Series on Vestments: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

Happy Mother’s Day!  This week I will continue a series describing the meaning and purpose of the vestments used in our worship.  Vestments are garments set aside for use in liturgical worship.  Last week I wrote about the white robe called an alb, and its sister garment, the surplice (riveting stuff, I hasten to add if you missed it).  By virtue of its connection to the meaning of baptism, albs and surplices can be worn by any Christian who is engaged in a liturgical function during the service.

Traditional style albs, like the one I wear, do not cover up the collar of the shirt underneath.  When a priest who is to celebrate Eucharist wears an alb, it is desirable to cover up all parts of the priest’s “street clothes.” This is because at the Eucharist, it is not about the individual who celebrates.  Rather, the individual priest is a symbol and a representation of the entire congregation.  In this sense, vestments are meant to cover up the individual beneath them.  So, to cover up that collar I wear what is called an amice.  An amice is rectangular piece of white cloth with two long strings attached.  It functions like a detachable hood for the alb. It looks pretty funny when I put on the amice because I put over my head as if I am wearing a hood.  I secure the amice to my chest with the strings and then I put the alb on and bring the amice down around my collar and neck.  It has ample material to cover what I am wearing beneath. When putting on the amice, this is the traditional prayer that I pray: “Lord, set the helmet of salvation on my head to fend off all the assaults of the devil.”  This prayer connects the amice to the “armor of God” that is spoken of in Ephesians 6:

10Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For ourstruggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness. 15 As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. 16 With all of these, take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18 Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication.

It is a beneficial spiritual practice to remind ourselves daily of our salvation won for us by the cross and resurrection of Jesus and conferred to us at baptism.  That’s part of what the amice does for me.  This passage from Ephesians can be meaningful to us, especially when we are feeling overwhelmed or “attacked.”  How can we put on the armor of God in our own lives?  You probably don’t need a physical symbol like an amice (although you get them at St. Jude’s shop in Havertown if you want!).  Rather, putting on the figurative armor that is spoken of Ephesians has to do with verse 18: prayer.  Wrap yourselves in prayer like armor protecting you from the attacks of the enemy.  Pray for righteousness, faith, and the ability to proclaim the Gospel of peace. Stand firm in prayer knowing that you are God’s own child.    

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