Martyred for the Gospel

Martyred for the Gospel
The burning of Tharchbishop of Cant. D. Tho. Cranmer in the town dich at Oxford, with his hand first thrust into the fyre, wherwith he subscribed before. [Click on the picture to see Cranmer's last words.]

Daily Bible Verse

Thursday, June 17, 2010

A Reformed Anglican Study of the Chasuble

I sometimes allow the ridiculous assertions of online opponents to push me to say things that are blunt and emotive and polemical in the comments on various blogs and in Face Book. With that in mind, let's step back a moment and take a more objective look at the evidence for the eucharistic garment called a "chasuble" in the Bible and in tradition. I hope you will forgive my use of pejorative terms for my opponents but I will excuse myself because I think the label draws the distinctive lines between the Evangelical and the heretical view more definitively as mutually incompatible positions. I refer to High Church Carolingian and Tractarian theology as "sacerdotal" and therefore is most appropriately labelled as "Romish" or "papist". Most high churchmen want to be identified as opposed to Tractarian theology but one soon learns that this is merely an equivocation and a dissimulation in these modern times and most likely in times past as well.

In a recent online debate an Anglo-Papist suggested that the Apostle Paul wore a chasuble and called for his chasuble while he was in prison in 2 Timothy 4:13. Exactly what is a chasuble, my low church Evangelical friends might be asking? According to the 1911 classic edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica, the chasuble is a symbolic garment representing a sacerdotal or sacrificial understanding of the Lord's Supper which they refer to as "mass" or the "eucharist." The Evangelical and Reformed term preferred is "the Lord's Supper." (See Chasuble).

It is interesting that no translation of the Bible that I know of called the garment in question a chasuble. That would include the Latin Vulgate, which uses the word paenula. Apparently the Greek word used by Paul is a mistransliteration of the Latin by Late Greek:

The word phailonē-phainolē was borrowed by late Greek from the Latin paenula, which in turn originally came from Greek and according to its etymology—and the etymological meaning was not entirely lost—would have referred to a very striking, easily visible color. The spelling is quite variable: phelōnēs, phailonēs, phelōnis, phailonin, phelonin,phelōnin,8 and the transposition of the l and the n has been retained in modern Greek: phainolēs (P.Oxy. 3057, 4: "I received your letter, the trunk, and the capes"; 3201, 4: phenolou idochromou; line 7: phenolēs melas). In addition there are the diminutive forms, so popular in the Koine: phailonion, phelonion.1

Both Bauer, Arndt, Gingrich, Danker's lexicon of the New Testament and Thayer's lexicon concur here. Even more to the point, Vine's Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words specifically says that this is not a reference to an ecclesiastical garment; in other words, it is not a high church eucharistic garment:

1. phelonēs, or phailonēs (φαιλόνης, (534)), probably by metathesis from phainolēs (Latin paenula), a mantle, denotes a travelling cloak for protection against stormy weather, 2 Tim. 4:13. Some, however, regard it as a Cretan word for chitōn, a tunic. It certainly was not an ecclesiastical vestment. The Syriac renders it a case for writings (some regard it as a book–cover), an explanation noted by Chrysostom, but improbable. It may have been "a light mantle like a cashmere dust–cloak, in which the books and parchments were wrapped" (Mackie in Hastings' Dic. of the Bible).2

Even the church fathers identified this garment as merely a cloak and we can note that Tertullian simply calls it a cloak:

