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Historic Lutheran Vestments or Why Black is Not the New White

September 7th, 2009
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Picture 3It is quite fascinating to study the historic Lutheran use of vestments. A friend, Rev. Dr. Chris Hinkle, pointed out to me the availability of an English translation of a Danish work on the historic Lutheran vestments which is a remarkable tour de force. I’m reproducing it, in its entirety below the “read more” link. Enjoy.

The Proper Communion Vestments
by P. Severinsen

The Church Historical Society of Denmark, n.d., 44 pp.
translation of De rette Messeklaeder, 1924

The following is an abstract of the above publication. It is written by a man who is considered one of the most learned of Danish Priests. We give it in a somewhat abbreviated form in the English language as we feel that part of it has a wider interest to Lutheran readers in general. We all agree that the subject of this little book belongs in the class: Adiaphora;–yet the learned priest of the Mother Church has thought it worth while to undertake the rather laborious work of research in order to present this matter. The expressions of Luther are interesting, and it is instructive to notice the position of the church in Germany in the days of Paul Gerhardt when the command was issued by a king of the reformed adherence of faith: that “the vestments” used by the Lutherans must be put away- The Lutherans insisted that while these things were “Adiaphora”–they were yet so typically Lutheran–that to give them up would be to sacrifice distinctive Lutheran features. The royal command was only emphasized and loss of office indicated to the obstinate ones. This–to a considerable extent–silenced the opposition to the royal will. The Lutheran church of Germany yielded to the reformed (the royal) command. It lost its external churchly character and became “black” as the “black school” of Scholasticism. Rationalism finished what royal commands had begun in Germany. Rationalism played havoc with much in the sanctuaries of Scandinavia, yet–the churches of Scandinavia were never subjected to humiliations like those of Germany. But is it not peculiar to notice what time accomplishes: Many are apt to think it particularly Lutheran when all in the church is “black”. The priest before the Altar is “black” as a raven, the singers are black–and yet to realize that all this “blackness” does not go much farther than 150 years back–and that only in a portion of the Lutheran church that had to yield repeatedly to influences from powerful Calvinistic quarters. But time performs strange transformations. Bearing this in mind one may well wonder, but–at the same time–realizes easier–the admiration at times expressed in certain quarters of our American Lutheran Church for “our friends the Presbyterians”–and also how the reformed practice of quarterly or half yearly communions are not only tolerated but reckoned quite normal. A person cannot help thinking that in practical matters there as been a constant drawing away from the conceptions and ways of reformation days and a constant approach to the ways and conceptions of the church of Calvin.

We of the churches of Scandinavia may well be aware that in the Mother-Church of those Northern countries may he easier be recognized the church of the days of Luther and he church alluded to in the Augsburg confession–rather than in the portions where concession after concession had to be made to those of another faith.

We have from time to time been requested by churchmen of the English branch of our church to help make known o English readers the historic customs of the Church of Denmark as a portion of the Lutheran church in the world and the Church Catholic of the ages. We believe the little book of Severinsen’s, published in 1924, has a purpose to serve in his respect and will be grateful–if time permits–to render it intelligible to those who are unable to read the Scandinavian languages.

We omit a number of the notes of purely local interest and for the same reason a number of explanatory paragraphs are abbreviated. Our aim is, however, that nothing of value to the general reader shall be omitted. (J. M.)

Chapter I: The Ritual–Its Rule.

In the Ritual of 1685 for the “Church of Denmark and Norway”, page 11, we read: “The priest who has charge of the Communion Service comes before the Altar immediately after the bell has been rung the last time and puts on the “proper Vestments” which are: a white linen Surplice (alb–Messeskjorte) and a Chasuble.” and “while the service closes with a hymn the priest puts off the vestments, but remains standing before the altar until the service is ended.”

A general rule for the priest’s apparel during the service is found on page 52: “It must especially be observed hat the priest having charge of the service must not wear the chasuble when he leaves the altar to perform any service: Preaching, baptism or otherwise. He shall put off the chasuble and leave it by the altar. If the service at the altar is to be continued later, he shall again put it on; but the surplice (alb) shall be worn during the entire service from beginning to end”.

The direction for the church–then–(and this has never been lawfully altered)–is: “That the priest shall wear a white surplice (alb) during the entire service while the chasuble is worn over it during all altar-service connected with the communion. There is, however, an exception to this in the abnormal cases where there is no communion after the sermon:” then the priest–without the chasuble–turns toward the congregation and begins the “Collect for the Word”. This abrupt mode of closing the service is not a proper part of the altar service and should really not be said before the altar. The older custom directed expressly: “that this closing prayer was not said before the altar–but at a desk or some other place”–therefore without using the chasuble.– (Trans. Note: This mode of closing the preaching service is most desirable–for it places full emphasis on the imperfect character of the service without the communion. The impression should never be conveyed that the preaching service in itself is a complete service. If there be no communicants all should feel there ought to have been and that there can not be a full and complete service till there are communicants–the only normal thing in “the Common Service”. The one great objection against the Common Service as used in the American Church is that it is arranged as two distinct services which may be combined–but do not at all need to be in order to make a complete service. The preaching service has become the dominating–the ordinary service–leaving the principal part of the service to occasional observance–a few times a year. The preaching service is rounded of in a manner leaving the impression of a complete service with no reminder of the communion at all–instead of leaving the definite impression in the minds of the people:–but there was no communion today. This impression of incompleteness is definitely intended in the arrangement of the Ritual in the Church of Denmark.)

It is further directed that “during the services on Wednesday and Friday when the Litany is said, the priest, vested in a surplice (alb) shall kneel before the altar himself saying the last two versicles and a collect” (page 48). On this occasion he wears no chasuble for this service was originally part of a procession and is a service apart from the Communion.

The edition of the Altar Book of 1688 has on the title page an etching which shows the priest before the altar, vested as the custom was at the time: The alb which is closed in front reaches to the ankles and over it is the chasuble with a stripe in the center. It is straight on the sides and reaches down over the knees. Of the private garb of the priest nothing is seen except the ruffled collar. The black garb is not seen at all and is not mentioned any place in the Ritual.

Note: The black garb of the priest is properly his private dress—at home and abroad, on the street and in society. The form of this garb dates back to the days of the Reformation. The undergarment was the ordinary cassock as used at the present day–in its Latin, or the Sarum pattern. Over it was worn the loose flowing gown. The Germans called it: the Schaube. It was open and without buttons. The edge of it was turned back and formed a collar (Vinger). Being without buttons a person had to wrap it around himself in order to close it. It is thus we see it on portraits of that day–of Luther and others. The sleeves of the gown might be short and very wide so that the narrow sleeves of the cassock would be shown through the sleeves of the gown. They might also be very wide and long. In that case it was used in two ways- A little below the shoulder would be cut a slit–through which the arm could pass–or else the sleeve would be folded up over the arm and hang in rich folds. (This refers especially to the academic gowns of the day. The cloak which the common parish priest wore over his cassock when appearing in public had no sleeves and was the type that is now the regular personal garb of the Danish parish priest.

The ruffled collar–in our day distinctive for the Danish and Norwegian Clergymen came into use about the year 1600. These two distinct garments worn by the clergy: the cassock is the house dress and over it the cloak when appearing at some public function–seems to begin to be made into one garment about the middle of the 17th century–a custom that in all probability did not become universal till a much later late. These “proper clothes for the priest” shall according to Danish Law be worn by the clergyman when he appears in public;–but they should not be seen during the service in the church.

