Real priests do not wear billboards. Part II

In my previous post, I wrote about the disturbing phenomenon of priests wearing billboards instead of clergy shirts. A closely related problem can be found in sacristies and chancels in more places than I care to imagine. The examples shown here are actual chasubles for sale today. I have spared the vestment company by not linking to them here. (I worry that the posting of these seems dangerously close to putting me in the company of curmudgeonly priests and bloggers.)

Advent candle chasubleThis Advent chasuble has four candles on the front. Do you see the problem? Are you, like me, imagining four candles somewhere with little pictures of chasubles on them? Where does it end?

It’s enough to provoke a nightmare, which I’m hesitant to post lest some marketing genius from Almy catch wind of it. Imagine a candle-chasuble with LED lights. Each Sunday, as the celebrant enters, a new light pops on. Then, perhaps just before the Collect of the Day, she or he could push a button on the chasuble and a little recording of “O come, O come, Emmanuel” could play, kind of like a greeting card. Hey, we’re headed that direction. You read it here first.

thorns chasubleIn case you forgot what happened on Good Friday, here’s a “Lent chasuble”. Among many other eye-gouging problems here, we don’t actually spend forty days of Lent contemplating the horrors of Good Friday. We have, um, Good Friday for that. And if you want a Good Friday chasuble of this ilk, God help you, you would want it to be red. But then you’d run the risk of wearing the thorn-and-nails chasuble instead of the fire-and-dove chasuble on Pentecost.

So why put those particular images on the front at all? Well, because it’s hard to capture Lent with a pithy graphic. How do you picture self-examination and repentance? Maybe something plain and simple. A simple thing. Oh, right. That would have been a plain purple chasuble.

smiley chasubleOne more. This one seems funny to me, because if you stand back far enough, I think the image looks a bit like a smiley face. Perfect. Every celebrant wants to know how to reach those grumpy people who always sit and scowl in the back of the church. So why not wear something that looks OK up close, but vaguely comical/ridiculous at a distance? Those frowns will turn upside-down when they catch a glimpse of this number!

One could have easily found dozens more examples of horrifying chasubles. But it’s like going fishing with dynamite. It’s criminally easy. These examples — and many more — reflect both bad taste and poor theology.

And in all this, the worship of almighty God has taken a back seat. Sometimes, a chasuble should just be a chasuble.

Strike that. Always, a chasuble should just be a chasuble.

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8 Responses

  1. Robin Usher says:

    I have a plain green stole, wide and long, that used to had the outline, in white cord, of a stylized fish at each end – until a parishioner pointed out that they looked more like bombs! They were quite easy to unpick, and I am now left with a plain and simple green stole with does the job without any confusions.

  2. Roo says:

    Scott – come back to a more Reformed Geneva Gown or Preaching gown – problem solved šŸ˜‰ Another great blog, thanks

  3. Tim Schenck says:

    “Dangerously close to putting me in the company of curmudgeonly priests and bloggers?” You define this! Oh, and from a distance that candle chasuble would appear to be giving parishioners the finger.

  4. Joseph F says:

    Curmudgeon? Close, but I’m sure you won’t spend the rest of your life kvetching about these things, right?

    I think, all in all, this discussion is about simplicity and downplaying the individual.

    Simplicity is letting the symbol (collar, chasuble, alb, cassock, etc) just stand. Minimal adornment or traditional. The symbol (person wearing the chasuble is presiding, person wearing that black shirt and collar is an ordained minister, person wearing that cassock/surplice is assisting at the altar) points to a role. The person wearing that uniform can be wealthy or poor, well-educated or not, but what they do they are doing (we hope) for the glory of God and welfare of God’s people. So by giving a uniform which covers over their personality (hence the joke about the Broncos stole on the previous post) it focuses on the person’s role. The different individuals with the same ministry wear their uniforms, and those uniforms look alike to downplay my role as an individual with flaws and quirks and focuses on what I am doing.

    But, beyond clothes and vestments and all sorts of pretty things, first “They’ll know that we are Christians by our love” and servants of the Most High by our service to one another. To God only be the glory!

  5. Diana R. says:

    Having astigmatism helps with the smiley face, and I didn’t have to be that far away.

  6. Bill Dilworth says:

    “So why put those particular images on the front at all?”

    Well, if y’all celebrated ad orientem you could put anything you like on the front and it wouldn’t matter as much. We would also be spared the sight of priests trying to conjure up “spiritual” facial expressions or engage in “meaningful” eye contact with us during the Canon. šŸ˜‰

  7. Jonathan says:

    Actually, those don’t bother me that much. Granted, it is much more important to have plain vestments, but ornamented vestments are good for special occasions. The biggest problem with the examples you give are that the images are to small to really fill the chasubles but to big to be detail work appreciated primarily or only by the altar party and altar guild. Of course, the imagery also looks mass produced, which is bad, but a more thoughtful use of imagery could be quite lovely.

    Green vestments, however, should always be plain since any occasion special enough to merit fancy clothes will be special enough to have a different color, white or red most likely.

    Although, come to think of it tippets are one of the few vestments for which personalization is entirely appropriate.