Skip to content

Poorly habited

November 7, 2009

Here, only the headgear is correct.

The Revd Dr. James Cooper, 17th rector of Trinity Church on Wall Street, dressed to cense (and watch) yesterday’s ticker-tape parade up Broadway for the World Series-champion Yankees. Monstrously, however, he pulled on his cassock-alb and a cope, clearly forgetting a couple of Anglican customs:

1. The alb – and therefore the hated cassock-alb – is a vestment for the Eucharist only, making it inappropriate for standing on the street. The cassock, being the customary base wear of the clergy, alone is appropriate for outdoor secular activity. And if he felt that censing Messrs. Jeter, Posada, Pettitte, and Rivera was a sacred activity, well there’s a garment for that: the surplice, together with the scarf.

2. The cope, while not strictly for indoor wear, is properly a liturgical garment. This was not always the case, but at a certain point in its history, the development of the cope split from that of the cloak. This latter garment, otherwise and long known as the cappa nigra, seen on many a parish priest greeting his congregation after a Sunday morning service, is what the clergy wear outside.

Meanwhile the old cappa nigra (black cape), or cappa choralis, a choir cape of black material, open or partly open in front, and commonly provided with a functioning hood, still continued in use. While the cope was a liturgical vestment, made of rich, colorful fabric and often highly decorated, the cappa nigra was a practical garment, made of heavy plain black wool and designed to provide warmth in cold weather. (Wikipedia, entry on “Cope”)

Considering the basically a-liturgical function of watching the Yankees on parade, the cope was a very bad decision on Dr. Cooper’s part, no matter how much the contemporary clergyman, having lost so much of the intellectual and theological underpinnings of his role, feels the need to dress up in bright colors. Put another way: the cope was a tad pretentious.

It’s too bad, too, since in New York, black is the new black.


The old cappa nigra, for outdoor wear.

Here, the Dean of Westminster has got it right.

No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s