To the private dress of the clergy belonged also a Biretta. This has never been ordered discontinued but ceased to be used–so far as can be ascertained–when the wigs came into vogue in the latter half of the 18th century. In “Norwegian Church Paper” (“Norsk Kirkeblad”), 1921, page 213, the suggestion is made by Bishop Hognestad: that the Biretta be again restored as a part of the personal garb of the clergyman.

The regular garb of the Danish clergy was worn as late as the days of Bishop Balle (d. 1817) who refused to receive a clergyman not properly attired. He himself wore the clerical habit till his death and declared in response to the powerful liberal elements of his day who wanted to do away with every thing reminding of the office: that the garb was proper and befitting the office. He also declared that it was cheap for–whatever a person wore under it might be of the plainest material.

This much in regard to the personal habit of the clergyman.

The proper Vestments of the church are of much older date and origin–; but also they have been subject to changes which have not always been very fortunate. Of this we will now consider:

Chapter II: The Alb and the Surplice.

That garment which the Ritual calls “Messeskjorte” is technically called Superpelliceum. It indicates simply a garment worn over a fur coat. For this reason it is very loose and has wide sleeves. Its origin cannot be traced farther back than to about year 1050. It appears then in England, France, and Germany. The cannons and monastics wore it during the choir services, but it was never used by the celebrant of the Holy Communion.

It became part of the monastic regulations that their members should be supplied with fur coats reaching to the floor and such were naturally used by the entire clergy during the daily services in the cold churches. But it was just as certain that the services of the sanctuary must be conducted in white vestments. This naturally led to the introduction and use of the surplice.

The surplice soon came into common use on all sorts of occasions–both in and out of the church. The alb, however, remained the proper vestment for Communion. From the 14th century it is found that the surplice was used in place of the alb. This, however, never became the general custom.

The famous Scandinavian Archbishop Absalon, (died 1201), gives in his will one ermine coat and one surplice to his chaplain Thord. It shows that the two belonged together.

The two vestments: the surplice and the alb became to a certain extent co-ordinated–yet with the important difference that the alb was and remained the proper vestment for the celebrant of the Holy Communion while the surplice came into use for most other occasions and churchly acts: baptism, preaching, etc.

The peculiarity of the surplice is that it hangs loose and has wide sleeves. It has also been used considerably–in Germany and to some extent also in Denmark–without sleeves altogether. Its length has varied much at different times.

The alb is not loose like the surplice. It closes rather tight around the neck, has narrow sleeves, and is held to its proper length by a girdle. It has always reached to the ankles. Both garments: the Alb and the Surplice are–in their original form–closed in front and must be put on over the head. Since the time of the “wigs” this has been changed in Denmark as far as the surplice is concerned. The “wigs” got out of order in putting it on.

The name alb is met north of the Alps since the time of Charles the Great. The word is used in Italy from the time of Innocent the 3rd, and the name originates from the color. But the garment itself has older names and belongs o the classical Greek and Roman ages. (Unusually thorough and impartial information as to these matters is given by Joseph Braum: “Die liturgische Gewandung“, Freiburg, 1907, to which reference is made for further details.)

The alb is nothing but the common dress of Antiquity and the Latin name is Tunica, Its form about the beginning of the Christian era was like a sack which is open below. The upper end has a hole cut in it for the head to pass through, and two slits in the sides for the arms. In Rome a girdle was used by which it was girdled to a little below the knees. The width over the shoulder might be so great that it partly fell down over the arms; but to have sleeves was not considered becoming for a man–neither that it reached much lower than the knees. The material was originally white wool while later on it was made of linen. Pictures are found where he tunic is used without girdle. This was the custom in Latin North Africa till the Roman custom became prevailing also here.

To picture in one’s mind the early Christian “dressed” f. inst. for a service in the sanctuary, it is necessary to remember that the tunica was always worn. We shall not permit ourselves to be deceived by the much nakedness in ancient art, nor by the imaginary so-called “historical” illustrations, to be led to believe that such dress was worn by all. It was then as it is to-day with the nakedness of sport: it does not belong to the daily–still less to the festive occasions in life. Neither shall we take the near or complete nakedness of the laboring classes in the warm climate of the South–to be the normal dress. There is no doubt that when people were together in social or other ways they have perspired “with dignity” just as it is done in our day. It was also well understood how to clothe oneself in cold weather: Augustus wore a heavy toga, 4 tunics, 1 shirt, and a woolen undervestment (Sueton: Aug. 82.). The only ones in antiquity that permitted themselves to be peculiar in dress were certain philosophers by wearing the loose garment, the Pallium, a large piece of cloth which was thrown loosely around the naked body in such a manner as to leave the right arm, shoulder and part of he side naked. Peculiar Christians could be found who imitated this custom: f. inst. Tertullian who in his writ: “The Pallio“, showers his wit over the “terribly impractical” Roman class dress, the Toga which every respectable Roman wore a the street, but immediately put away the moment he was within doors. We also find this philosophic use of the Pallium mentioned as an ascetic peculiarity with a few Eastern bishops.

In the pictures of the Catacombs, all ordinary people wear the Tunica. The pictures of prophets and of John the Baptist are mostly represented with the Pallium over the Tunica.

Taking things as they were, we find it thus: Bishops, Presbyters, Deacons, and whatever they were called–all appeared at the services in nice Tunics–which also without doubt were white. White was the festive color.

So far as we can see it has been considered merely what the sense of the occasion required: that the clergy taking part in the service, put on special white festive garments of the usual style. These were kept in a sacristy (Daikonikon, Vestiarium) which were joint to the ancient Basilicas.

A change took place, however. Long garments with sleeves had for some time been in use in the East and it became the custom to have tunics with sleeves (tunica manicata). It was also lengthened to the ankles (tunica talaris). From now on it was considered improper for the middle class to wear the tunic short and without sleeves. Augustine says with reference to this, that formerly it was flagitium to have the tunic long and with sleeves, and that the opposite was flagitium now (De doctr, christ. 1- 3, c. 12 Migne 34, 74).

It may thus be concluded that the officiating bishop or priest has worn this venerable and becoming garment (Gewandt). But it is not a particular clerical garment and such was not desired.

This long tunic was impractical for the common use of the laity. The sleeves continued, but the garment itself was made shorter. Some have ascribed this change to the influence of the Barbarians, but this explanation is surely superfluous. Soldiers etc. who should move about easily, have simply never used the long tunica. But the consciousness made itself now felt that the clergyman ought not to follow in this change. He should wear tunica talaris manicata: but in this there is no thought whatever of sacerdotalism–but only of what is fitting. It is simply the thought that the bishop ought not at the celebration of the Eucharist to use the same tunicas he wore in private. He should dress in a festive manner.

Thus remained the long tunica with the narrow sleeves as the garment for the clergy during the celebration of the Holy Communion. We know the form of it from about the time of Charles the Great. The sleeves were narrow and became narrower towards the wrist. The lower part of the garment had considerable width that it might hang in rich folds. It reached the ground but was raised to the ankles by a girdle around the waist, and it should be made of pure linen. Colored ornaments were at times added. Most conspicuous was the square piece of cloth fastened in front at the lower edge. This part was the subject of edifying explanations of very different character. (Parurer.)

The alb remained in this form unchanged through the middle ages down to our time. This same garment has been retained in the services of the Eastern Church, but only the Copts require that it shall be white. It may be of various colors except black and may be of silk or wool. It is called Sticharion and is worn by all the clergy from the patriarch to the reader.

The use of the alb was–as mentioned before–confined to the Communion Service. The surplice was used at other services–when the Sacrament was administered to the sick, at the preaching–and other minor services. It was worn over the monastic garb by Hans Tavsen (Johannitterpraest) in Viborg, and from the gray-friar’s account of his taking off the surplice has been “served” the dramatic surprise “that he threw off his monastic habit” and went home with the Mayor Peter Trane, as if he had walked the streets without the garb of his order.