Hold fast in the meantime this persuasion, while I examine a question which comes in our way. For I already hear it is said, that many other things as well as crowns have been invented by those whom the world believes to be gods, and that they are notwithstanding to be met with both in our present usages and in those of early saints, and in the service of God, and in Christ Himself, who did His work as man by no other than these ordinary instrumentalities of human life. Well, let it be so; nor shall I inquire any further back into the origin of this things. Let Mercury have been the first who taught the knowledge of letters; I will own that they are requisite both for the business and commerce of life, and for performing our devotion to God. Nay, if he also first strung the chord to give forth melody, I will not deny, when listening to David, that this invention has been in use with the saints, and has ministered to God. Let Æsculapius have been the first who sought and discovered cures: Esaias mentions that he ordered Hezekiah medicine when he was sick. Paul, too, knows that a little wine does the stomach good. Let Minerva have been the first who built a ship: I shall see Jonah and the apostles sailing. Nay, there is more than this: for even Christ, we shall find, has ordinary raiment; Paul, too, has his cloak. If at once, of every article of furniture and each household vessel, you name some god of the world as the originator, well, I must recognise Christ, both as He reclines on a couch, and when He presents a basin for the feet of His disciples, and when He pours water into it from a ewer, and when He is girt about with a linen towel —a garment specially sacred to Osiris. It is thus in general I reply upon the point, admitting indeed that we use along with others these articles, but challenging that this be judged in the light of the distinction between things agreeable and things opposed to reason, because the promiscuous employment of them is deceptive, concealing the corruption of the creature, by which it has been made subject to vanity. For we affirm that those things only are proper to be used, whether by ourselves or by those who lived before us, and alone befit the service of God and Christ Himself, which to meet the necessities of human life supply what is simply useful and affords real assistance and honourable comfort, so that they may be well believed to have come from God's own inspiration, who first of all no doubt provided for and taught and ministered to the enjoyment, I should suppose, of His own man. As for the things which are out of this class, they are not fit to be used among us, especially those which on that account indeed are not to be found either with the world, or in the ways of Christ.3

Clearly, Tertullian is saying that these garments are merely meant for comfort and necessary use and imply nothing more than that. Even more to the point, Tertullian says that this normal use of the garments is in fact inspired by God. So Tertullian directly contradicts any high church sacerdotal view of the cloak or even of the linen towel Jesus used in washing the feet of the disciples!

Chrysostom makes no mention of the garment as being a eucharistic or ecclesiastical garment of any kind:

The word here translated "cloak" may mean a garment, or, as some say, a bag, in which the books were contained. But what had he to do with books, who was about to depart and go to God? He needed them much, that he might deposit them in the hands of the faithful, who would retain them in place of his own teaching. All the faithful, then, would suffer a great blow, but particularly those who were present at his death, and then enjoyed his society. But the cloak he requires, that he might not be obliged to receive one from another. For we see him making a great point of avoiding this; and elsewhere, when he was addressing those from Ephesus, he says, "Ye know that these hands have ministered to my necessities, and to those that were with me" (Acts 10:34-35); and again, "It is more blessed to give than to receive."4

I hope the reader will bear with my extensive quotes of "primary sources" from the church fathers. But in addition I would like to quote a secondary source just to supplement what we see so far. The 1911 edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica says that the paenula is merely a cloak and is not a eucharistic garment:

The chasuble, like the kindred vestments (the 4€Xbvtov, &c.) in the Eastern Churches, is derived from the Roman paenula or planeta, a cloak worn by all classes and both sexes in the GraecoRoman world (see Vestments). Though early used in the celebration of the liturgy it had for several centuries no specifically liturgical character, the first clear instances of its ritual use being in a letter of St Germanus of Paris (d. 576), and the next in the twenty-eighth canon of the Council of Toledo (633). Much later than this, however, it was still an article of everyday clerical dress, and as such was prescribed by the German council convened by Carloman and presided over by St Bonif ace in 742. Amalarius of Metz, in his De ecclesiasticis officiis (ii. iv), tells us in 816 that the casula is the generale indumentum sacrorum ducum and " is proper generally to all the clergy." It was not until the 11th century, when the cope (q.v.) had become established as a liturgical vestment, that the chasuble began to be reserved as special to the sacrifice of the Mass. As illustrating this process Father Braun (p. 170) cites an interesting correspondence between Archbishop Lanfranc of Canterbury and John of Avranches, archbishop of Rouen, as to the propriety of a bishop wearing a chasuble at the consecration of a church, Lanfranc maintaining as an established principle that the vestment should be reserved for the Mass. By the 13th century, with the final development of the ritual of the Mass, the chasuble became definitely fixed as the vestment of the celebrating priest; though to this day in the Roman Church relics of the earlier general use of the chasuble survive in the planeta plicata worn by deacons and subdeacons in Lent and Advent, and other penitential seasons. 

