Other Modern: The Moriarty Chasuble of Downside Abbey

One of the contemporary (but traditional) chasubles coming out of the sacristy of Downside Abbey that has always interested me is the so-called "Moriarty chasuble."  This particular chasuble is a clear byproduct of the very best of the monastic school of the Liturgical Movement, having been made by the nuns of Stanbrook Abbey sometime in the mid 20th century or thereabouts.

Here is a view of the chasuble in liturgical use, coming by way of the Latin Mass Society of England and Wales.

This next photo will show a bit more detail of the front of the chasuble, taken from the book, Downside Abbey: An Architectural History by Dom Aiden Bellenger.

Photo: Paul Barker
You can see that the front orphrey contains an image of the Blessed Virgin Mary, using her mantle to shield the saints. On the backside is an image of Christ the High Priest.  (As an interesting side note, the figure of Christ originally had a thumb and five fingers.)

Here is a slightly closer view to give a sense of the orphrey design.  Readers will note that the design is reasonably simple, yet traditional and edifying.

One can see the potentialities here for designs of this sort in other styles and instantiations as well. While the base textile is very much a product of its particular period (with a certain primitivism found therein), the orphrey is the real star of the show here.

To my mind, this example is demonstrative that the real issue that many take with so-called "modern vestments" is less their contemporaneity, nor their nod back to some more distant antiquity; rather, what is at issue is the particular design so many of these take, including their materials, which are often primitive, rustic and without sophistication.  By comparison, this example shows a design which not only contains these qualities of modernity and antiquity, but is also noble and exhibits continuity in its design and is thus worthy of the sacred liturgy. In that regard, it is no surprise that it finds appreciation from a wider audience,  regardless of their own particular preferences stylistically or liturgically.

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