Episcopal vestments unlike other vestments are only worn when celebrating or presiding special liturgical functions. These vestments should not be confused with choir dress which is worn when attending liturgical functions but not celebrating or presiding.
Episcopal vestments are also referred as Pontifical vestments or pontificals. These vestments are liturgical vestments worn by bishops in the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Eastern Catholic, Anglican and some Lutheran churches. What are the most common Episcopal vestments worn by bishops?
The cassock, which is a long black garment which is worn under everything else, resembles the attire of those days. Over the black cassock can be worn a surplice, a not so long white vestment with full sleeves. Its history is interesting. The name comes from the Latin meaning a garment worn over furs.
The next vestment is the stole. It’s a long scarf of fabric matching the color of the church season. It symbolizes ordination, representing the yoke of Christ. A deacon wears it over his left shoulder, crossing to the right side, where it is tied or fastened, thus being worn diagonally. Priests wear it over both shoulders. It came into use in the 4th century.
A black “tippet” is the equivalent of the stole, and is worn during services which do not include the Eucharist, such as Morning and Evening Prayer.
The alb is an all-white vestment which is ankle length with long sleeves. It is worn by clergy during the Eucharist. Generally the stole is worn over it, and is anchored at the waist with a cincture. Cinctures are white ropes. They snug the alb or the cassock to the waist. They are knotted in such a fashion that the stole is also secured by the cincture.
The chasuble is a vestment made of silk which matches the color of the church calendar. It is oval, large, and sleeveless, with an opening in the center for the priest’s head. The priest may wear it before the beginning of the Holy Communion itself.
Some Bishops wear the mitres. The mitre is a tall, double-pointed hat. Something similar was worn by the kings of Persia and Assyria long before the Christian era. The two points of this double pointed hat have come to represent the Old and the New Testaments. The mitre is elective. Some bishops wear them, others do not.
The above-mentioned vestments are the most common and major ones. In other church traditions, bishops and priests may wear other Liturgical vestments. From the early times, the vestments have already been worn by selected people who included the judges, policemen, rulers and the clergies. The major purpose of the vestments is for the clergy to be reminded of the eternal admonition which states, “Remember who you are and whom you represent”.
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