Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Phoenix Chasuble

Last year, in this post, we featured a Roman-style vestment made by Geneviève Gomi of Maris Stella Vestments. This year, I am happy to share another vestment from the same vestment maker, who is based in Kent, England. Miss Gomi was commissioned to make a Gothic style vestment, and the vestment shown below is cut to a new shape specially designed by her. 

The chasuble was commissioned by a new religious community founded in 2016 by Bishop Olmsted of the Diocese of Phoenix, Arizona, the Franciscan Friars of the Holy Spirit. It was made for the First Mass of Thanksgiving of Fr Athanasius Fornwalt, FHS, who is the first from among this new Franciscan community to be ordained to the Priesthood; Fr Athanasius was ordained on 3 June 2017. The “First Mass” he celebrated was of the Vigil of Pentecost, and the chasuble was commissioned for this occasion with the intention that it would also be used annually for the friars’ patronal feast of Pentecost.

I was privileged to have been involved in the conception of this vestment. In initial discussions with Br Athanasius, whose name means “immortal” in Greek, he had hoped that a peacock, an early Christian symbol of immortality, might be seen on the chasuble. He also desired some visual reference to the diocese of Phoenix, and finally, he wondered if the quincunx flower, which is found on the garments of Our Lady of Guadalupe, might be included somehow. Uniting these three symbols is the concept of eternal life: the peacock was thought to have flesh that could not decay, and thus it was taken as a symbol of immortality and eternal life; the phoenix is a symbol of the Resurrection, and thus of eternal life; and the quincunx flower, we were told during our pilgrimage to Guadalupe, was an Aztec symbol of eternal life. Hence, these symbols allude to the meaning of the name “Athanasius”, as well as to the Holy Spirit being “the Lord, the Giver of Life.”

Miss Gomi fulfilled most admirably the brief given to her, and the result is a testimony to her artistry and her love for God and the Sacred Liturgy. She recommended a fiery-red brocade that has peacocks woven into the pattern. She designed a golden phoenix to be embroidered on the back of the chasuble; it is encapsulated within a three-sided shield, in reference to the Blessed Trinity. And the galloon into which the quincunx flower is woven was manufactured especially at her request; it is used to trim the vestment and to outline the Y-shaped Cross on the chasuble.

In addition, I asked that the Franciscan Tau-Cross logo of the Friars of the Holy Spirit be embroidered in the centre of the stole, and that the other crosses in the vestment set be reminiscent of the Dominican Cross Fleury. This signifies the spiritual union between our two mendicant Orders through the love of St Francis and St Dominic for one another, and our common mission of preaching the Cross of Christ.

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