Vested with Symbolism

More sartorial commentary: Keith Pecklers, S.J., has a provocative article in the latest London Tablet on Pope Benedict’s return to some of the more formal vesture of the church. Father Pecklers is Professor of Liturgy at the Pontifical Gregorian University and Professor of Liturgical History at the Pontifical Liturgical Institute, Rome. He notes, "Like other elements within the liturgy, vesture is itself symbolic and papal vesture, all the more so." So what does the pope’s return to the wearing of clothing like the mozzetta, the camauro, and an antique chasuble, mean? What significance does it have when seen in concert with his "motu proprio" on the Mass? Here’s Pecklers: Conservative critics, then, see these changes in papal vesture as indicative of a wider papal liturgical reform under way. Perhaps they are correct, although the reality appears to be much more enigmatic and complex. First, there is the personal style and taste of the Pope himself. Those who knew him well as Archbishop of Munich-Freising and then at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith attest to his extraordinary attention to detail and his impeccable taste - both personally and in his official liturgical functioning. Like his brother Georg, Pope Benedict has a refined artistic sense which goes far beyond his talent as an accomplished pianist. His love of Gregorian chant, his nostalgia for the old liturgy - its artistic beauty and reverence - is clearly exhibited in his book The Spirit of the Liturgy and to a certain extent also in his motu proprio of last July, "Summorum Pontificum", which granted permission for wider usage of the Tridentine Rite. So the fact that we are seeing a return to the use of antique vestments and patterns or vestment styles of former centuries should not come as a complete surprise. The full article is free at the Tablet’s website (though you have to register first). It’s on their homepage, under "Vested with Symbolism":"The Tablet" column James Martin, S.J.
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