Devout Customs and Usages
Some of the customs here referred to are matters of rubrical direction in the Prayer-Book; others stand merely upon the ground of usage and the devout practice of the Church from ancient times. The object here in view is not to discuss their obligation, but simply to tell what they are and why they are observed, whether that observance is in obedience to an express direction of the Church or is a voluntary act of reverence. Since, as a matter of fact, such customs are used by some Churchmen, every well-instructed person should know their meaning and the reason for their use. His personal observance of them, where they have been left by the Church as voluntary acts, must depend upon his own feeling and their {104} helpfulness or otherwise to his own worship and right living.

Kneeling. -- The changes of posture in the course of a service have value in relieving weariness and in sustaining attention, but their chief significance is, of course, in the expression of different states of devotion. Thus kneeling is the fit posture in prayer for humble penitents -- the only state in which we may presume to come before God. It is a mark of reverence, and testifies outwardly of our inward humility; and "a devout manner helps to create devout feelings."

Standing. -- To show readiness to engage in worship and to receive instruction, the people stand when addressed at the opening of Morning and Evening Prayer, or at the Exhortations in the Communion Office. As expressive of earnestness and determination to defend the Faith, they stand for the recitation of the Creeds. They stand at the reading of the Gospel in the Communion Service to "show reverent regard for the Son of God above all other messengers, although speaking as from God also." They rise at the presentation of the alms and oblations, because the offering is their gift to God and to show their participation in the act. They stand as the clergy enter or leave {105} the church in token of respect for their sacred office.

Bowing. -- The head is bowed at the name of Jesus in the Creeds to "testify by this outward ceremony and gesture a due acknowledgment that the Lord Jesus Christ, the true and eternal Son of God, is the only Saviour of the world." This act of reverence is not restricted to the Creeds, but the same honor is shown to the Holy Name at its mention also in the Gloria in excelsis, and in hymns, in lessons, and in sermons.

At the words, "And was incarnate," in the Nicene Creed, the head and body are inclined (or the knee is bent) "to show humble and grateful recognition of the stupendous mystery of the Incarnation," and at the words "Worshiped and glorified," to signify belief in the divinity of the Holy Ghost. The head is bowed also at the name of the Blessed Trinity. This sign of reverence and honor is made at the Gloria Patri, at "Holy, Holy, Holy" in the Sanctus of the Communion Office, at the same words in the Te Deum, and at the various forms of the doxology, thus "recognizing the divine glory of each of the three Persons, and in imitation of the angels, who veil their faces with their wings when singing the glory of the Holy Trinity." Bowing {106} at the Gloria came into use about the year 325, as a protest against the heresy which denied the divinity of our Lord.

The head is reverently bowed toward the Altar on coming in and going out of the church or chancel, in accordance with what one of the canons of the English Church says was "the most ancient custom of the primitive Church in the purest times." It is an act of honor and reverence for the house of God, and for the Altar as the place of such holy associations as attach to it from the celebration there of the Holy Eucharist.

Turning to the East. -- The practice of turning to the east, or to the Altar, at the Creed and at every Gloria (as a brief form of Creed) "probably originated in an old custom at Baptism. The catechumen turned his face toward the west in renouncing the devil and all his works, and to the east in making profession of his Faith. The early Christians were accustomed to turn to the east in their devotions, just as the Jews turned their faces toward Jerusalem when they prayed." Many churches, whenever it is possible, are built for this reason "east and west," as was the ancient custom. When not so placed, the chancel is considered to be constructively, if not in fact, "the east," and the clergy and choir {107} turn toward the Altar. It is an act expressive of faith in Christ "as the light of the world," "the Sun of righteousness," and recalls how ancient tradition, following a seeming intimation of Holy Scripture, says that our Lord will come from the east at His second advent: "As the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be."

Vestments. -- Much may be said for the use of a distinctive dress in the holy offices of the Church. It is in accordance with ancient usage; it marks the action of the Minister as not personal, but official; it secures dignity and uniformity, and it is also, like the dress of the priests in the old Jewish Church, "for glory and for beauty."

The American Church has no law upon the subject of vestments. Their use is simply a matter of traditional custom. Those here described have come down to us from our mother Church of England. Not all here mentioned are in use in all places, nor need it be assumed that all are equally desirable.

"The Cassock is a long coat, close-fitting, reaching to the feet, and buttoned down the front. It is generally of black, except in cathedral churches and for Bishops and cathedral dignitaries, when the {108} episcopal purple may appropriately be used. A cincture, or broad sash, sometimes confines the cassock at the waist.

"The Surplice is of linen, generally with no opening in front, but with sufficient aperture in the neck to allow it to be easily passed over the head. It should fall somewhat below the knees. The sleeves are flowing and of considerable width at the wrist."

[Illustration: The surplice]

"The Stole is a strip of silk about three inches wide and eight and a half feet long, with ends ornamented by embroidery and fringed. The Priest wears it around his neck, the ends hanging down over the front of the surplice. Deacons wear the stole suspended over the left shoulder, except at the Holy Communion, when it may be brought across the back and breast and be fastened at the right side."

