Clerical Vestments in The Anglican Church
The amice is a piece of white linen, rectangular in shape, with two long cloth ribbons. The priest places it around his neck, covering the clerical collar, and then ties it by crisscrossing the ribbons in his front (to form a St. Andrew’s cross), bringing them around the back, around the waist and tying them in a bow. The practical purpose of the amice is to conceal the normal clerical clothing of a priest, and to absorb any perspiration from the head and neck. Modern albs cover the neck so an amice is not always necessary. In the Graeco-Roman world, the amice was a head covering, oftentimes worn underneath the helmets of the Roman soldiers to absorb sweat, thereby preventing it from flowing into their eyes. The spiritual purpose is to remind the priest of St. Paul’s admonition: “Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the spirit, the Word of God” (Ephesians 6:17). The former vesting prayer was “Place, O Lord, the helmet of salvation on my head to resist the attacks of the devil.” Lay people who act as servers and many who are Lay readers may also wear an amice.
The Alb originated from the white tunic worn by Romans in the first century and was largely worn as an undergarment. It was adopted by the early church for liturgical use. Its name is derived from the Latin “Albus”, meaning white. Some modern style albs have collars which preclude the necessity for an amice. The spiritual purpose reminds the priest of his baptism, when he was clothed in white to signify his freedom from sin, purity of new life, and Christian dignity. Moreover, the Book of Revelation describes the saints who stand around the altar of the Lamb in Heaven as “These are the ones who have survived the great period of trial; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (7:14). In the same way, the priest must offer the Eucharist with purity of body and soul, and with the dignity befitting Christ’s priesthood. The former vesting prayer was “Make me white, O Lord, and purify my heart so that being made white in the Blood of the Lamb, I may deserve an eternal reward.”Albs are simple ankle length robes, usually worn by clergy with a Stole and Cincture around the waist. The Alb is typically worn as the base vestment with other special garments over the top, although it is often worn by itself. Albs are especially used during Eucharistic celebrations (Holy Communion). Lay people who act as servers and many who are Lay readers may also wear an Alb.
The cincture is a long, thick cord with tassels at the ends which secures the alb around the waist and secures the Stole with knot in the middle. It may be white or may be the same liturgical colour as the other vestments. In the Graeco-Roman world, the cincture was like a belt. Spiritually, the cincture reminds the priest of the admonition of St. Peter: “So gird the loins of your understanding; live soberly; set all your hope on the gift to be conferred on you when Jesus Christ appears. As obedient sons, do not yield to the desires that once shaped you in you ignorance. Rather, become holy yourselves in every aspect of your conduct, after the likeness of the holy One who called you” (I Peter 1:13-15). The former vesting prayer was “Gird me, O Lord, with the cincture of purity and extinguish in my heart the fire of concupiscence so that, the virtue of continence and chastity always abiding in my heart, I may better serve Thee.” The Cincture is different to the girdle worn by Lay people who act as servers who wear it to one side.
A Cassock is a plain black ankle length robe with long sleeves. Technically the Cassock is a clerical garment and not a vestment and usually have no particular theological emphasis attached to them. It is also derived from the Greco-Roman Tunic simply meaning "ankle length" in Latin. Cassocks are typically worn under the Surplice or Cotta. Laity and clergy can wear the Cassock and it is often, but not always, tied around the waist with a Cincture, lay people that wear Cassocks are often Choir members, Lay readers and sometimes Servers.
For much of church history until the 20th century the Cassock was the street wear / uniform of the clergy. When combined with a Surplice and black English stole called either a “Tippet” or “Preaching Scarf” and sometimes accompanied with the academic hood is often designated being dressed in “Choir Office” as the norm for clergy at services of Morning and Evensong as those have traditionally been known in the Church as the Choir offices. The cassock worn so is highly distinctive of Anglicanism. Traditionally Anglican Cassocks are double breasted, buttoning on the shoulders and waist. Roman Catholic Cassocks typically have 33 buttons directly down the middle of the garment. An Anglican variant of the Roman Cassock exists with 39 buttons (reflecting the 39 Articles of Religion or the 39 lashes of Christ). Other types of the typical black Cassock include variations with red piping worn by Canons and Deans. Bishops typically wear purple Cassocks.
