the power of symbolism in liturgical vestiture

COMMENT:   I am reblogging the Daily Devotion from the Living Church  today as it speaks t something I think is very important.  As an Episcopalian I have come to believe that those who lead worship should do everything they can to  add reverence and awe to the liturgical acts they perform. Wearing a vestment whether a simple cassock and surplice, a dalmatic , chasuble, cope up to a cappa magna has a transforming effect on both those who lead and those who are led.  For Anglican (which includes Episcopalians), Roman Catholic, Orthodox and Lutheran* Christians preserving the ancient traditions of the Chruch is thought to bring forth the faith in its fullness .  The very act of putting on a vestment has a transformative effect.  It is another way of opening a door leading from this visible life to ” things unseen.”

In this devotion we see the historic and biblical roots of vestiture which was seen by the ancient Hebrews as having been “established by God”:


Fr. Lawrence Lew, OP/Flickr

God Establishes the Priesthood 
Daily Devotional • April 17
By the Rev. David Baumann

In this passage, the LORD gives detailed instructions to Moses regarding the vesture of the priests. Moses’ brother Aaron was the first priest for the Israelites; the Jewish priesthood was a hereditary office, and Aaron’s sons are also named as being set apart for the priesthood. Their vestments are named, and their design set forth. The distinctly priestly garment, the ephod, had the appearance of a chasuble or, perhaps more likely, a dalmatic. Details are lost of what the “Urim” and “Thummim” were, which Aaron was to wear on his heart, although it is clear that they were objects used for discerning the LORD’s will and the determination of judgment.

Though not every detail of these vestments is apparent, what is clear is that the LORD took them seriously and intended the Israelites to take them very seriously indeed. The active Jewish priesthood came to an end when the Temple was destroyed by the Romans in A.D. 70; nevertheless, being hereditary, the priesthood still exists. The Hebrew word for priest is kohen — surely any Jew with a surname of Cohan, Kohn, or a similar name is of the priestly line. Note that the LORD directs that “all who have ability, whom I have endowed with skill,” shall make Aaron’s vestments. Though the priesthood is divinely instituted and maintained, its support and function are the responsibility and privilege of the entire community. And so it is for the Christian priesthood. It is not hereditary, but it continues similarly in an unbroken line through the apostolic succession — divinely established and supported by the faithful in each generation, who receive its benefits. Then, as now, the LORD takes it very seriously, and expects the faithful to do so also.

Exodus 28:1-4, 30-38

Then bring near to you your brother Aaron, and his sons with him, from among the Israelites, to serve me as priests—Aaron and Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar. 2You shall make sacred vestments for the glorious adornment of your brother Aaron. 3And you shall speak to all who have ability, whom I have endowed with skill, that they make Aaron’s vestments to consecrate him for my priesthood.4These are the vestments that they shall make: a breastpiece, an ephod, a robe, a checkered tunic, a turban, and a sash. When they make these sacred vestments for your brother Aaron and his sons to serve me as priests, 30In the breastpiece of judgment you shall put the Urim and the Thummim, and they shall be on Aaron’s heart when he goes in before theLord; thus Aaron shall bear the judgment of the Israelites on his heart before the Lord continually.

31You shall make the robe of the ephod all of blue. 32It shall have an opening for the head in the middle of it, with a woven binding around the opening, like the opening in a coat of mail, so that it may not be torn. 33On its lower hem you shall make pomegranates of blue, purple, and crimson yarns, all around the lower hem, with bells of gold between them all around— 34a golden bell and a pomegranate alternating all around the lower hem of the robe. 35Aaron shall wear it when he ministers, and its sound shall be heard when he goes into the holy place before the Lord, and when he comes out, so that he may not die. 36You shall make a rosette of pure gold, and engrave on it, like the engraving of a signet, “Holy to the Lord.” 37You shall fasten it on the turban with a blue cord; it shall be on the front of the turban. 38It shall be on Aaron’s forehead, and Aaron shall take on himself any guilt incurred in the holy offering that the Israelites consecrate as their sacred donations; it shall always be on his forehead, in order that they may find favor before the Lord.

Reprinted by permission of the Reverend Emily R. Hylden, general editor of the Daily Devotion.

*There are many Christian traditions which follow the same idea.  They are too many to name them all and their omission is for the sake of practically and not meant as a slight to any.



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