The vestments for the celebrant at the Holy Communion are as follows:

The Alb, which may be described as a long linen garment somewhat like a surplice, with close-fitting sleeves, reaching nearly to the ground. It is frequently embroidered at the foot before and behind {109} and at the end of the sleeves. These pieces of embroidery are called "apparels." The alb is confined at the waist by a white cord called the girdle.

[Illustration: The Alb]

Around the neck is worn the Amice -- an oblong piece of linen, a part of which is folded over and forms a large collar. This is often embroidered.

The Chasuble, sometimes called "the vestment" by way of distinction, is worn only at the celebration of the Holy Communion. It is oval in shape, without sleeves, with an opening in the middle through which the head may be passed. In front and behind it extends nearly to the ground, and on the sides to the hands. It is usually ornamented with a Y-shaped cross, which is often embroidered. The chasuble is sometimes ornamented with very rich needlework. The stole is worn under the chasuble, crossed on the breast, and passed under the girdle.

[Illustration: The Chasuble]

Sometimes the Maniple is also worn. It is shaped like a stole, but smaller, and is fastened with a loop over the left arm near the wrist.

This dress, with local differences, is worn in all {110} the ancient Churches of Christendom. It has come down to us with the Church itself. It is, in fact, simply the dignified dress of primitive days, enriched and ornamented. Times and customs have changed, but the dress of the Priest, made sacred by association with his holy work, has remained unaltered.

In churches where the Holy Eucharist is celebrated with very full ceremonial, the two clergy-men who assist the celebrant, called the "deacon" and "subdeacon," sometimes on festival occasions wear respectively a Dalmatic and a Tunicle. These garments are very similar, being a kind of loose coat or frock reaching below the knees, open partially at the lower part of the sides, and having full, though not large, sleeves. The dalmatic is usually somewhat more ornamented. These are festival garments. On other occasions the girded alb and the amice are often worn by the deacon and subdeacon.

[Illustration: Dalmatic]

The chasuble, and also the dalmatic and tunicle, are often of silk, of the color of the season; but the custom of wearing only white linen vestments prevails in many churches.


"The following somewhat fanciful meanings, among various others, have been applied to the vestments: the alb is said to signify the white robe which Herod placed upon our Saviour; the amice, the cloth with which He was blindfolded by the Jews; the stole, maniple, and girdle, the cords which bound Him, and the chasuble, the purple robe of scorn.

"They are also said to represent certain Christian graces. The amice, passed over the head, signifies hope, the helmet of salvation; the alb, purity; the maniple, patience in the bonds of suffering; the stole, submission to the yoke of Christ, the chasuble, charity."

"The Cope is a large semicircular cloak of silk or other stuff, fastened in front by a clasp called a 'morse.' It is generally richly embroidered. The length extends in the back to the feet, but it is open in front, leaving the arms free. The cope is worn by priests in solemn processions. It is not a Eucharistic vestment and does not displace the chasuble at Celebrations. It is a symbol of rule, and is appropriate to Bishops and others in authority. It is worn over the alb or surplice."

The Episcopal habit generally worn seems to have come into use in the time of Queen Elizabeth. {112} Its use rests only upon custom. It consists of "Rochet" and "Chimere." The rochet resembles an alb, but is shorter and without sleeves. It is of lawn or fine linen. The chimere is a dress of black satin, with white lawn sleeves.

The Bishop's Staff is in shape like a shepherd's crook. It is often highly ornamented, and may be adorned on the crook or top with jewels.

The Mitre is a head-covering generally worn by Bishops with the cope.

The Biretta is a square cap of black silk, or other stuff, worn by the clergy in out-of-door functions.

Hoods are symbols of university degrees attained by the wearer. They are not strictly ecclesiastical. Each college or university has its own hood for each degree conferred.

The Sign of the Cross. -- At the Ministration of Baptism the Church directs that the sign of the Cross shall be made upon the forehead of the baptized person, and declares that it knows "no worthy cause of scruple concerning the same." In this it follows the mind of the primitive Church, in which there was, "even in apostolic times, a reverend estimation of the sign of the Cross, which the Christians shortly after used in all their actions," as a sign that "they were not ashamed to acknowledge {113} Him for their Lord and Saviour who died for them upon the Cross." With the same "reverend estimation," "in token that they are not ashamed to confess the faith of Christ crucified," and in remembrance that all blessings have been purchased by the "death of the Cross," it is also used by many persons at various parts of the public service, as, for instance, at the beginning and close of the service, at the end of the Creed, at a Blessing, or at an Absolution.

Sponsors in Baptism. -- The Church requires that "there shall be for every Male-child to be baptized, when they can be had, two Godfathers and one Godmother; and for every Female, one Godfather and two Godmothers." The origin of this office is obscure. It may have been adopted from a Jewish custom connected with the admission of heathen children, or it may have arisen spontaneously out of the social conditions of the Church.

The object in view is "to insure the subsequent education and training in Christian truth and duty which is necessary to the full benefit of the grace conferred in this holy Sacrament."

