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Gottesblog

A blog of the Evangelical Lutheran Liturgy

Chasubles and Maniples and Stoles, Oh My!

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a pastor in possession of a chasuble is in want of a congregation who will invariable say, "That is Catholic." And indeed it is catholic. But it is not papist. Words mean things. To be catholic is to be universal, or as the Oxford Movement's John Henry Newman was often saying, "quod semper, quod ubique, quod ab omnibus" (that which was alway, and everywhere, and by all). 

So, while there may be whispers and chants of "chasubles and maniples and stoles, OH MY!" The pastor in possession of them and who uses them is indeed in good companynot simply in the church catholic, but also in the Lutheran tradition specifically. Read what Ernst Zeeden describes as the practice of vestment wearing in the church of the Lutheran Reformers and their heirs. 

Lutherans continued to use the five ancient liturgical colors as well as the liturgical vestments in the service and for sacramental acts; this usage lasted amazingly long, partly up to the brink of the nineteenth century. Insofar as Calvinism hadn’t discredited these earlier, they mostly disappeared first under the influence of the Enlightenment in the late eighteenth century. Apparently the Interim also contributed to usage of the chasuble and surplice become more firmly established. But also independently from this, liturgical vestments enjoyed the greatest favor in Lutheranism of northern and central Germany. How greatly Lutheranism changed back to the conservative line on this point can be inferred quite nicely from Walter Delius’ reports on the 1555 visitation in the archiepiscopal-Magdeburg subdistrict (Amt) of Querfurt. The visitation showed that only three parishes still had chasubles in use; after that, all churches in the county were required to use them again; the parsons whose chasubles had disappeared had to go to Querfert Castle and there be given new vestments. As far as lifespan goes, the ecclesiastical vestments remain in Weissenfels until 1588 and in Silesia until 1811. In Hamburg the celebrants wore an ornate chasuble during the Lord’s Supper until 1785; in Lusatia the choir boys wore surplices until 1850 (they wore these while holding the houseling cloths during Communion). Chasubles, which were regarded as a worthy ornament and therefore gladly retained, were also occasionally reinstated even in the later evangelical period. Thus they were used in 1740 in Silesia for consecrating new congregations; in 1659 they were reintroduced into Mecklenburg, in order thereby to serve a counterblow to the ‘libertinism and negligence of divine worship (libertinismo und negligentia cultus divini), which unfortunately are growing ever more prevalent from day to day.’ The chasuble was, like the ceremonies, regarded as a symbol of the difference between Calvinism and as a criterion for pure Lutheranism, just as conversely, wherever Calvinism gained access, it immediately insisted on abolishing the surplice and chasuble.
— Zeeden, Faith and Act, 31–32.

 Wait. What!?! "The chasuble was, like the ceremonies, regarded as a symbol of the difference between Calvinism and as a criterion for pure Lutheranism"? Yes, indeed, that is what churches of the Lutheran Reformation did to distinguish themselves from all the Protestant sects. They showed themselves to be catholic—not papist—catholic, that is, "quod semper, quod ubique, quod ab omnibus" (that which was alway, and everywhere, and by all). In other words, they taught what they believed by what they did and what they wore in the Divine Service. 

Jason Braaten2 Comments