The surplice should be worn in the church by the deacon and the boys. King Christian II ordered that no boys shall serve in the chancel without having two surplices–clean and whole. In the statutes of the diocese of Aarhus it states that the assistants at the communion shall wear the surplice or if neglected shall pay a fine of three marks.

Chapter III: The Dalmatic, Amice, Maniple, and Stole.

Before proceeding to consider the “Chasuble”–the next vestment preserved in our churches, let us pause a moment to consider in passing several articles of the ancient Eucharistic Vestments which were dropped from use in the service in the Church of Denmark during the century following the Reformation.

1. The Dalmatic: It is an overgarment coming into use in the early part of the middle ages. The name is said to indicate its origin: a garment introduced from Dalmatia, and no one seems to know any other or more satisfactory explanation in regard to the question: from whence it is. In the historical development it became especially reserved for the Bishop and the Deacon. In the old churches in Denmark the Dalmatic may be seen in many of the numerous mural paintings from the various periods of the middle ages. In Draaby Church near Jaegerspris may be seen such a mural painting representing St. Lawrence wearing the Dalmatic as it appeared in the time of the artist (about 1460). It is also seen on many pictures of bishops from those days. In all the pictures the Dalmatic is worn over the alb. It is somewhat shorter than the alb and has wide sleeves. The Dalmatic did not continue very long in use with us after the Reformation. It is still used in the Roman church and has there developed into something unreasonable and cumbersome.

2. The Amice: (Hovedlin–Amictus–Humerale) is a cloth worn around the neck or over the shoulders. From the end of the 9th century it became the custom to lay it over the head and when the officiating priest reached the altar it was pushed back and lay around the neck over the chasuble. It is still in use but the custom of placing it over the head is only observed in Franciscan and Dominican Brotherhoods. It serves to prevent the Alb and the Chasuble from coming in contact with the perspiration of the body.

3. The Maniple: (Haandlin, Manipulus, or Mappula) is an ornamented strip of cloth hung over the left arm. The origin is a Sudarium, a napkin, an article of etiquette. It is now a mere ornament with little to indicate its earlier intention or use. It is merely used because it has to be so.

4. The Stole: (Stol) is a long ornamented strip of cloth reaching to or a little over the knees. It seems in its very origin to have been the mark distinguishing the clergy from the laity. It is the proper insignium of the priest and his rights. In ancient documents the rights of the priest are often spoken of as ”the rights of the Stola“.

The Deacon wears it over the left shoulder. The priest and Bishop over both shoulders.

But none of these articles mentioned in this chapter have continued in use in the Church of Denmark. If they shall once more be reintroduced in connection with the present revival of interest in the historic church remains to be seen. Certain things may indicate such a possibility.

Chapter IV: The Chasuble in Antiquity and the Middle Ages

The Chasuble (Messehagel, Casula, Planeta, Paenula, Felones) is typical and characteristic of the communion service in the Church of Denmark and we will briefly trace its peculiar history through the ages.

The Latin name now in common use is Casula which originally means: a little hut (Diminutive of Casa). This is however a pet name of the later middle ages and from north of the Alps. In Italy it is called Planeta (Italian pianeta). In the ancient France it was called Amphibalus, while in the height of the middle ages it was–both in France and in England–called Infula which otherwise is the name of the mitre of the bishop.

The Germanic languages used the name “Hagel” in its different modifications–all the way from Germany to the far off Iceland.

But the proper ancient name is Paenula which takes us back to the Greek Faenola, Faenoles, Felones, and this again presents to us a garment which held the place as the “nice” overgarment for “nice” people. The form was somewhat like a bell–or if we will–the cloak of the modern cyclist. It was closed all around with a hole for the head. It hung down over the arms and had to be lifted up in order to use these. This garment is mentioned by Rinthon of Tarent about 300 B. C. It is the only garment belonging to the apostle Paul which is especially mentioned by name. He had left a Felones with Carpus at Troas (2 Tim. 4:13). It was at first worn by the middle and lower classes but became a garment for all worn even by the emperor. On the Trajan Column may be seen both the emperor and his soldiers wearing the Pagenula. As a whole–the Paenula (Felones) seems to have been somewhat of a Prosaic garment. The heathen used to take it off before offering prayer and this custom was followed by many Christians at least in North Africa. Tertullian considers it a superstition that should be done away with, “as it makes us like the heathen”, and he makes a somewhat amusing reference to Paul, that he perhaps forgot his Paenula with Carpus because he had taken it off for prayer. The result is in a way that Tertullian wants Christians to wear the Paenula (Chasuble) during prayer that they may be known not to be like the heathen- Somewhat strange to notice that for more than a thousand years it should become the duty of the priest to wear the Paenula (Chasuble) during the communion. The Paenula became a universal garment in the period after Constantin. It was worn by men and women–even by small children.

It was therefore most natural that Christian bishops should wear it. People were simply not completely dressed if they did not have a Paenula (Chasuble) on. In the law of 382 about senatorial dress it is made part of the dress of the senators except on high official occasions when the Toga should be worn.

In the Catacomb of St. Priscilla is seen a picture from the third century which is thought to represent either the consecration of a virgin or a wedding. The Bishop wears a Paenula (Chasuble), but we must not think that there is anything especially “episcopal” about that. He simply follows the custom. The Paenula (Chasuble) is also worn in the Greek Church where it is called Felonion–remember the Apostle Paul’s Felones.

The Paenula (Chasuble) passed out of common secular use about the year 600. It ceased to be a civil and military garment and was succeeded by the Frankish cloak Sagum. From now on the Paenula (Chasuble) became a distinctive garment for the clergy–in and out of the church. It was decided in the German National Council of 742 where St. Boniface presided that the priests and deacons should not wear the Sagnum worn by the laity, but should “according to the custom of God’s servants” wear the Casula (Paenula, Felones).

It was at that time the full length but succeeding centuries made it somewhat shorter till it reached only to the knees. To free the arms during the service the deacons lifted it leaving it on the raised underarm of the officiating priest or bishop. The Chasuble retained its original form till about year 1200 or later. From about year 1000 it had become a regular vestment for the communion office only. In later German writings it is called “Messgewandt“. The material was wool or linen–the material of ordinary clothing–but from about year 1000 it began to be made of silk which later became rather the custom. The form of the Chasuble was gradually changed by cutting out the sides to free the arms. At first only enough was cut away to leave the hands free –later it was cut to reach only to the elbow and in these two forms we have what is generally known as the Gothic Chasuble–the one at present quite common in Anglican churches. But the change went on until the sides were entirely cut away and it hangs over the shoulders to the knees in front and back. It is in this form it is worn in the Communion Services in the Church of Denmark. It seems that the change was at first made on the chasubles in daily use, while those for festive occasions retained the earlier form, but later the change applied to all.

During the Middle Ages and later the chasubles were often ornamented in the most elaborate fashion while they originally had little ornamentation. The cross was added some time about the thirteenth century.

All the changes to which the chasuble has been subjected can be found illustrated in the ancient mural paintings in the old churches throughout Denmark. The inventories taken throughout the Church of Denmark at the time of the Reformation show that the individual churches possessed very large collections of chasubles.

Chapter V: Lutheran Decisions Regarding the Communion Vestments

The Reformation came and stirred up in much of ancient date. Zwingli did away with the vestments–considering them–together with Altar, Candles, Crucifixes, and Organ–to be the expression of ungodliness. The South Germans followed him generally and constructed the Service–not along the ancient Order of the Communion–but on that of the Preaching Service of the middle ages.

