The Vestments, Vessels and Books


The Alb

The Chasuble

The Priest's/Bishop's Stole

The Deacon's Stole

The Amice

The Dalmatic

The Cope

Humeral Veil

Vestment Colors

In the Old Testament, God not only regulated the details of divine worship,
but He also prescribed the type of dress to be worn by the priests in the performance of their priestly office. "You must make sacred vestments for your brother Aaron to consecrate him to serve as priest to me. The following are the vestments you must make: a pouch or breast piece, an apron, a robe, a brocaded tunic, a mitre and a girdle, and they must use  gold, violet, purple, and scarlet yarn and fine linen." (Exodus 28).

In the New Testament no such regulations were laid down. Jesus recalled the life of Paradise when He said, "Do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink, nor about your body what you shall put on." (Matthew 6:25) Perhaps for this reason, the early Church chose the chasuble of the peasant instead of the toga of the free Roman citizen. However from the early Christian centuries, Jesus Himself is clothed in tunic or toga or pallium, never in a chasuble.

The vestments of the Christian Church were developed from articles of dress worn in the Roman empire; the basic forms were inspired by classical Greek attire. Archeology shows that ecclesiastical apparel from the first century onward follows the Greco-Roman pattern and manner of wearing the tunic and the mantle.

The AlbAlb.jpg

The alb is a sack-like, full-length white tunic usually made of linen, with long sleeves, secured at the waist by a white linen, silk or cotton cord. Albs were originally plain, but about the 10th century, the custom arose of ornamenting the hem and cuffs with embroidery, and this became common in the 12th century. Such ornamentation at first encircled the whole hem and cuff, but soon it became customary to substitute rectangular patches of embroidery or fabric. Albs are worn by anyone who is involved in the Mass in the surroundings of the Sanctuary (Priest, Deacon, Altar Servers, Choir, etc.)



Chasuble.jpg The Chasuble

The Chasuble, the outermost Eucharistic vestment, worn over alb, amice and stole, is the distinctive garment of the Priest. Ornamentation was the first element that began to alter the appearance of the chasuble. In order to strengthen the single front seam, it was covered by a band; the neck opening was also strengthened and a transverse band became common. This "T" led to the placing of crosses on the chasuble. The medieval custom was to add side bands to the central column, forming a "Y" or fork. This is typical of chasubles from 13th to 16th centuries. As the sides of the chasuble came to be cut down in later centuries, the "Y" was squared off to form the Latin cross, which was transferred to the back of the vestment to symbolize the carrying of the Cross. Today there is no requirement for placing a cross or any other decoration on the chasuble, however.


The Priest's/Bishop's StolePriest's_Stole.jpg

The Stole is the sign of the authority of the Priesthood of Christ. It symbolizes immortality and reminds the priest of how sweet it is to serve Jesus. While putting on the stole, the priest may say, "Give me, O, Lord, the help to be able to come to You in heaven." He kisses the cross on the center back of the stole as he places it over his head and around the back
of his neck.

The stole is a band of silk or other fine fabric eight feet long and four inches wide, marked in the center with a cross. If the stole is worn over the alb and under the chasuble, the ends are worn loose. Bishops always wear the stole over the chasuble with the ends of the stole hanging loose. A stole is worn when a cleric is exercising his order in celebration of Mass or in administering a sacrament such as Penance (Confession) or the Sacrament of the Sick.


Deacon's_Stole.jpg The Deacon's Stole

A deacon wears a stole from the left shoulder to his right side, attached at the hip level with a chain or tie. He wears the stole over the alb and under the dalmatic when he is assisting at the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, when he preaches the Word of God or when he assists at weddings. He can wear the stole over the alb when he is baptizing or when he is preparing to wear the cope for Exposition and/or Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament.



The AmiceAmice.jpg

An Amice is a rectangular vestment made of white linen and measuring 36" x 24" with two 36" strings of twill tape. It is worn under the alb, covering the neck and shoulders of the priest and/or of the deacon at Mass. Originally, it was a neck cloth to protect the valuable chasuble and stole. Also, it is known that the amice was at one time a head covering for priests and monks in cold monasteries. In legend, it is the helmet worn by the priest going forth to do battle for his people. The amice is no longer obligatory if the alb covers the neck.

While putting on the amice, the priest may pray, "Lord, give me strength to conquer the temptations of the devil."


Dalmatic.jpgThe Dalmatic

The Dalmatic is a more elaborate tunic with color and fabric the same as the vestments of the celebrating priest. The form has remained identical to the original with open sides, wide sleeves with bands about bands the cuffs and colored bands descending from the shoulders. As in early Christian times, it is worn without cincture or girdle. The dalmatic became the distinctive garment of the deacons of the city of Rome during the 5th century and it is retained as the diaconal vestment.