At the Reformation the chasuble was rejected with the other vestments by the more extreme Protestants. Its use, however, survived in the Lutheran churches; and though in those of Germany it is no longer worn, it still forms part of the liturgical costume of the Scandinavian Evangelical churches. In the Church of England, though it was prescribed alternatively with the cope in the First Prayer-Book of Edward VI., it was ultimately discarded, with the other " Mass vestments," the cope being substituted for it at the celebration of the Holy Communion in cathedral and collegiate churches; its use has, however, during the last fifty years been widely revived in connexion with the reactionary movement in the direction of the pre-Reformation doctrine of the eucharist. (See Chasuble).

What is particularly interesting here is that the 1911 edition of Britannica happens to agree with me that the chasuble was rejected by Edward VI in the second prayer book, namely the 1552 edition. It would be rather odd therefore for the 1662 ornaments rubric to refer to Edward's first prayer book, namely the 1549 edition.

In response to my high church opponents, it should be noted that there is a distinction between the chasuble and the "cope." Elizabeth I did not authorize the use of the chasuble, contrary to popular opinion among the Anglo-Papists and the High Church Carolingians. Even today the cope is only used by broad churchmen and not by low church evangelicals:

In the Broad Church (rarely in the Low Church), the cope is sometimes worn in lieu of the chasuble at the Eucharist (over either a surplice or an alb) especially by bishops and other prelates. In the Church of England itself, the cope is worn by the Archbishop of Canterbury during the coronation of the Sovereign. Prior to her coronation in 1953, Queen Elizabeth II presented a set of ornate copes to the Canons of Westminster Abbey as a gift. (See Cope).

And it should be noted that only the more liberal Lutheran denominations adhere to the high church vestments, while the Missouri Synod and other more Evangelical Lutherans avoid such sacerdotal garments:

The cope is usually worn only for processions and services of the Divine Office (morning and evening prayers) in most Lutheran denominations. In the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, which is similar to the Churches of the Anglican Communion and the Scandinavian Lutheran churches, the cope is usually worn by the bishop when not serving as the presiding minister at Holy Communion. It is rarely worn by clerics in the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod or other German Lutheran denominations. (See Cope).

As you can see from this survey, the intention of High Churchmen and Anglo-Papists in the Anglican denominations is to mislead and deceive people by using triumphalistic misrepresentations of the evidence in favor of their sacerdotal garments. It is especially noteworthy that the use of the chasuble is not fully established in the eucharistic and sacerdotal sense until medieval times, that is around the 13th century.

In light of this brief study it would do readers well to exercise extreme caution when discussing these issues with those who have an extreme prejudice against the doctrine of sola Scriptura. The first thing to note is the appeal of sacerdotalists to relics and tradition above and beyond Scripture. The second thing to note is that their view does not even find support in the church fathers, a tradition which they claim supports their sacerdotal theology. It seems that the evidence is clearly against them on the use of the chasuble.

1 Spicq, C., & Ernest, J. D. (1994). Vol. 3: Theological lexicon of the New Testament (432–433). Peabody, MA.: Hendrickson.
2 Vine, W., & Bruce, F. (1981). Vol. 2: Vine's Expository dictionary of Old and New Testament words (198). Old Tappan NJ: Revell.
3Schaff, Early Church Fathers. ANF 03. Tertullian: Apologetics: The Chaplet or De Corona. Bible Works 8.0.
4 Schaff, Early Church Fathers. NPNF 113. Chrysostom's commentary on 2 Timothy 4:13. Bible Works 8.0.
  Glory be to the Father, and to the Son : and to the Holy Ghost;
    Answer. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be : world without end. Amen.