It was different in Wittenberg. Luther built the Communion Service on the Order of the Mass–and he retained the Communion Vestments which were considered an entirely neutral matter–doing neither evil nor good. It is not improbable that to this came the consciousness that it would seem strange to appear before the altar in ordinary dress–therefore–the accustomed vestments might well be retained.

In the Order of the Mass of 1523 Luther says: that the vestments may unhindered be used when pomp and luxury is avoided, but they should not be dedicated or blessed.

This position was, howover, the very opposite of that of the Fanatics–who maintained it as a law of God that these things and many others–where Luther allowed full liberty–should be prohibited. This placed Luther in the peculiar position: that he was forced to emphasize liberty in these matters by emphasizing the liberty to continue the use of the ancient Communion Vestments. This is what he does in his writ: Against the Heavenly Prophets which writing is from the fall of 1524. He says: “Here we are masters and will not submit to any law, command, doctrine or interdict. Therefore has the Service of the Communion been celebrated in both ways at Wittenberg. In the monastery we have celebrated the Mass without Chasuble, or elevation–with the greatest simplicity as is recommended by Karlstadt. In the parish church we have Chasubles, Albs, Altar, and elevate so long as it pleases us.” In the confession of the Communion (in 1528)–essentially against the same movements–he insisted on the same liberty, and in the German Mass of 1526 he retained the Vestments, Candles, and Altar.

It was in full agreement with this that Bugenhagen retained the ancient Vestments of the Church in the services in all the different countries where it became his duty to revise and order the services anew.–And he can take a very definite stand in these matters. This is shown by an event in Braunscwheig.

In 1528 he had ordered the services there, but a fierce dispute broke out a couple of years later. The preachers, Rebeling and Hayer, started an agitation for the abolishment of the Vestments. Hayer was especially zealous. It is said that he had arranged with one of the townsfolk that he should tear the chasuble off him that it might be said: that the public wanted the vestments abolished. Martin Gorlitz and the other preachers objected at first but yielded later to the degree that it could be announced from the pulpits: that in order to show their Christian position all the preachers would in the nearest future omit the use of the chasuble–with the one reservation, however, that they would resume the use of it again when it so pleased them. On hearing of this, Bugenhagen became highly displeased and wrote in a letter of Sept. 27, 1530, to G0riitz about this “Offending neighboring cities with unnecessary things”. He says: “There are two doctrines of the chasubles. The one is the truth, viz.: that chasubles may be used. This does not offend those who are used to hear the Gospel. The other is a Satanic lie from the doctrine of demons; namely: that it is not permissible to use the chasuble. This offends the community where it hears that kind of lies taught and believed by the preachers.” He then goes on to wonder whether the Church at Braunschweig is “farther developed” than the one at Wittenberg and calls attention to the fact that there are yet Organs, Bells–yea Church Buildings to be abolished! A couple of preachers with Zwinglian inclination had really started an agitation against Organs.

This plainly shows the mind of the Parish Priest of Wittenberg, the Great Reformation Practician, Bugenhagen. When the South Germans in 1536 came to Wittenberg to close the Wittenberg-Concordat they were therefore greatly shocked by the Communion Service on Ascension day. Wolfgang Musculus from Constanz has confided it to his journal: “There were pictures in the church, candles on the altar, and a priest in “papistic” clothes! The Introitus was played on the organ while the choir sang in Latin as was the custom of earlier days) while the priest having the celebration proceeded from the sacristy wearing Vestments”.

They (the South Germans) complained to Bugenhagen who comforted them by stating that Communion was also celebrated without vestments–in the convent and at the early celebrations. They were also much comforted when they saw Luther preach in his common clothes.

Luther’s advice in 1539 to Probst Buchholzer of Berlin is of interest here. Kurfurst Joachim had demanded that Cope and Surplice should be used at processions on Gangdage and on Sundays in the cemeteries. Luther says: “When only the word may be preached in its purity and the Sacraments rightly celebrated then go in God’s name in procession and wear a silver or gold cross; wear a Cope and Surplice of silk or linen; and should your master, the duke not be satisfied with one Cope or Surplice–put on three as Aaron, the chief priest, did put on three which were beautiful and glorious–wherefore the vestments in the days of the pope were called Ornamenta–for such things (when otherwise no abuse takes place) neither add to nor take away from the Gospel.” On a later occasion Luther says to George of Anhalt that he thinks they should not be reintroduced where they were abolished but they should not be abolished where they were yet in use.

Another pronouncement of Luther is also quite characteristic in this matter. We may note that this is often mistakingly quoted as referring to the regular Communion Vestments which it does not–but only to the Cope. This episode is preserved in a manuscript in Breslau. Luther was the guest of Duke John of Anhalt, god-father to one of the duke’s children. The Duke asked: “Herr Doctor, how can it be that you have ordered it so that the priests do not wear the Cope while preaching in the church?” The doctor answered: “I have not ordered that and I would wish that it was yet the custom–especially in the smaller cities and villages where the poor priests are wearing clothes so worn that one cannot tell who is the priest, a citizen or farmer. There I would wish that the priest had a Cope on that he might be taken for a different and higher person.” This led Bishop Matthias of Brandenburg to ask: “Herr Doctor, why do you not wear a Cope?” The Doctor answered: “Gracious Lord; it happened so as Your Grace very well knows that the habit of the monk is so holy that monks do not need a Cope. When I did not preach in the monastery church vested in Cope, others followed my example–omitting the Cope–not knowing the reason why I did it. This is how it happened and none has done me a favor in this. I would like such a vestment to be used so long as no abuse became attached to it–nor any trust was put in it in matters pertaining to Salvation or conscience. Then I would be very satisfied.”

The relation between the North–and the South Germans who were influenced by Zwingli in these matters can be fairly well traced in Hermann Waldenmaier: “Die Entstehung der ev. Gottesdienstordnungen Syddeutchlands” (Leipzig 1916).

This relation continued for a long time. Criticisms arose at times but fell again. The Imperial Interim of 1548 made the use of the vestments together with many earlier ceremonies obligatory. This again aroused criticism and there were Lutherans who wrote against them; but it remained a fact that also this Interim strengthened the use of the Communion Vestments wherever the Saxon Interim, recommended by Melanchton, was adopted. The theologians at Copenhagen also pronounced on the Imperial Interim, but they do not touch upon the Vestments. The general conception of these things was that the use of the Communion Vestments was typically and distinctly Lutheran as over against the black gown of the Calvinists. Some scattered information with regard to the extended use in Germany of the Communion Vestments may be found in Paul Graff’s: “Geschichte der Auflosung der alten Gottesdienstlichen Formen in der ev. Kirche Deutchlands” (Go’ttingen 1921). The surplice was not only worn over the cassock, but also in place of it.

To form an idea of the richness of the vestments (Gewandtpragt) used in a German Lutheran church in the days of the strict Lutheran orthodoxy, we will go into the church of St. Nicolai in Leipzig about year 1650. (Paul Gerhardt 1607–1676):

The Alb is used with Amice, Maniple and Parurer which latter the sexton’s wife must take off to launder and put on again. Then there is a surprising collection of Chasubles for many varied occasions: For ordinary Sundays there are five: one green satin, one red patterned velvet, one dark red smooth velvet, one red satin, and one violet-brown velvet. Besides this there are sixteen most elaborate ones for Festivals. For Advent one green velvet with Christ’s Entry in embroidery, for New Year one of gold cloth, for the Presentation one of white satin, with crucifix embroidered, for Palm Sunday one green with palm leaves, for Holy Thursday one of green satin, for Good Friday one of black velvet with crucifix, for Easter day (No. 2) one with crucifix of pearls, for Whitsunday one of brown-red velvet with the Trinity in pearls and stones, and so on. There still remains a collection of “very old ones”.

