Solemn Versus Ordinary Ornaments: A Comparison of Two Chasubles

The two vestments shown here both belonged to the same prelate and as such present us with a good opportunity to make an "apples to apples" comparison in the differentiation that typically is made between regular, day to day liturgical ornaments versus those which tend to be reserved for more solemn and/or festal occasions. (A solemn occasion isn't necessarily festal please note. To put it into logical terms: While all festal occasions are solemn, not all solemn occasions are festal.) 

The distinction is not one entirely lost on us today as there yet remains a sense that we retain generally (not just liturgically) that the more important a particular occasion is, the more ceremonious should it be in its decorum and expression. This is directly reflected in the Church's liturgy in the particular selection of ornaments used for such occasions, whether we are referring to vestments or other liturgical ornaments. 

To demonstrate the idea in practice we need only look at these two red chasubles belonging to the same prelate and period of history. Both could be legitimately used for the same types of days on the liturgical calendar, be it a martyrs day or Pentecost, and while this is true in terms of the basic liturgical requirements, in terms of actual liturgical practice it has long been the custom that days of greater liturgical importance tend to demand liturgical arts and approaches that reflect the same. As such, a less solemn "red Mass" (for example, for a less noteworthy martyr or one of the weekdays within the octave of Pentecost) might see an ornament such as this selected for the Mass:

By comparison,  a more solemn liturgical occasion, such as Pentecost Sunday or the Feast of Ss. Peter and Paul, might see something more akin to this:

Both of these chasubles come from the eighteenth century and both are, in their own way, noble. The former includes a silk damask with gold galloons, while the latter is made from an even more precious silk lamé and, of course, intricate embroidered designs made in gold thread. 

The point in all of this is that the comparative 'regularly' of the "day to day" ornaments is not only more practical (i.e. to protect and extend the life of the more precious ornaments) it also helps to accentuate the particular beauty and importance of that which is used for the most solemn occasions -- which in turn highlights and teaches of the importance of those same liturgical occasions as well.

Join in the conversation on our Facebook page.