Sunday, January 27, 2008

A Couple of things I Don't like about Chasubles

(or maybe three)

This fall our church bought a full set of chasubles, in every liturgical color. Previously, we had one fancy chausable, which we wore on Christmas and Easter. But since about the middle of November, we have been wearing chasubles every Sunday. Whoever presides ducks out during the offering, and comes "dressed for dinner", as one of my worship professors liked to say.


So, at first I got a few comments like this, "That color really looks good on you." I asked the Senior Pastor if anyone ever said that to him, and he said, "No. Nothing like that." One thing I like about albs is that no one ever comments on my outfit. And I prefer that. I prefer that, during worship, people aren't thinking: "What a great suit! I wonder where she got that?"


I didn't know what a chasuble was until seminary. I never saw a pastor wear one, so it didn't really seem Lutheran to me. Since then, I have discovered that there are plenty of Lutherans east and west of me who are familiar with chasubles. But we in the Midwest: well, some of us don't even wear albs. So many Lutheran churches here don't have chasubles and that is okay with me. It's just one more thing to think about, another layer of church garb. And in the winter, it is a cause of static electricity in my hair.


But here's the worst thing: the chasubles are A Little Too Big For Me. They were obviously not created for a person of my (ahem) stature. If they had sleeves, I'd have to roll up the sleeves. They are about an inch and a half from being too long. In the case of chasubles, of course you would like to think that one size fits all, but that's not true exactly.


There's a picture of me on my ordination day, standing with my pastor and the bishop and the other pastors who were participating at the service. (If I find it, I will post it.) Of course, almost everyone else was male, but everyone else (including the woman who preached) was about a foot taller than me. This was so striking that one of my friends commented on it. She seemed to think that it was a sign of another level of progress that even someone like me could become a pastor.


So not only are chasubles a little too fancy for my piety, they are also a little too Big for me. But today as I was presiding it occurred to me: so is the Call to ministry a little too Big for me. In fact, it's too Big period. As writer and pastor Gerhard Frost once observed, "The things that are worthy of us, as persons, are often beyond us." I have been called to the ministry of Word and Sacrament, a vocation that I can never completely master, but am always striving toward.


But that is not true only of my vocation. When God calls each of us to be God's person in the world, that call is always a little too Big.


For me, I need to call on God, and on my friends. Because the Call, like the Chasuble, is just a little Too Big.

21 comments:

Barbara B. said...

Wow, I had never even heard of the word "chausable"!!

Rev SS said...

Great analogy .. and I don't like chausables either!

P.S. an after-thought said...

Nice analogy.

Hey, why wasn't the chausable ordered to fit you and then the guys could wear it with the "sleeves" too short?

And just because some Lutherans east and west of us wear chausables, doesn't mean those of you in Lutherland need to have them. There would be good reasons to NOT have them, such as less focus on the leader at communion, more focus on the Christ. But also, the $$ could have gone to a mission.

Diane said...

they are pretty, though....

P.S. an after-thought said...

Yes, Beautiful, sometimes very showy. I have a gorgeous book of liturgical fabric art that I've been studying again because I'm currently sewing a stole. Also, I've looked at a number of the websites of liturgical fabric artists.

The book is The Patchwork Pilgrimage, by Liddel, and it has work pictured from Denmark, Sweden, England, France, United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

There is a liturgical fiber artist in Minnesota who is an acquaintance of mine.

Hope that link works. She says that as a PK she was in church a lot and began to appreciate the visual aspects of church, as that was what was most important to her, hence her vocation/career.

I have links to other sites stored away, if you are interested.

davenu said...

I'm still trying to get used to the idea of wearing a stole. I have no idea what that is going to be like.

Here in the south there seem to be more and more pastors wearing chausables these days. Perhaps a renewed focus on piety or tradition?

zorra said...

That's a wise observation.

Paul said...

One size definitely does not fit all. I am on the other end of the size spectrum. Because I am over 6'4", I ordered the "ample" (I think it was) for one and even I have to fold back the sleeves on that one. All the others are "standard" which means some work for shorter folk and some... not so much. A stole that looks decent on me would probably reach your toes and one that suits you would come to my knees and look inadequate for such a giant.