At the administration of the Sacrament four boys hold the Sacramental cloths over which the Sacrament is handed to the communicants who pass the celebrating priests. The boys are in black cassocks with surplices over; but on festival days the boys wear “special cassocks of crimson velvet” donated by a widow.

Rationalism sold this whole collection in 1776. It was valued at nine hundred thaler, but it brought 1450. The surplice, however, continued in use in Leipzig.

The evangelical churches in Nuremberg received orders in 1797 to deliver their collection of chasubles to the city treasury as a contribution to the taxes. In the churches: St. Sebald and St. Lawrence the collection contains 18 chasubles of very elaborate design and many of them ornamented with pearls. There were also some Dalmatics. Three Jews bought the pearls and are said to have gotten 2300 Gylden for them. The surplice was abolished in 1810 as it had already been in 1798 in Ansbach–to save laundry expenses. (This certainly is the way of Rationalism in all its modifications.)

Caspar Calvor, General Superintendent in Klausthal in the Harz mentions the superpelliceum (surplice) and chasuble that is used “every where by all ours” (Rituale Ecclesias-ticum 1705).

A vivid picture of the whole situation is gained from that publication which raised the criticism from Lutheran quarters: “Historic der Kirchen Ceremonien in Sachsen (Dresden and Leipzig 1732).” The book is by the Saxon priest Chr. Gerber. It tells us that the churches are plentifully supplied with Chasubles. People present them as gifts. After the gospel the priest, standing before the altar, lifts the Chasuble off over his head and leaves it at the altar. After the sermon, he puts it on again. Gerber is vexed because the priests complain that the Chasubles are worn. He thinks they should rejoice in the prospect that they would soon be worn out.

Considering the preceding we see clearly that the development in the Scandinavian countries is nothing special. It is merely the continuation of the commonly inherited custom of the Universal Lutheran Church. When the consensus has been broken so far as Germany is concerned it is–as we shall see– from reformed quarters the foreign customs came in and gained the victory.

In Sweden all the Communion Vestments were retained. Archbishop Laurentius Petri would not have it otherwise. Charles the IX was of a different turn of mind and in the parliament of 1618 made an attack on the Communion Vestments. The leading churchmen would not hear anything of this, however. They remarked in their reply to the king that some of the old customs were retained at the Reformation that every thing in the churches might be done decently and in order, and also to show liberty in these indifferent matters. It was but fitting that a poor priest celebrating the Holy Communion should also have a fitting garment and not his outworn clothes–making him a laughing stock for people. Every one would know that it was not done to follow the pope. That decided it–as far as Sweden is concerned.

In the inventory of the Cathedral Church at Westeraas in 1620 are mentioned: a number of Copes, Chasubles, Dalmatics, Albs, Humeralia, Stoles, and Cinctures. It shows that the alb was worn with all its belongings. The surplice was worn at all churchly acts outside of the Communion.

The Danish Reformation was very like that of Wittenberg. The question of Vestments was not up at all–neither with regard to the Romanists nor the Evangelicals mutually. In the numerous polemic literature of the time it is never mentioned. Hans Tavsen (later Bishop) states in 1531 that he has so far observed all the usual ceremonies of the Mass and left all unchanged with regard to vestments, candles, elevation, etc. The “Ordinants”, the revised Order of the Danish Service, which bears the personal marks of Bugenhagen and Luther, prescribes: “the usual Communion Vestments, but the priest shall–when there is no communion–close the service before a desk and not at the altar, neither shall he again put on the chasuble after the sermon”. (Rordam: “Danish Church Laws”.)

The Bishop of Lund, Frants Wormordsen, published–on this basis–an Altar-Book: “Handbook for the Proper Evangelic Mass” (Malmo 1539). In it we find the following–defending and explaining: “The priest and the altar should be clothed with the usual vestments–clean and orderly–not for any service that we can render God by it–nor that there in any manner is any special holiness in it in regard to the use and effect of the Sacrament. But this shall be done as a good, proper, and fitting custom–an honor–not to God but to the Christian congregation and as a service of unity. So must everything in the Christian congregation be done honestly, decently, and in order–were it for nothing else than for the sake of the angels of God who are there present amongst us.” The sentiment of Danish Lutheranism may here have found its true and simple expression in regard to these matters. (We cannot but admire the beautiful, tolerant, and Catholic spirit manifested in the entire attitude of the Lutheran leaders). At the diocesan council at Copenhagen in 1540 the instructions given in the ordinants were explained as follows: ”The priest shall wear an alb and girdle (albam succinctam) and a chasuble, but he shall omit the stola, the amice, and maniple. The colored ornaments of the alb shall also be omitted. If there are no communicants, then he shall use the alb and chasuble before the altar till the sermon, but he shall not again put on the chasuble after the sermon.

At the consecration of bishops, the consecrator shall wear a cope over a surplice and all the priests present shall be vested in surplices. Bishop Paladius (the first Danish Lutheran Primus) orders in the year 1555 that the deacons shall wear the surplice during the services. Here we find the ancient custom re-introduced: the Alb at the Communion Service and the Surplice for all other occasions.

The instructions to the deacons to wear the surplice was repeated in the diocese of Roskilde but later with the phrase added: “If they do not have long clothes”. In course Of time the deacon’s dress became black. It does not appear possible to say just when. The diocesan council for the see of Roskilde in 1697 mentions only the black dress for the deacon.

These customs remained and the Ritual of 1685 only what was the custom and use at that time.

The wigs made their appearance on the heads of Danish priests some years later. It was first worn by the Court-Priest Masius who came home from Paris–shaven and wearing a wig–a thing that then caused much offense but soon became fashion. As the wigs very easily became disordered even the slightest touch, the surplices and chasubles which up that time always had been put on over the head were opened: the surplice in front and the chasuble on the shoulder so that they could be put on without taking them over the head. The wigs have long since been discontinued hut the changes made on account of them have remained. Yet even to the present there are however found a single chasuble in remote village church which still must be put on over the head But no further changes have taken place in regard to the vestments in the Church of Denmark. Rationalism impoverished the services in the use of the vestments as in every thing else but nothing was ordered discontinued. A later time with new spiritual revival has also revived the new interest in the services of the sanctuary and a renewed desire to revive the truly historic and beautiful service of the Lutheran Church of an earlier day. An intelligent Lutheran knows very well that while these things have a historic and ecumenical interest and do not fail in inciting the devotional atmosphere of the Church Universal–it has nothing direct to do with the church of the Pope–only in so far as the Popish church also is part of the Church Universal.

Chapter VI: The Form of the Chasuble After the Reformation.

(This chapter is abbreviated considerably as much of its contents is rather of local antiquarian interest than of general historical.)

The Lutheran and the Roman churches parted ways after the Reformation, but both continued the ancient and historic use of the chasuble. The changes–or perhaps more correctly–the degeneration of this ancient and venerable vestment of the Christian church–was about the same in both groups. More and more was cut away in order to have the massive embroideries–often in heavy raised relief–lay smooth and even. It was also shortened–especially in the front. This might be necessary enough when we consider that one chasuble in Cologne weighs 13 kilo (over 26 pounds).

The most conservative portion of the church was Italy. The widely known archbishop Carlo Borromeo of Milan (d. 1584) tried to stop the degeneration in his province. He decided that the chasubles should there be three cubiti (1,30 meter) wide and somewhat longer so that it reached nearly to the ankles of the average person. About 6 inches should hang down from the shoulder over the arm. These directions were riot generally followed, however, and even some of his own chasubles do not meet the requirements. The leadership of the development during the 17th and 18th centuries was held by France. Voices were raised against the changes and one French Ritual of 1651 emphasizes the use of the ancient form of the chasubles while another published in Paris directed that the folds should be cut away.