The CopeCope.jpg

The Cope is a mantle reaching the heels of the wearer and worn when the chasuble is not used. The use of the cope as a liturgical vestment can be traced to the end of the 8th century. By the 13th century, the cope as an ornamental, colored garment of finer material had supplanted the chasuble in all non-Eucharistic functions. It is worn by priests and deacons.




Humeral Veil

The Humeral Veil is worn so as to cover the back and shoulders (where it gets its name) and its two ends hang down in front. To prevent its falling from the shoulders, it is fastened across the chest with clasps or ribbons attached to the border.

The Humeral Veil is worn by the priest or deacon in processions of the Blessed Sacrament, in giving Benediction, in carrying the Host to its repository on Holy Thursday, and bringing it back to the altar on Good Friday. In processions of the Blessed Sacrament and at Benediction given with the monstrance, only the hands are placed under the humeral veil; in other cases, it covers the sacred vessel which contains the Host. The Humeral Veil is usually and properly some shade of white (from ivory to white is acceptable).


Vestment Colors

The colors of the vestments necessary for a full set of Ecclesiastical Vestments are the following:

White is the symbol of purity and is used at the following offices and Masses:

1. Christmas season, Easter season other than those concerning the Lord's passion
2. Feasts and memorials of the Blessed Virgin Mary
3. Feasts of the Angels
4. Feasts of the Saints who were not martyrs
5. Feast of All Saints (Nov. 1)
6. Feast of Saint John the Baptist (June 24)
7. Feast of Saint John the Evangelist (Dec. 27)
8. Feast of Saint Peter's Chair (Feb. 22)
9. Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul (Jan. 25)

Red is the symbol of fire and blood and is used for the following offices and Masses:

1. Passion Sunday
2. Good Friday
3. Pentecost
4. Commemorations of the Lord's passion
5. Commemorations of the martyrdoms of the apostles the evangelists and other martyrs

Green is the symbol of hope in Christ and is used in the following offices and Masses:

1. Those times (ordinary time) of the year which are not particular seasons.

Purple is the symbol of repentance and is used in the following offices and Masses:

1. Penitential seasons of Lent and Advent
2. Masses for the Dead (optional)

Rose is the symbol of joy and is used on the following Sundays:

1. Gaudete Sunday, third Sunday of Lent
2. Laetare Sunday, fourth Sunday of Advent

Gold is the symbol of special occasions and can be worn on all special occasions such as Easter and Christmas.

Black may be used for the Masses for the Dead, but rarely is.

Portions obtained from PREPARING FOR THE HOLY SACRIFICE OF THE MASS by Janice Smyth
Imprimatur: Msgr. Richard J. Burke
Diocese of Arlington
September 11, 1985

Book may be ordered from:
Our Lady of the Rosary School
904 W. Stephen Foster Avenue
Bardstown, KY 40004


The Chalice

The Paten



The ChaliceChalice.jpg

The chalice is the cup in which the wine and water of the Eucharistic Sacrifice is contained. It may be of any non-porous material or metal, provided it be solid, clean, and becoming (Miss. Rom., Ritus celebr., tit. i, n. 1).  The base may be round, hexagonal, or octagonal, and should be so wide that there is no fear of the chalice tilting over. The base and cup may be embellished with pictures or emblems, even in relief, but those on the cup should he about an inch below the lip of the chalice. The cup should be narrow at the bottom, and become gradually wider as it approaches the mouth. The rounded or turned-down lip is very unserviceable. The height is not determined, but it should be at least eight inches.

The Paten

The paten is a vessel of the altar on which the altar-bread is offered in the Holy Sacrifice. It should be made of the same material as the chalice. Its edge ought to be thin and sharp, so that the particles on the corporal may be easily collected. It should not be embellished, at least on the concave side, in any manner. Any sharp indentation on the upper side prevents its being easily cleaned. Those having a plain surface throughout, with the gradual slight depression towards the center, are the most serviceable. Both the chalice and the paten, before they can be used at the Sacrifice of the Mass, must be consecrated by the ordinary, or by a bishop designated by him. Only in exceptional cases can a priest, who has received special faculties for doing so from the Holy See, consecrate them. By virtue of Facultates Extraordinariae C, fac. vi, the bishops of the United States may delegate a simple priest. Celebrating the Holy Eucharist with an unconsecrated chalice and paten is not permitted.


The ciborium is an altar-vessel in which the consecrated particles for the Communion of the laity are kept. It need not necessarily be made of gold or silver. It may even be made of copper or pewter. Its base should be wide. its stem should have a knob, and it may be embellished and adorned like the chalice. There should be a slight round elevation in the center, at the bottom, in order to facilitate the taking out of the particles when only a few remain therein. The cover, which should fit tightly, may be of pyramidal or a ball shape, and should be surmounted by a cross. The ciborium ought to be at least seven inches high. It is not consecrated, but only blessed by the bishop or priest having the requisite faculties according to the form of the "Benedictio tabernaculi" (Rit. Rom., tit. iii, xxiii).  In places in which Holy Communion is carried solemnly to the sick, a smaller ciborium of the same style is used for this purpose. The little pyx used for carrying Holy Communion to the sick is made of the same material as that of which the ciborium is made. The lower part should have a slight elevation in the center.



