rather than a subtle devaluation of it, whether born of personal piety or something more nefarious (say, the dismantling of the legitimate work of an Ecumenical Council?) — would be embraced for papal celebrations. . .”

        which really does seem to me to be walking the line of hysterics and bad-faith.

  11. Oh, and much thanks to those who have engaged in this debate on the alb. I have for some time wondered where the idea that the alb is the “garment of all the baptized” came from.

  12. I think that the outbreak of lace we are seeing with the new rage for all things “traditional” is, like so much of the associated aesthetic, a throwback to the 19th century rather than a Tridentate revival.

    Lace, all lace, for the better part of the modern era, was a luxury. It took thousands of man-hours (or, more likely, woman-hours) to produce the finest, largest lace objects. Of course Catholics wanted to adorn the liturgical costume with lace, and, as a result, a rich cleric or a wealthy church might have quite a bit of hand-made lace, while a poor cleric or parish might only have a few, well-worn items.

    When lace-making machines were invented during the Industrial Revolution, the world went lace-mad. Everything was made of the stuff, and large lace items were within the reach of the middle classes. Likewise, liturgical costumes everywhere were made more lacey and frilly, to the point where albs and surplices become downright obscenely translucent “peek-a-boo” overlays, hardly real garments at all.

    The backlash was particularly harsh from some contemporary liturgists. One French priest, writing in a book I’ll have to go look up from the early 20th century, attacked lace on two fronts: First, that it was being added by pious ladies and greedy church outfitters to things that should never, ever have any lace on them for practical reasons (like corporals.) Second, that the whole effect was screamingly tasteless, vulgar, and, by that point, unmanly. He strongly urged a return to full-cut albs and surplices for their sobriety if for no other reason.

    1. Interesting that you should bring this history up, Will. There have been a few vestments that I have seen made with a heavier, clearly hand-crocheted lace, to which I would not object.

      Then, of course, there was the alb I recently saw that looked awfully like it was made out of one of my grandmothers’ frilly lace tablecloths. Sure enough, when I asked the NY wearer where he had acquired it, he told me that he had bought a plain alb from one of the big name church-goods distributors, then went to a fabric shop in the garment district and found “the finest, lightest lace” he could get. The tailor at the launderer did the rest.

  13. Will: I know that book! It was by a French monk from Ampleforth who basically went on the offensive not only against lace but also fiddleback chasubles. He advocated a return to Gothic chasubles as well, if I recall correctly. (He also quoted Fortescue, a hero to EF users, who also opposed fiddlebacks as well.) I happened to borrow it sometime last year from a theological library.

  14. The frequent invocations of Fortescue on certain subjects always do come in with a little bit of irony. He really was not fond of complex ceremonies, so of course it’s a great irony that it is thanks in large part to him that the old pontifical liturgies can be executed today. Though of course there are still plenty of masters of ceremonies who can read enough Latin to go to the sources, but the majority, especially in the English-speaking world rely on Fortescue.

    However, there are two important points to bear in mind here. The first is that the most important thing for Fortescue was to obey the law of the church. He did not believe that documents or teachings had “spirits.” Even on points he did not like (such as liturgical hand-kissing) he was obedient to the letter of the law. The second important point is that the modern aesthetic that Fortescue argued for (Gothic revival in character, and can be seen in the parish church he built and vestments he commissioned) would by most modern eyes still be viewed as very “traditional.” What are passed off now as Gothic vestments are hardly what Fortescue was advocating.

  15. Well, with 22 (and now 23) comments on this post, we now know what the real liturgical issues are that need to be addressed: what it is we are to wear in liturgy and what sense of fashion is called for by the architecture of various churches. As a friend of mine in seminary used to say in response to such trivial inconsequential issues, i.e., what we Lutherans call adiaphoron, “that will certainly feed the hungry and clothe the naked, won’t it?”

    Max

    1. Max,

      Nobody is advocating that we focus on this at the exclusion of corporal works of mercy, so why imply it? Love for Catholic liturgy, and these discussions that stem from it, grows from our following of Jesus’s greatest commandment: you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. This is the highest form of worship God has given us, so why would we not pay some attention to these things?

  16. Not a problem if we keep our priorities straight. In the words of St. John Chrysostom, which may well be relevant to our modern conversation: “Do you wish to honor the body of Christ? Do not ignore him when he is naked. Do not pay him homage in the temple clad in silk only then to neglect him outside where he suffers cold and nakedness. He who said: This is my body’ is the same one who said: ‘you saw me hungry and you gave me no food,’ and ‘whatever you did to the least of my brothers you did also to me.’ … What good is it if the Eucharistic table is overloaded with golden chalices when he is dying of hunger? Start by satisfying his hunger, and then with what is left you may adorn the altar as well” (as quoted by Pope John Paul, II, in Dies Domini, 71, who I never saw wearing lace in public).

    Together with this, let me add the great insight of my dear colleague, Nathan Mitchell, who has written:

    “”Liturgy is God’s work for us, not our work for God. Only God can show us how to worship God – fittingly, beautifully. Liturgy is not something beautiful we do for God, but something beautiful God does for us and among us. Public worship is neither our work nor our possession; as the Rule of St Benedict reminds us, it is opus Dei, God’s work. Our work is to feed the hungry, to refresh the thirsty, to clothe the naked, to care for the sick, to shelter the homeless; to visit the imprisoned; to welcome the stranger; to open our hands and hearts to the vulnerable and the needy. If we are doing those things well, liturgy and the Catholic identity it rehearses will very likely take care of themselves. Liturgical art is our public gratitude that God is doing for us what we cannot do for ourselves. And there, perhaps, is where ethics and aesthetics together can begin to change the face of worship.”

    Nathan Mitchell, “The Amen Corner: Being Good and Being Beautiful,” Worship 74:6 (November 2000): 557-558.

    Pax, Max

  17. One wonders if there could also be a topic of the people being allergic to rainbow polyester and “children of the world.”

  18. The citation for the book I mentioned (a fun read, really):

    Vestments and Vesture
    by dom E. A. Roulin, OSB
    Translated from the original French by dom Justin McCann, OSB
    1950, Newman Press

    First published in Paris, 1930

  19. From a lay perspective, white lace with liturgical designs might fascinate a child in the front pew to the point of asking his parents the meaning of the symbols- gets knowledge of the church in the process. And I read somewhere on the web, “more lace, more grace.” A delicate fabric requires more thoughtful action by the wearer, thus more thoughtful movement. Nothing hurried- makes for a beautiful Mass.

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