Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Stole - Priests Vestments

The Stole is a liturgical vestment of the Catholic Church as well as other Christian churches. It consists of a band of colored cloth, formerly usually of silk, about seven and a half to nine feet long and three to four inches wide, whose ends may be straight or may broaden out. The center of the stole is worn around the back of the neck and the two ends hang down parallel to each other in front, either attached to each other or hanging loose. The stole is almost always decorated in some way, usually with a cross or some other significant religious design. It is often decorated with contrasting galloons (ornamental trim) and fringe is usually applied to the ends of the stole following Numbers 15:38-39. A piece of white linen or lace may be stitched onto the back of the collar as a sweat guard which can be replaced more cheaply than buying a new stole.

The word stole derives via the Latin stola, from the Greek στολή (stolē), "garment", originally "array" or "equipment".  The stole was originally a kind of shawl that covered the shoulders and fell down in front of the body;  After being adopted by the Church of Rome about the seventh century (the stole having also been adopted in other locales prior to this), the stole became gradually narrower and so richly ornamented that it developed into a mark of dignity. Nowadays, the stole is usually wider and can be made from a wide variety of material.

There are many theories as to the "ancestry" of the stole. Some say it came from the tallit (Jewish prayer mantle), because it is very similar to the present usage (as in the Priest who puts it on when he leads in prayer) but this theory is no longer regarded much today. More popular is the theory that the stole originated from a kind of liturgical napkin called an orarium (cf. orarion) very similar to the sudarium. In fact, in many places the stole is called the orarium. Therefore it is linked to the napkin used by Christ in washing the feet of his disciples, and is a fitting symbol of the yoke of Christ, the yoke of service.

Together with the cincture and the now mostly defunct maniple, the stole symbolizes the bonds and fetters with which Jesus was bound during his Passion; it is usually ornamented with a cross. Another version is that the stole denotes the duty to spread the Word of God.

The liturgical colors used for the stole and the other vestments in the Roman Catholic Church are indicated in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, 346. They are colored white in the seasons of Easter and Christmas and on feasts that are not of martyrdom; red on Palm Sunday, Good Friday and Pentecost Sunday, and on feasts of martyred saints; green in Ordinary Time (between Christmastide and Lent and between Eastertide and Advent). Violet (often confused with purple) is the color for Advent and Lent, and may be used in Masses for the dead. Where it is customary, rose (pink) may be used for the third Sunday in Advent (the pink candle in the Advent wreath) and the fourth Sunday in Lent, which are known respectively, because of the first word of the Introit, as Gaudete Sunday and Laetare Sunday; these Latin words mean "Rejoice", and the change of color symbolizes, as it were, a "break" in the gloom of penance during the violet seasons. Similarly, black may be used, where customary, in Masses for the dead. However, Episcopal Conferences may, with the consent of the Holy See, adapt these rules to national traditions, as, for instance, in countries where white is the color of mourning.

1 comment:

Kim said...

This is so interesting and easy to understand and well described! I especially like the part about the colors of the stole for different liturgical seasons! Thank you!