French Paraments of this period were repeatedly brought to Denmark and presented as gifts to a number of churches where they may be seen and are in use to the present day.

It may be observed as a curiosity that the chasuble used in the Oriental churches was also subjected to changes–but instead of cutting out the sides, the front was nearly all cut away. This left it but little more attractive than the French one.

A movement was started in Roman Catholic circles during the 19th century with the decided aim of getting away from the unhappy results of the Baroque and Rococo periods. This movement was under the able leadership of the ecclesiastic-art-historian, Dr. Franz Boch (priest in Cologne). He called repeatedly attention to the ancient and more beautiful forms of the chasuble. He spoke of a “gothic” chasuble by which was meant the both practical and beautiful form of the chasuble in common use at the close of the Middle ages. He also called renewed attention to the “Borromaeus Chasuble” as preferable to the later developments. While celebrating the Holy Communion in Rome he used a gothic chasuble. This created quite a stir and some sensation which nearly had led to a definite prohibition. The thing quieted down and the fact is that at this present time “gothic chasubles” are now in use in Rome without objection from anyone.

I (the author of this book) have before me the elaborately illustrated catalogues from Krieg and Schwartzer in Mainz. They carry in stock three forms of Chasubles. The Roman; Borromaeus; and the Bernhardt (gothic). The material is silk and the patterns generally those from the middle ages.

The cutting out of the sides of the chasuble was so easily developed in Denmark, but it did never go to the extremes reached in France, Spain, and other places. It was generally taken for granted that they should be made of patterned silk which might be further ornamented often–with a cross, or crucifix on the back. This was the general custom from about the year 1200 to about 1750 when one-colored velvet rather came to be the custom in Denmark.

The large ruffled collars and also the stiff collar of the combined cassock and cloak made it necessary to cut a large opening for the head; but the chasubles were not yet opened in the sides but continued to be put on over the head.–Even down to the present time there are examples of chasubles which never have been opened on the shoulder f. inst. in the church at Aebeltoft where the chasuble is from 1722, also in the church at Draaby, the annex, also in the church at Gylling. The priest at Aebletoft declares that it is far the easier to use it without the side-opening as one puts it on and takes it off without the slightest difficulty and without an assistant. Among the numerous chasubles from earlier days is yet one which deserves to be especially mentioned. It is from 1770–80 and represents the earlier and better tradition in these matters. It shows that even down to this late date has it been possible to retain the simpler and better form. It belongs to the church at Sigersted and was given to the church by its patron, Baron Knuth of Conradsburg.

The colors used for the Chasubles in the after-Reformation period were many. Numerous examples are found in the ancient churches–indeed a variegated collection–yet so much more to be preferred to the monotonous color chosen at a later date. The material generally is silk, gold-cloth, gold-brocade.

What applies to Denmark, applies equally to Iceland, Norway, and Sweden. Many ancient treasures are preserved in Iceland.

What Norway possesses was especially revealed at the exhibition at Bygdo in 1919. Also by: A. Bugge and T. Kjelland: “Alterskrud og Messeklaer i Norge” (Oslo, 1919).

Excellent information with reference to Vestments etc., in Sweden is found in: Agnes Branting: “Textilskrud i Svenska Kyrkor fraan Aeldre Tid til 1900“, (Stockholm 1920).

The otherwise so conservative England is Reformed in this respect. The surplice has been retained while the Chasuble together with crucifix, candles, wafers, etc., was abandoned through the Puritanic, reformed pressure. The Anglo-Catholic movement has, however, succeeded in reintroducing these things–the Chasuble, only in the “gothic” form.

Chapters VII and VIII: The Lutheran Communion Vestments Endangered

(Considerably abbreviated)

We have now sufficiently considered the typical and characteristic Lutheran customs during the period of Lutheran orthodoxy to have a quite vivid picture of the conditions. Lutheran customs were naturally criticized by the Reformed–but the times were conservative.

Halle, however, was somewhat of an unquiet, restless, corner. “A Legal Dispute About the Sabbath” was published in 1702 by a lawyer: Cand. Konrad Ludvig Wagner. Prof. Joh. Samuel Stryk who was Praises gave it his sanction by an introductory Programma about the unfortunate custom of observing feast-days, which he declared ought to be abolished. Both men belonged to the circle of Chr. Thomasius which to the delight of their heart played topsy-turvy with all that had been delivered from the Fathers. Both men are forerunners of the Period of Enlightenment (Rationalism). It is, according to the opinion of Wagner, a question whether it was right to continue to make use of the old “catholic” churches. No pictures should be tolerated. Crucifixes were idols. The church-steeples remind us that we live among the Babylonians. The use of church-bells should be discouraged, and the same applied to music. He has little use for the ordinary hymns. Chanting should by all means be prohibited. To decorate the Altar and Pulpit with velvet is a remnant from the days of Popery–the idea of using black in Lent! Are these places expected to do penance?–or can they rejoice at the festivals? Is the observance of all this not an absolutely unnecessary luxury?

Then he comes to the Communion Vestments–which he declares, are without a doubt from the days of Popery. They have been invented by the priests in order to be different from other people and thus secure authority. Chasubles, copes, girdles, collars, cassocks, cloaks with big sleeves–it all comes from the same common source–the Pope. The idea of a special dress is partly borrowed from the Heathen, partly from the Jews. If it is from the Heathen then it is wickedness. If it is from the Jews then it is superstition, for who is ignorant of the fact that the vestments of the Old Testament have nothing to do with the Christian Church? But I (Wagner) believe it is God’s special guidance that the priests imitate the dress of the Pharisees that it may become evident to all men that the priests as a whole are Pharisees and our services mostly Pharisaic. He (Wagner) advises that everything distinguishing the priest is abolished–but that if nothing else is–the chasuble must be since it is manifestly from the days of the Pope. “An honorable woman despises not only the life and the way of the harlot–but also her very dress”.

From this he proceeds to attack the texts of the Church-Year which also are “Papistic”.

Orthodox Lutheranism had gotten its own regular publication the year before (1701) Loschers: “Unschuldige Nachrichten“. This reviewed the book of Wagner in most unsympathetic and bitter terms. It lamented the haughty and despicable language used. A defense of the Lutheran position was published the following year (1703) in Frankfurt by I. C. C.: “Observationes necessaria ad Tertium praeceptum.” Wagner replied by quoting J. Feet from 1688. The orthodox controversialist, Joh. Fr. Mayer, of Greifswald entered the field and Stryk was put on the defense. In doing that he repeated in German the whole series of deliverances already quoted from Wagner’s book and he winds up with declaring that all clothes distinguishing the priest of the church are “clothes of Pharisees”. Mayer was always hunting Pietists and he made the Pietists at Halle responsible for the publication of the “Disputation” of “Wagner. This caused the theological faculty of Halle to issue a public declaration to the effect: that they had nothing to do with Wagner’s book. It was correct that they had nothing to do with it, but it cannot be denied that here and there among the Pietists were those whose inclination would favor a similar attitude. After a couple of years things seem to have become quiet regarding this particular matter until Christian Gerber –after his death–appeared on the scene (in 1732) with his: Historic der Kirchen-Ceremonien in Sachsen. The author died in 1731 as parish priest in Lockwich, a little south of Dresden, and his son published the book. Gerber was a Pietist with Reformed sympathies and with inclination to build on Gotfried Arnold. Unschuldige Nachrichten was constantly opposed to him. He (Gerber) is much offended at the use of the Communion Vestments. He tells how he as a young priest in Schonberg was obliged to use the Communion Vestments because the patron of the church demanded it. He then goes on to say that during the 40 years he had been at Lockwich he had never used the Communion Vestments belonging to the church–and the congregation did not miss them any more. He then proceeds to treat the question of Altar-candles which he thinks are an unreasonable Papistic remnant that certainly ought to be abolished.

