Church vestments are those garments which, according to church rules, must be won by the clergy in performing the ceremonies of the services of the church.
Of course there are many different services which are performed in the various churches in Christianity. There are also many different types of clergy i.e. bishops, priests, deacons, etc. In the world there are many cultures and people. Each of them will have some difference in the style of their vestments.
All church vestments actually have one source, the Christians of the very early church. If you look closely you will notice that all churches, putting aside local customs, have very similar vestments.
In the Catholic Church the vestments of both the Roman and Eastern Catholics, whilst differing in appearance, are actually similar in many aspects as well.
What is quite interesting is that early church vestments were derived from the every day dress of ordinary people. The church “Alb” is of the same design which was worn by Greek men for 600 years before the birth of Christ. When the early clergy led the people in the liturgy they did not dress any differently than the other men of the time. However, soon the clergy insisted on a certain amount of refinement, beauty and dignity, so they brought out their best clothes when they led the Divine Service.
History tells us that so called “barbarians” invadedRomeand the rest of the world and they dressed differently from the educated, classical Greeks. The conservative clergy did not wish to dress like the barbarians so they retained the old fashioned Greek style vestments; this was despite the fact that the people had begun to change their style of dress. At this point the priest at the Liturgy began to dress differently from the rest of the congregation. Thus it came to pass that in the first century AD the ordinary civilian costume of a well dressed person became the “style” of church vestments.
In order to justify the continued use of the older style vestments, the church gave them symbolic church meanings. In a sense this justified their continued use.
The vestments we use in our church today are actually very close in resemblance of those early lay peoples’ clothing.
This in itself is very interesting. What it says amongst other things is that the church, in one way, does not change that quickly. That is probably a good thing because the faith of today cannot and should not be different to what those early Christians believed 2,000 years ago. Vestments are in harmony with the faith and this is good.
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