Sunday, September 9, 2007

Visual arts includes Sacred Vestments

It has really been a great experience watching the trip of the Holy Father in Austria over the past few days. The season of ordinary time is always quite, well,"green!" However the papal haberdasher seems to have whipped up quite a collection of liturgical vestments for the Holy Father to wear during this pilgrimage to a favorite Marian Shrine of the former Joseph Ratzinger.
The different colors of the liturgical vestments are intended to convey the message of the season in which they are worn...white or gold for the most festive of liturgical celebrations, red to indicate martyrdom or events that invoke the power of the Holy Spirit, purple for periods of penitence or days of fasting and on two days in the Church's Sacred celebrations the color rose or a light pink even comes into play. However when we see the various hues of the liturgical rainbow, most of us think in terms of the usual Crayola palette, and stay within the visual lines of the color chart.
It was however very rewarding to see the papal chasuble during the visit to Wien carry off in a very strong manner the combinations of chartreuse green and various blues to make the occasion really quite extra ordinary in terms of visual appreciation and brightness. The deacons in similar vestments matched with the papal chasuble, and even the mitre of the Holy Father was accentuated to "pull the whole thing together!" Quite successfully this author notes as well, because Sacred Liturgy is really an event that invites all of the senses, including the sense of visual perception and appreciation into active consideration of the Sacred Mysteries into which we are all drawn as participants and witnesses.
I have noticed in other places in the press, there has been quite a bit of conversation regarding some of the colors of the vestments worn by Benedict XVI. A few authors, well cited that they were not of the appropriate liturgical, "hue!" Well, a simple point that is forgotten here is that when the Bishop of Rome dons a particular color for celebration, his preference IS the appropriate liturgical "hue," of the day!
Besides, Benedict XVI was in my thoughts making all of us realize that even the color of "ordinary" time need not be ordinary!
In the same train of thought, parishes should spend allot of time considering the quality and visual presentation of all of the vestments worn by their priests and deacons in the celebration of the Sacred liturgy. Quite a bit of care and attention needs to be devoted to their purchase and maintenance, so that they might through an appreciation of the "fabric" arts act as a vehicle that draws us to liturgical worship through the signs and symbols of the liturgical seasons, and appropriate liturgical vestments.
Often, I have noticed there are parishes that really never pay attention to the artistic and materialistic quality of their liturgical vestments. This lack of attention to the details of the visual importance of color, as well as any detail to the historical significance as to the purpose of each and every liturgical vestment is unfortunate. Not only does the liturgy require quality in material's to house the community of faith, our celebrants should wear vestments that are befitting the dignity and importance of such a sacred celebration.
Vestments by themselves are signs that the actions taking place in our Eucharistic liturgy are sacred and significant, otherwise, simple everyday garb without any significance would be sufficient in the sacred celebration. Perhaps one of the aspect which we have lost in our modern existence is the distinctive garb that is traditionally associated with each specific profession. Unfortunately, our policemen do not always look the part, everyone remotely associated with the medical profession wears, "surgical scrubs", our images of people and their professions are not easily recognized by their clothing. The liturgy is and should be different. Our ordained ministers should wear liturgical garb that is symbolic of their role and ministry in the Church. Our parish liturgical committees also should be especially aware of the need for vestments and liturgical apparel that reflects high quality of craftsmanship and exquisite use of all available fabric materials.
The liturgy is a celebration of our faith in God and a participation in His Scared life. Our priests and ministers need to make sure they appropriately look the part and pay attention to details, such as the quality of presentation they each require when celebrating the Sacred Mysteries.

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