Sponsors are so called "because they respond or answer for the child to be baptized. They are {114} called 'sureties' because they give security to the Church that the child shall be virtuously brought up; 'godfathers,' and 'godmothers,' because of the spiritual relationship into which they are brought with one another, with the parents, and with the child."

"Formerly parents were not admitted as sponsors, since they are sponsors in fact and by nature, and therefore no vow can increase their obligation of duty toward the child. But while the Church prefers that there should be three sponsors for every child, in addition to the parents, in order to insure by a fivefold promise the future guardianship of the infant soul, she yet permits parents to stand as sponsors in order to accommodate every variety of circumstance and need, and to save the office of sponsor from ever being merely a formal or perfunctory thing."

The Ring in Marriage. -- "The use of the wedding-ring was probably adopted by the early Church from the marriage customs which were familiar to Christians in their previous life as Jews or heathen." A ring, or something equivalent, seems to have been given at marriage by the man to the woman from patriarchal days. The ancient custom of the Church was for the bridegroom to place the {115} ring upon the thumb of the bride, saying, "In the Name of the Father"; then upon the second finger, saying, "and of the Son"; then upon the third finger, saying, "and of the Holy Ghost"; and then upon the fourth finger, saying, "Amen." "It was an old belief that a particular vein proceeded from the fourth finger to the heart." The ring, being of gold, and having neither beginning nor end, is not only a "token and pledge" of the vow and covenant made in marriage, but is also a symbol of the purity and unbroken constancy with which they should be "surely performed and kept."

Observance of the Church Year. -- The Church Year was a very natural development for the early Christians, familiar with the great annual festivals of the ancient Jewish Church. By a series of anniversaries and holy-days, with suitable services, the different seasons of the year were in like manner made to serve a Christian purpose. Time as it passes thus becomes a perpetual memorial of the events of our Saviour's life, and of the work and virtue of the Apostles and other saints.

The year is divided into eight great seasons: Advent, Christmas-tide, Epiphany-tide, Lent, Easter-tide, Ascension-tide, Whitsuntide, and the Trinity season. Of these Whitsuntide is the shortest, {116} lasting but one week. The Trinity season, including from twenty-three to twenty-eight weeks, is the longest. The four greater Festivals are Christmas, Easter, Ascension, and Whitsunday. The penitential seasons are Advent, preceding Christmas, and Lent, preceding Easter. The two great Fasts are Ash-Wednesday, at the beginning of Lent, and Good Friday, the day of our Lord's crucifixion. Other days of fasting and abstinence are the forty days of Lent, all the Fridays in the year, the Ember-days (the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday before the four stated Times of Ordination to the holy ministry), and the Rogation-days (the Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday before Ascension Day).

From Advent, with which the Church Year begins, to Trinity, our Lord is set before us in His life and His work. "We live over again, year by year, the time of the Incarnation from Bethlehem to Bethany." The design is to "bring out, and to bring home to the minds and hearts of all who shall reverently use these holy festivals and fasts, the great representative facts of Christ's life -- to exhibit and to glorify Him. And that not in a vague, mystic, or one-sided way, but by setting Him before us in all the majesty and beauty and completeness of His character, from the manger to the Cross, and from {117} the Cross up to the mediatorial throne. Thus a complete Christ, if one may so speak, is set before us. All the great facts of His life are marshaled into line and proportion; every feature and lineament of His character is revealed and illuminated; every office He sustained in the work of redemption is affirmed and emphasized."

In the long season from Trinity to Advent we are taught to use practically the Faith in which we have thus been instructed, and "to follow the blessed steps of His most holy life."

In conjunction with this teaching there is also the thankful commemoration of "the wonderful grace and virtue declared in the saints who have been the choice vessels of God's grace and the lights of the world in their several generations." By a series of Saints'-days distributed throughout the year, and falling one or two in each month, we are kept in mind of how we are "knit together" with the blessed saints "in one communion and fellowship in the mystical body of Christ our Lord," and are called to follow "the example of their steadfastness in the faith and obedience to God's holy commandments." There are days dedicated to the memory of the Blessed Virgin; the Apostles; the Baptist as the precursor, and St. Stephen as the {118} protomartyr; to St. Mark and St. Luke as Evangelists; to St. Paul and St. Barnabas on account of their extraordinary call; to the Holy Innocents as the earliest who suffered for Christ's sake; to St. Michael and All Angels, to remind us of the benefits received by the ministry of angels; and to All Saints, as the memorial of all those who have died in the faith.

The advantages of thus making days and seasons the ever-recurring memorials of our Saviour, and of the virtue and example of the saints, are evident. Each year brings to mind the facts of our Lord's life and the great doctrines which He taught. Not a single essential truth of the Gospel is allowed to fall into practical neglect or to drift into forgetfulness. We are reminded to continue steadfast in this Faith and to live by it, and are instructed and encouraged in so doing by the example of the saints whose rest is won.

"And when the strife is fierce, the warfare long,
Steals on the ear the distant triumph-song,
And hearts are brave again, and arms are strong.

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