As we can expect, Gerber’s book was reviewed in Unschuldige Nachrichten in anything but friendly terms (1733, page 597). But it found also sympathetic readers, for instance, Bishop Peder Hersleb.

Neither is it improbable that this book of 1732 has some connection with what happened in many of the lands under the king of Prussia in 1733. Stryk and Wagner had encouraged the princes to legislate against the ceremonies of the church and the temptation was big enough where the prince was Reformed, to take hold of the “Papistry” among the Lutherans.

It was a Reformed king who declared the war against the Communion Vestments of his Lutheran subjects. The royal house of Brandenburg, Prussia, was Reformed while the population was largely Lutheran. The condition had already caused trouble which the experience of Paul Gerhardt bears ample proof of. The war against the Communion Vestments was declared by the peculiar soldier-king, Fred. Wilhelm I who. ruled in a very autocratic fashion. Through a Decision of 1733 he “prohibited the remnants of Popery in the Lutheran Church: Copes, Communion Vestments, Candles, Latin song, Chants, and the sign of the Cross”. Many priests sanctioned this step, but conservatism was also very strong. Many complained and counted the whole event a “betrayal of genuine and pure Lutheranism”. Many reports were also given of the disappointments of the congregations.

The brutal king repeated the decision in 1737 with the addition: “Should there be those who hesitate or who desire to make it a matter of conscience, we wish to make it known that we are ready to give them their dismissal”. At least one priest was discharged for refusal to submit.

It is again characteristic to notice how Unschuldige Nachrichten looked upon this matter. In a supplement of 1737, page 81, we find the following: “Greatly Needed Revival in Prayer and Intercession for a Great Portion of the Ev. Luth. German Churches”. It begins by calling attention to the fact that the Ev. Luth. Church has always honored, and has always prayed for the king as the Lord’s anointed. Such prayers are at this time ascending for the “allerdurchlauch-tigste” head which rules Prussia, the four Marks, Pommerania, etc. If human presentations and certain intentions have brought it to this: that the innocent ancient ceremonies of our church (among these are mentioned: the solemn clothing of [!] of the church’s servants), cannot be reckoned as becoming for pure Christianity, then may the Holy God see to this in His infinite Grace. May He powerfully turn the mind of him who sits on the throne of honor as His hand turns the streams of water. These things are admittedly not of any inner necessity, but they have become no insignificant mark of our church and must therefore be safeguarded under these circumstances. The king gives to the Papists and the Jews full liberty in matters of worship. Should then the Ev. Luth. Christians not be able to obtain the same protection and liberty from their “Landesvater”–their King? The whole lamentation ends with an exhortation to be steadfast in prayer.

The sentiment of this cannot be misunderstood. One might think that the Pietists with their dread for externalism would wholeheartedly support the royal command. This is, however, not the case for their chief city,  Halle, was among those who protested against the royal dictatorship. The Danish Hallensian, Enevold Ewald, shows no sympathy in his account of the event: He says: “Some obeyed the royal decision, but a number of places protested: f. inst. Konigsberg, Pommern, Magdeburg, Halle, etc. This led to a repetition and strengthening of the royal command in 1737. A number of priests chose to be dismissed from their office rather than lake submission”.

Similar steps were taken in other places. In 1738 a cloak replaced the Communion Vestments at Weringerode.

Frederik the I was succeeded in 1740 by his son Frederik the II. Immediately on ascending the throne he issued a cabinet order allowing the churches and their priests full liberty in the matter of religious services. A number made use of the liberty granted. The Communion Vestments were restored in Berlin and other places. A number of Prussian churches as the Maria Church in Danzig and the Cathedral Church of Brandenburg possess even to-day the greatest collections of Communion Vestments in Christendom. They are possibly not in use now. Some years prohibition put the Vestments out of use in many places and the time of Frederik the II was the time of Nationalism. We first met it with Stryk and Wagner. The time of Frederik II was not a time for pious sentiment. Rationalism flourished and it had an infinite dread of all that was mystic “or that was handed down from the ‘middle ages’ “, the use of the Communion Vestments was decidedly “catholic” to the mind of Rationalism. Rationalism completed what the Reformed king of Prussia had begun.

The white surplice or Alb is still in use in Leipzig and surrounding country; in a couple of churches in Berlin, for instance., the Church of St. Nicolai where Paul Gerhardt was the parish priest; in Lausitz, in Weimar, Koningsberg, Old Wurrtemberg, and probably in other places. The chasuble was still used in Dresden in the early part of the nineteenth century. It was discontinued in Nuremberg in 1810, and about the same time in Hannover, Grimma, and Lubeck. At the outbreak of lie great war there was probably no church in Germany where the Chasuble was in use. Its use is retained by the Lutheran Slovacks.

Taken as a whole the German Lutheran priest appears at the present time in the black Calvinistic cloak, handed him by the Reformed king of Prussia. The whole affair proved one tremendous defeat–a colossal yielding and giving up of typical Lutheran ways and customs. The condition was reached through protests and objections on the part of the Lutheran population–on the part of the king through dismissals and threats of dismissal from office–and the force of the tyrant was superior.

(It should always be remembered that the Calvinistic “blackness” of the clergy in the present-day German Lutheran churches and her daughters is not only not Lutheran–but it is a remnant and constant reminder of a period of the greatest helplessness and degradation of the German Lutheran people. The Brutal Prussian king followed by the overwhelming power of Rationalism, did accomplish one thing, (in so far as externals are concerned). It shifted the German branch of the Lutheran church and her daughter churches from her natural position among the great historic communions of Christendom–to a place among the sectarian, Calvinistic denominations. Her place there has so far been one of continued yielding in order to make herself acceptable. Lutheran in theory and increasingly Reformed in practice, even down to the publication of the last edition of the Liturgy of the Common Service. The Church Book had just retained the ancient and honored Lutheran custom: the sign of the cross in the Baptismal service, but in the Common Service Book this–perhaps the very last–remnant of Christian symbolism in that book had to go. It might offend the Reformed neighbors. It might be looked upon as superstitious and seem “catholic” to some one. A Scandinavian Lutheran is still glad to say: “Receive the sign of the Holy Cross upon thy forehead and upon thy breast as a token that thou shalt believe in the crucified and risen Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ”.

The original, and typical apparel of the German Lutheran, as of all Lutheran Clergy when officiating in the sanctuary, is not that of “blackness and gloom” but the festive apparel of the historic church through the ages. We of Scandinavian ancestry cannot be too grateful for the better conditions prevailing in the Mother-Countries.

But things are changing in Germany at the present time. Deep spiritual movements are on foot and new interest in the earlier and better days of the church is increasing with rapid strides. We should not be surprised to hear at any time that the ancient Vestments of the church are again taking their original and proper place instead of the customary Calvinistic cloak.

We entertain the greatest admiration for The Common Service of the Lutheran Church, but–beautiful as it is–it will never come to its own till it is rendered in the proper Vestments belonging to it and surrounded by which it came into existence–the proper Communion Vestments of the Lutheran Church and of the Church catholic through the ages. Rendered without its proper accessories it sinks very much to the common level of another set form or program).