Being an ex-Baptist who became Episcopalian, and thus someone attracted to symbolism and ritual and loving every bit of it, I enjoy vestments (which may have some of my Swedish Lutheran ancestors spinning in their graves).

I think your musings on the size, dare we say "immensity", of the call cut to the real substance here. Trappings are trappings, which may help create a seasonal tone for worship but may also distract according to sensibilities. Trying to grow into our vocation, however, is something that matters very much.

Because God is so much more than we are and what might be done is always so much more than we can do, the tension will always be there. Fortunately, it all rests with God's faithfulness and not ours. To paraphrase Luther we are "simul fidelis et infidelis," at one and the same time faith-filled and unfaithful, painfully inadequate and immeasurably gifted by Christ.

So we do what we can and trust God, not ourselves, to fill our efforts with grace and accomplish what God wills to accomplish.

This all reminds me: I should get to work sewing stoles for the Episcopalian remnant in the Diocese of San Joaquin.

Diane said...

Paul -- exactly what I was aiming for...
and that is true for all of us, whatever our ministry and whatever our vocation.

Kievas said...

I knew a priest who used the sleeves as extra storage space...maybe that's why they're big :)

I always thought it was spelled "chasuble" though. Maybe that's just the Catholic variant.

FranIAm said...

As a Catholic, I am well versed in all sorts of church garb.

But what I really loved is all the things you were saying about church, women, symbols and more.

And about what is too Big. That was the clincher for me.

I miss being around more often and will be back soon. Things go well and I thank you for your support Diane.

Diane said...

kievas, you are probably right, although I found it under both spellings on google. as I said, I'm slightly new to this particular liturgical garment.

Fran -- I've missed you too.

RevDrKate said...

We (three women priests of our ministry team) have an inherited closest full of them and have opted not to wear them. Too much fuss in the middle of the service, too showy, not good fit...lots of stuff.So I found this fascinating that here is a movement toward them in some quarters. I loved your reflection on the ministry too big....Amen to that one daily! So glad we are not in this gig alone.

Cecilia said...

What a beautiful reflection, so true. The call is far bigger than even the (ahem) largest of us!

Pax, C.

Paul said...

One thing I don't understand is the common practice of putting the chasuble on at the shift from Liturgy of the Word to Liturgy of the Table. My own theology, which is far more conservative than most folks would guess by looking at my social stances and rubrical creativity, is that the Eucharist is whole action. Whoever presides vests as presider throughout. This corresponds to my belief that it is the whole action of the gathered assembly that "makes Eucharist" and, with the action of the Holy Spirit, consecrates the Bread and Wine. I don't like chopping the service up as though we were doing two distinct services stitched loosely together or focusing on any one moment, such as the words of institution.

I either wear it throughout the service or not at all (the latter usually when it was summer in California and my sweat production was less than edifying for the faithful).

I am always clear that it is never about me, no matter how pretty the $1000 frock I am wearing. I loath clericalism in all its forms.

Diane said...

Paul, again, this is what one of my seminary professors did. He went out during the offering and, as he said, "dressed for dinner." In former days, when we had the one fancy "frock" for Christmas and Easter, whoever presided wore it for the whole service. personally, I prefer that.

Diane said...

I am with you on clericalism, too.

Jiff said...

What a great conversation. I'm glad I read every word.

Grace, Every Day said...

Well, I'd never even HEARD the word 'chausable' until I cruised by your blog - so thanks for the education! I went through four years of higher education and missed this word somehow...

But, boy do I get it when you talk about the 'call' being too Big. For sure. Great analogy, and a good word for me this evening....

Pleasure to make your acquaintance, Diane!!! I'll be back...

Diane said...

nice to meet you too, grace. make sure you use the "chasuble" spelling. I think that's the most normal.

apbs said...

as a 5'2" clergy woman, i can definitely, definitely relate. your reflection sheds some new light on the fact that the celebrant's chair is literally and figuratively too big for me.