Robin G. Jordan said...

What is particularly interesting here is that the 1911 edition of Britannica happens to agree with me that the chasuble was rejected by Edward VI in the second prayer book, namely the 1552 edition. It would be rather odd therefore for the 1662 ornaments rubric to refer to Edward's first prayer book, namely the 1549 edition.

Not really. The Restoration bishops who compiled the 1662 Book of Common Prayer included a number of Caroline High Churchmen. Among these Caroline Divines was Bishop Matthew Wren who helped to prepare the Scottish Liturgy of 1637. The Scottish Communion Office of 1637 is modeled upon the 1549 Prayer Book, not the 1552. I am writing an article in which I examine what changes the Restoration bishops made in the English Prayer Book and how they affected the doctrine of the English Prayer Book if at all. There is a lot of misunderstanding as well as deliberate misrepresentation of what they did and did not do. All in all, the Restoration bishops produced a book that is pretty moderate in tone. It is substantially the 1552 Prayer Book, Archbishop Cranmer's Reformed Liturgy, the fruit of his mature thinking.

Charlie J. Ray said...

The rubric should have said the first year of Edward's reign IF that is what is intended. It does not say that. It says the 2nd year of Edward's reign, clearly implying his reforms.


Charlie J. Ray said...

Robin, I might add that there is no question that the 1552 rubric outlawed the chasuble. It is the HC Carolinians and the Anglo-Papists would try to re-invent the pre-Reformation vestments.

Cranmer's 1552 reform of the Prayer Book makes it clear that the Anglo-Papists and the High Churchmen are out of line with the English Reformation:

And here is to be noted, that the minister at the tyme of the Communion and all other tymes in his ministracion, shall use neither albe, vestment, nor cope: but being archbishop or bishop, he shall have and wear a rochet; and being a preest or deacon, he shall have and wear a surplice onely.


Charlie J. Ray said...

1552 Order for Morning Prayer.

Charlie J. Ray said...

Matthew Parker was against having candles and crucifixes on the Lord's Table according to one account:

Puritan Iconoclasm During the English Civil War.

Augustinian said...


Keep fighting the good fight, brother!

Charlie J. Ray said...


Charlie J. Ray said...


8. It is a fact that the Canons of 1604 say nothing about distinctive vestments,” as essential to the
due celebration of the Lord’s Supper. The 58th canon simply orders that “Every minister saying the public prayers, or ministering the sacraments, or other rites of the Church, shall wear a decent and
comely surplice.” This canon is the more remarkable, because the 24th canon orders the cope to
Church Association Tract 033 Page 3 of 4
be worn “in cathedrals” by those who administer the communion. However much we may regret
that the “cope” is sanctioned in cathedrals, it must be remembered that the chasuble and not the
cope, is peculiarly the sacrificial garment. The use of the chasuble is not ordered.
9. It is a fact that at the last revision of our Prayer Book, in the year 1662, nothing whatever was
done to restore the “distinctive vestments,” and not a word was added to our rubrics that could
justify the use of them.
10. It is a fact that for nearly three hundred years these “distinctive vestments” have never been
used in the parish churches of the Church of England. Whatever some men may please to say, in
the present day, about the lawfulness of alb, chasuble or cope, there is no getting over the fact that
all custom is dead against them, and that from the first days of Queen Elizabeth they have been
disused and laid aside.
11. It is a fact that the attempt to revive the use of “distinctive vestments,” in the celebration of the
Lord’s Supper, is a thing of entirely modern date. It began with a party in the Church, which boldly
avows its desire to unprotestantize the Church of England. It is pressed forward and supported
almost entirely by those churchmen who, both in doctrine and practice, are making unmistakeable
approaches toward the Church of Rome, and regard the Lord’s Supper as a sacrifice.

Charlie J. Ray said...

Ornaments Rubric

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