The Sacred That Surrounds Us: The Chasuble
January 2, 2022, 12:00 PM
From the Latin casula (meaning “little house”), the chasuble covers all the other articles of clothing in a priest’s liturgical wardrobe. A chasuble is a sleeveless garment worn only in Mass when the consecration of the bread and wine will take place. You will most likely see a chasuble in the four official liturgical colors: purple, green, red, or white. A Gothic chasuble is shaped like a poncho. A Roman chasuble has two segments, front and back, separate from each other.
The first chasubles were a variation of the secular casula that was common in the Roman Empire. These chasubles extended all the way to the priest’s feet with the sides sown up, covering the entire arms. Because the chasuble’s design was very heavy and long, in the twelfth century, cloth was cut away from the sides to accommodate better movement of the priest’s arms. Until this alteration took place, it was the responsibility of the deacon and subdeacon to roll the cloth back over the main celebrant’s arms, reducing the weight upon them. Until the fourth century, white was the only color in use. The chasuble’s design was strengthened with the addition of the band of embroidery over the front vertical seam and across the neck.
The symbolism of the chasuble is beautiful. Not only is it representative of the yoke of Jesus, but also of charity covering the priest that wears it. When a bishop presents the chasuble to the priest at his ordination, he says, “Receive the priestly vestment, by which is signified charity.” The prayer the priest has the option to pray as he vests in a chasuble is: “O Lord, who has said, ‘My yoke is sweet and my burden light,’ grant that I may so carry it as to merit thy grace.” The design offers rich symbolism as the embellishments can cover the seams in a “Y”-shaped cross.