While these humiliations passed over the Lutheran church in Germany, things went peacefully and very dignified in the Scandinavian countries. An instance from Denmark will illustrate: A new chaplain had in 1738 been appointed as assistant clergyman at Frederiksborg and Herlev churches. He was so small of stature that it was impossible for him to wear the Communion Vestments at the service. There was no thought of simply omitting their use. With considerable circumspection he places his difficulties before the king who granted him as an exceptional case permission to serve at the Altar without the proper Vestments.

But the spirit of Rationalism spread its chilling and deadening influence everywhere. It also passed over the Northern countries. Voices were raised in Denmark requiring reform. Some took up the battle against the liturgy of the Church–because it was antiquated and meaningless. Up to this time the Danish service had retained all the essential features of the beautiful and devotional service of the Reformation period, but Rationalism had no use for it and succeeded only too well in getting the greater part of the Liturgy eliminated from the services of the church–creating a havoc which to the present day has but partly been overcome.

War was also started against the Communion Vestments, but on this point no success was gained. The common people would not sanction the discontinuance of these ornaments of the service. Voices from all sorts and conditions of the people defended the continued use of these ancient heritages of the early days of Christianity. The attacks also seemed to neutralize themselves to a great extent by being directed at various objects. Some took up the battle against the candles in the Altar, arguing that it was more reasonable to place the money in the “school-fund” (how like the rationalistic mind! The whole expense for this item would probably not exceed five dollars a year). Others wanted to retain the candles, but suggested that the Communion Vestments were sold to provide the means by which to buy candles. There is no doubt that great neglect prevailed in many parishes where a virtually indifferent clergy was in office, but it was all of a temporary nature. Others would come into their places and restore what had been torn down. The general consciousness was a deep desire to maintain the ancient uses of the services of the church.

The leading Rationalist in Denmark, court preacher Christian Bastholm, was a decided enemy of the traditional services as well as of the vestments which he calls “ridiculous ornaments”. Many and various opinions could be quoted as examples of the lack of spiritual perception of things having to do with spiritual matters. Probst Jensen in the Karlabo parish does not know “why the white vestments should be retained–except that it does not confine one to the use of black which color we are not accustomed to ascribe to the Angels of Light”.

In spite of all confusion the old was not discontinued anywhere and a consciousness settled more and more: that the Communion Vestments should be retained, and should be restored, wherever lacking.

In 1803 a royal decision was issued declaring that the Communion Vestments were necessary accessories of the Altar and should be included in the regular inventory of all the churches. Another decision of September 1811 makes it obligatory on all patrons of churches “to provide new Communion Vestments when the old ones are worn out”. This actually put an end to the devastating work of Rationalism. It is about this time, too, that Grundtvig appears on the scene and he sees things with spiritual eyes–also the fitting and becoming use of the Communion Vestments. The following incident has a certain interest: At the Reformation Jubilee in Copenhagen 1836, the Church of Prussia was represented by Dr. Ph. Marheinecke. He was then so impressed with the dignity of the vestments of the church–especially the Episcopal cope–that he said to Bishop Martensen: “Never permit this to be taken away. If you let it go you will not get it back again”.

What has been said of Denmark applies equally to Norway and in a slighter measure to Sweden where conservatism was so much stronger. Through the changes and the chances of the period of Rationalism, the historic and ecumenical character of the Lutheran church of Scandinavia had been preserved.

Chapter IX: South Jutland

(Much abbreviated).

South Jutland was, as has been noted before, even more conservative than Denmark. The complete Communion Vestments were in use there long after their use had been modified in the other dioceses. The German Rationalism had, however, there a more powerful sway and it succeeded in making everything “black.” Those people have now for generations been without the Communion vestments and it may perhaps long remain a mark that they have been under a foreign allegiance. Yet beautiful samples of Vestments are still preserved in a number of the churches.

Chapter X: The Episcopal Cope.

(Abbreviated)

The cope is worn by the bishop of all special occasions: at ordinations, consecrations of churches, etc. All the cathedral churches have their copes. Often a cathedral has a number of them. Probably the Swedish churches have the most valuable collections, both from the historical as well as the artistic point of view. Some of these copes date from the middle ages and some from very recent date. The cope has become the distinguishing vestment for the bishop, but it has nothing to do with the Communion Vestments.

Chapter XI: Better Ways

Many Communion Vestments are prepared in Denmark year after year and since the admission of South Jutland into the Church of Denmark the question arises: if they will change from Reformed to Lutheran practice in these matters.

But a better and truer historic taste ought to be developed and guided in these matters.

The alb should in all cases reach to the ankles. It was the decided gain by the ancient historic Alba that with the aid of the girdle it could be made to fit the height of any person. It really would be the simplest matter if each clergyman provided himself with the Alba and Surplice. The cost would be slight, especially as no lace or the like should be tolerated.

How much simpler to carry a light weight cassock and a surplice when going to perform the ministerial acts in homes and elsewhere–than to carry the heavy, complicated thing in present use. One could carry the complete outfit, even on a bicycle, and in a moment be ready to perform the sacred acts with all the reverence and dignity desired. This is the way the Danish clergymen in India have done.

The Chasuble, however, ought as a rule to be the property of the church and here is an unusual opportunity for good taste and a good will to create something beautiful and festive for the sanctuary. But the good taste must be guided in these matters. It must be guided in regard to the form of the Chasuble. The form of the late middle ages “the gothic” which permits the sides of the Chasuble to reach the elbow or wrist while the length in front and in the back are alike–is so far the most preferable–the most beautiful in every way. The material must be soft and fall in easy folds. The color should sooner be light with light patterns or other ornaments. There is no reason whatever for the strong red color. If a cross is desired let it be in light outlines, but other ornaments may as well be used. The whole thing does not need to be very costly–but should any one desire to use art and costly material–then there is ample opportunity for it here.

But the common Roman form, of the Chasuble–with the shape of a shield and its heavy ornamentation should be discontinued–the sooner the better. Let us return to the earlier, the simpler, and more beautiful form of the garment–which in itself is nothing more than a garment–yet with the great distinction that it has “belonged” for more than 1600 years when the feast of the Lord’s Table has been celebrated.

It has at all events the prerogative of age before any other garment for that occasion–and has then for centuries (ever since the Reformation) been considered a distinctive Lutheran custom.

The custom of the “black” during the service can be traced (and that sporadically) only about 150 years, and if someone desires to make it especially “protestant”, its origin is yet the catholic law which makes the private dress of the clergyman black and forbids him other colors. The sanctity of the “black” color is hardly greater than is that of others– and its history in the Lutheran church is not very cheering.

As Vilhelm Beck lay in his casket vested in his Alba, it seems to me, also to my informant (A. Fibiger), that it reminded deeply of the priestly garb of Heaven in the great white throng. And well does it seem the natural color for the service when the festival of hope is celebrated at the Table of the Lord.

With these thoughts in mind the various considerations about principles, etc., may well rest. It is a question of custom, use, history, and nothing else. The Communion Vestments have in the Danish churches that right, that in these Vestments has the service been celebrated ever since these ancient sanctuaries were erected.

But these Vestments should be beautiful and practical. The meaningless deformations of later ages should be removed. A knowledge of their origin and early history will indicate the best means to get away from all meaninglessness. It is for this purpose that these lines have been written.

Project Canterbury

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  1. Matt P.
    September 7th, 2009 at 17:54 | #1

    Thank you for the post.

  2. September 8th, 2009 at 22:10 | #2

    Very interesting. I am glad it said something about “no lace”, though. :)
    Coming from Germany, I always thought the straight black more manly.

  3. September 10th, 2009 at 21:09 | #3

    To draw a connection to our ancestors in that time, I hope some pastors will take the Lutheran vestment challenge and make the switch. Fascinating history!

  4. September 10th, 2009 at 22:18 | #4

    I feel black looks way more cool than the white anyway.

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