A full white vestment with wide sleeves. It has an opening for the head at the top and typically reaches to the knees or beyond. The term is from the Latin superpelliceum, meaning "over a fur garment." It was an oversized alb that was worn as a choir vestment over a fur coat in the drafty and cold churches of northern Europe. It is usually worn over a cassock by clergy. It may also be worn by lay people with particular liturgical ministries at worship such as lectors or choir members. The academic dress of clergy may include cassock, surplice, and tippet, with or without an academic hood. The Surplice and stole may also be worn by the clergy who presides at a Eucharist or baptism. It came to be widely accepted with the Tippet, and sometimes with the academic hood as the standard vestment for officiating/assisting at the Offices of Morning and Evening Prayer. A shorter version of the Surplice is called the Cotta with short sleeves and usually pleats, particularly worn by Anglo-Catholics from the middle of the 19th Century.
A large black scarf worn by clergy over surplice and cassock at the Daily Offices and often at FuneralsIt resembles a stole and is worn around the neck with the ends hanging down the front. It has also been known as the “Preaching Scarf” as it is often worn at various services by the one designated at the Preacher.
Rarely used by clergy since the 1960’s and worn on the left arm, originally the maniple was likely a piece of linen which clerics used to wipe their faces and hands and has been described as being akin to a handkerchief. It appears to have been used since at least the 6th century. The maniple can vary widely in size, shape, and degree of ornamentation. Common symbolic comments refer to the maniple's likeness to the rope by which Christ was led and the chains which bound his hands. It has also become known as an emblem of the tears of penance, the burden of sin, and the fatigue of the priestly office. In the Anglican church the maniple is described as a symbol of being a servant to the servants of God.
The Stole is a scarf-like vestment that hangs around the neck and reaches to the wearers knees, each side sitting parallel. Usually ornately decorated in liturgical colours, with Christian symbols on each end. The Stole is worn over the Alb or the Surplice. Stoles like many vestments went out of favour in the English Reformation but saw a revival in the 19th century. Only Clergy may wear a Stole. Deacons wear them on their left shoulder crossed diagonally over the chest and Priests and Bishops wear them over the neck, each end hanging parallel. The stole reminds the priest not only of his authority and dignity as a priest, but also of his duty to preach the Word the God with courage and conviction (“Indeed, God’s word is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword.” Hebrews 4:12) and to serve the needs of the faithful. The former vesting prayer was “Restore unto me, O Lord, the Stole of immortality which I lost through the sin of my first parents and, although unworthy to approach Thy sacred Mystery, may I nevertheless attain to joy eternal.”
A highly decorative Eucharistic vestment, the Chasuble is a round/oval piece of fabric with a hole for the wearers head and are usually ornately decorated. Derived from the 'Casula' of ancient Rome which was an outer traveling garment, similar to a poncho. It is a highly formal liturgical vestment worn almost exclusively during the Eucharist, denoting solemnity. Chasubles are always worn as the top layer of vestments, with the Alb and Stole underneath. Chasubles fall into two main categories- Gothic or Roman. Gothic vestments with the Y on the front and back of the chasuble or at least in poncho style with pillar orphrey are the most common vestment in the Anglican Church, reflecting our ancient Celtic history. Only clergy may wear Chasubles. Chasubles match the colour of the liturgical calendar. In Church history Chasubles saw a revival in the 19th century Oxford movement after being banned in the 16th century Reformation. Spiritually, the chasuble reminds the priest of the charity of Christ: “Over all these virtues put on love, which binds the rest together and makes them perfect” (Colossians, 3:14). The former vesting prayer was “O Lord, Who hast said, ‘My yoke is sweet and My burden light,’ grant that I may so carry it as to merit Thy grace.” In the Middle Ages, two popular interpretations of the meaning of the vestments arose. The most prevalent one interpreted the vestments as symbols of Jesus’ passion: the blindfold (the amice) and the garment (the alb) as He was mocked and beaten; the ropes and fetters (the cincture) which bound Him during the scourging; the cross (the stole) He carried; and the seamless garment (the chasuble) for which the soldiers rolled dice. The other popular interpretation focused on the vestments in their Roman military origins and viewed them as symbols of the priest as the soldier of Christ doing battle against sin and Satan. Moreover, the vestments inspire the priest and all of the faithful to meditate on their rich symbolism.
The Cope is a large cape worn traditionally by bishops, deans, canons, archdeacons and incumbents although can be worn by all ranks of clergy when appropriate. Originally a 'cappa' in Latin meaning cape. Copes are a very formal, ceremonial vestment. The Cope is used both during and outside Holy Communion. Copes are typically highly decorated and joined at the breast by a clasp or band of fabric. They can be in any liturgical colour. There is no particular theological connection to the cope. A rule of thumb for the wearing of a cope. If the Bishop wears a cope in your parish, clergy can wear a cope as well. If the Bishop is not wearing a cope the normal rule is that clergy do not wear a cope in his/her presence.
Fr Robert Newton