Saturday, April 26, 2014

Maniples, Amices, Cassocks—Lost and Found

Fr. Richard Cipolla has done us all a great service by translating a fantastic article by Alessando Gnocchi: "Traces of the Hegelian Guillotine in the Liturgical Reform." Gnocchi is speaking primarily about the sudden disappearance of the maniple, the amice, and the cassock after the Council, and what this says about our attitude towards the world, the Church's (and the clergy's) place in the world, and the veneration of tradition. Because each vestment carries, by the force of long-developed tradition, an inherent theological meaning and is a true component of the spiritual profile of the Christian and of the priest as alter Christus, it follows that changing or discarding such vestments amounts to a redefinition of one's identity and mission. Vesture is a form of anthropology: it is not mere clothing but, in some sense, constitutes the wearer as a certain 'what' and a certain 'who'.

On the maniple:
For obscure reasons, it seems as if someone wanted to erase the memory of this vestment that originated from the mappula, the linen handkerchief that the Roman nobility wore on their left arm to wipe away tears and sweat. It was used also to give the signal to begin the combat games in the Circus.  Merear, Domine, portare manipulum fletus et doloris; ut cum exsultatione recipiam mercedem laboris, says the priest as he puts it on while vesting.  “O Lord, may I be worthy to wear the maniple of tears and suffering, so that I may receive with joy the reward of my labors.”  And once again the battle begins against the world and its prince, in which mystically the priest sweats, cries, bleeds, and does battle in so far as he is on the Cross as the alter Christus. But there needs to be that painful and manly interpenetration in the sacrifice, of which the maniple is the sign and instrument.  Meanwhile, instead, if the memory of it has been lost willingly so that one can dedicate oneself to the festal banquet of a salvation lacking any sweat and toil, then there is no place for the signs of the battle to which one must consign one’s own body.
On the amice:
Impone, Domine, capiti meo galeam salutis, ad expugnandos diabolicos incursus.  Place on my head, O Lord, the helmet of salvation so that I may conquer the assaults of the devil”. So prays the priest when, preparing for the celebration of Mass, he puts on the amice, another vestment that recalls the battle and the sacrifice, fallen into disuse in the reformed Mass.  Today, in the post-Conciliar Church, one speaks to speak, one dialogues to have a dialogue, to have an amiable conversation with the world, all made drunk by the illusory and seductive power of chattering.  There is no need any longer for a vestment like the amice that, in addition to symbolizing the helmet of the warrior, symbolizes also the castigatio vocis, or “discipline of the voice”, and banishes from the act of religion every word that is not part of ritual and, therefore, inexorably, too many.   
On the cassock:
The capacity for ritual has been lost, and, therefore, the aptitude for command has been lost, and for this reason priests have abandoned the practice of wearing the cassock as a rule.
And more generally, on the "militancy" of the Christian:
The idea of giving orders and of battle, of arms and the armature of the spirit, have been dismissed by the Christians who love to be rocked in the cradle of acedia, the most perverse of the capital sins. ... Having succumbed to the sickness of acedia, the Church has ended up seeing herself and presenting herself as a problem instead of a solution to the deepest ill of man.  When she speaks of the world she lets show forth her awareness of her incapacity to point to a way of salvation, as if she is excusing herself for having done so for so many centuries.  She has doubts about fundamental and ascetical principles themselves, and, at the very time she proclaims that she is opening up to the world, she declares herself to be incapable of knowing it, defining it, and, therefore, incapable of educating and converting it.  At the most, she makes herself available to interpret it.
        But it is not in becoming like the world or in being wedded to the language of the world that one wins over the world. It is not in the exaltation of the gesture and the word of which ritual is the “castigatio” (correction) that the world is conquered.  For the world has above all an abhorrence of itself, and it is not by secularizing himself that the Christian conquers the world.
(H/t to Fr. Z)
I will say that, although one can sympathize with Gnocchi's pessimism, there are heartening signs of a rediscovery of all of these vestments on the part of younger clergy, at least in certain parts of the Catholic world. I know (and many NLM readers know) quite a few priests who wear the cassock regularly and who don the amice even for the Ordinary Form. In fact, there is a steadily growing number who tie on the maniple, too. But there can be no question that this practice of the hermeneutic of continuity is found predominantly, almost exclusively, in the traditionalist milieu. It is truly a moment of opportunity for all the clergy in the West, even in the context of the Ordinary Form, to rediscover their soldierly part in the apocalyptic battle by wearing the symbolic vestments that remind them of who and what they are.

Anyway, just do yourself a favor and read Gnocchi's essay...

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