Tuesday, May 01, 2007

An observation

I'm not eager to start the whole vestment debate about Roman fiddlebacks vs. Gothic. There really is no "versus" in the sense that, while one may (or may not) have their own preferences in this regard, both are found in our tradition, which is not only ancient but also sees development. We can say the same thing about different schools of sacred music or sacred art generally.

However, its a reality that this often has become a point of debate -- though I wonder how regional this debate truly is. In North America, and I'd wonder as well about the British Isles and also Northern Europe, there is a marked desire to not wear the fiddleback variety of chasuble, or for that matter the dalmatic of the same period. It is rather treated like the cassock in this regard. It seems to be viewed as "pre-conciliar" and therefore to be avoided. (It's the precise opposite extreme of those who somehow identify the later "fiddleback" style as the uniquely traditonal form of vestment, which would be the textile equivalent of seeing baroque architecture as traditional but mediaeval gothic as not.)

What has struck me before, and was highlighted recently in quick succession, is that this may be a particularly North American, or possible also North European phenomenon.

I've seen photographs from Eastern Europe and the European countries that sit on the Mediterranean where one certainly notes the presence of the fiddleback variety of chasuble and the corresponding dalmatic.

Quite recently I was watching some programming which came from Italy, and in both instances one noted the presence of this style of ornate vestment for priests and deacons alike. This may perhaps be because they are precious vestments and thus are being worn for feast days. But nonetheless, they are worn.

It is not a significant issue on its own, but it was a point of interest to me, given the quite different attitude I would myself be more accustomed to in North America. An attitude which I don't think particularly healthy from either side.

It seems to me that this can be another example of a kind of legitimate diversity, which enriches the Church, and speaks to our liturgy as something as spanning different eras. It's refreshing if we can see that manifest, rather than needlessly turned into an either-or.

It's a principle we do well to learn generally. There can be legitimate differences, stylistic or otherwise. What matters is that they, whether we be speaking of vestment styles, sacred music or so on, speak eloquently of the sacred, and lend an air of dignity and beauty to the sacred rites.

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