The Sacred That Surrounds Us: The Alb & Cincture
December 12, 2021, 12:00 PM

From the Latin albus (meaning “white”), an alb is a long, white robe made of linen. Albs are worn over a priest’s usual ecclesiastical clothing, covering it for a liturgical function. Some albs are more traditional with a lower neckline, and a priest will wear an amice underneath. A cincture is a belt-like cord or rope, made of braided linen or wool, that is worn over an alb. It helps to hold the alb in place and sometimes the stole as well.

The alb is similar to that of the priestly clothing we read about in Exodus 28 and Leviticus 8. Also common was the use of a tunic (similar in design) worn by Romans and Greeks under the Empire. It is made of white linen today but formerly was made of silk, decorated with gold, and came in one of many colors (such as blue, red, and even black). Cinctures have been a part of the liturgical attire since the ninth century. Previous designs of the cincture include various color options, different materials (such as silk and cloth of gold), and wider sizes, more like a sash. You will most often see the cincture in white, although rubrics do not prohibit the use of another color.

The alb reminds the priest of his baptism into Jesus and his dignity as a Christian. The cincture signifies priestly chastity. Both are given a blessing before their first use. The prayer the priest has the option to pray as he vests in an alb is: “Make me white, O Lord, and cleanse my heart; that being made white in the Blood of the Lamb I may deserve an eternal reward.” The prayer he has the option to pray as he vests in a cincture is: “Gird me, O Lord, with the cincture of purity, and quench in my heart the fire of concupiscence, that the virtue of continence and chastity may abide in me.”