The ostensorium (ostensory, monstrance) is a glass-framed shrine in which the Blessed Sacrament is publicly exposed. It may be of gold, silver, brass, or copper gilt (Cong. Sac. Rit., 31 August, 1867). The most appropriate form is that of the sun emitting its rays to all sides (Instructio Clement., 5). The base should be wide, and at a short distance above it there should be a knob for greater ease in handling. The ostensorium must be surmounted by a cross. (Cong. Sac. Rit., 11 September, 1847). It should not be embellished with small statues of saints, as these and the relics of saints are forbidden to be placed on the altar during solemn Benediction. At the sides of the receptacle in which the lunula is placed it is appropriate to have two statues representing adoring angels. In the middle of the Ostensorium here should be a receptacle of such a size that a large Host may be easily put into it; care must be taken that the Host does not touch the sides of this receptacle. On the front and back of this receptacle there should be a crystal, the one on the back opening like a door, when closed, the latter must fit tightly. The circumference of this receptacle must either be of gold or, if of other material, it should be gilt and so smooth and polished that any particle that may fall from the Host will be easily detected and removed. The lunula must be able to be inserted and removed without difficulty and so should be kept in an upright position. The ostensorium need not necessarily be blessed, but it is better that it should be. When carried to and from the altar it ought to be covered with a white veil.

The lunula (lunette) is made of the same material as the ostensorium. If it be made of any material other than gold, it must be gilded (Cong. Sac. Rit., 31 August, 1867). In form it may be either of two crescents or of two crystals encased in metal. If two crescents be used, the arrangement should be such that they can be separated and cleaned. Two stationary crescents, between which the Sacred Host is pressed, are, for obvious reasons, not serviceable. If two crystals are used it is necessary that they be so arranged that the Sacred Host does not in any way touch the glass (Cong. Sac. Rit., 14 January, 1898). The ostensorium, provided it contains the Blessed Sacrament, may be placed in the tabernacle, but then it should be covered with a white silk veil. When the Blessed Sacrament is taken out of the ostensorium after Benediction it may or may not be removed from the lunula. If it is removed it should, before being placed in the tabernacle, be enclosed in a receptacle, called the repository (custodia, repositorium, capsula), which is made like the pyx, used in carrying Holy Communion to the sick, but larger, and may have a base with a very short stem. If the Blessed Sacrament be allowed to remain in the crescent-shaped lunula both It and the lunula may be placed in the same kind of receptacle, or in one specially made for this purpose, having a device at the bottom for keeping the Sacred Host in an upright position. The latter may have a base and short stem, and a door, which fits tightly, on the back part, through which the lunula is inserted. This receptacle is made throughout of silver or of other material, gilt on the inside, smooth and polished, and surmounted by a cross. No corporal is placed in it. If the lunula be made of two crystals, encased in metal, it may, when containing the Blessed Sacrament, be placed in the Tabernacle without enclosing it in a custodia. If the host be placed before the Consecration in the lunula made of two crystals, the latter must be opened before the words of Consecration are pronounced. All the sacred vessels, when not actually containing the Blessed Sacrament, should be placed in an iron safe, or other secure place, in the Sacristy, so as to be safeguarded against robbery or profanation of any kind. Each ought to be placed in its own case or covered with a separate veil, for protection against dust and dampness.


From the Catholic Encyclopedia, copyright 1913 by the Encyclopedia Press, Inc. Electronic version copyright 1996 by New Advent, Inc., P.O. Box 281096, Denver, Colorado, USA, 80228. ( Taken from the New Advent Web Page (


The Sacramentary

The Lectionary

The Book of Gospels

The Sacramentary

A large book which contains the prayers that the Priest says during the Mass. It contains a General Instruction on the various parts of the Mass as well as the prayers unique to each season of the Church (Advent, Lent, Ordinary Time), and the Order of Mass. It usually is bound in a red leather cover; however, some Sacramentaries can be quite elaborate, being bound between gold or silver plates. It is usually kept near the Altar and may be placed on a holder designed for this purpose.

The Lectionary

The Lectionary contains the Scripture readings that are used throughout the year. Readings for First/Second readings, Responsorial Psalms and the Gospels may be found within it. It is usually kept on the Ambo, the large pulpit from which the Reading and Gospels are proclaimed.

The Book of Gospels

The Book of Gospels is an optional book, as most of its readings can also be found in the Lectionary. When used in the Mass, it is carried in procession while held aloft by the Priest or Deacon before it is used at the Ambo. Outside of the Mass, it is kept on the Altar of the Word, a bookstand that is kept near the sanctuary and sometimes opposite the Altar of the Body, or Tabernacle (where the consecrated Hosts are kept.)

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