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Decently habited, CXCI

February 14, 2016

The Revd Michael Bird, rector of Christ Church, Bronxville, N.Y., wears the Lenten chasuble of unbleached linen, by Davis d’Ambly.


“A few words must now be said about the Lenten colours. The use of plain white linen marked with red or black crosses, &c., has already been alluded to. This use was akin to that of the Lent veils for pictures, images, crosses, which in England were generally white. Those rules which prescribed black, violet, &c., were at the utmost fulfilled only by the use of coloured vestments and altar frontal on the Sundays, and even on Sundays the white was used by some churches.

“This use of white linen for Lent was practically universal in the sixteenth century and earlier: it was in fact the one colour use to which there was hardly any exception. Plain white stuff, fustian, linen, or canvas, with crosses, roses, or other devices of red or purple, was used to cover pictures and ornaments, as well as for vestments, for frontals, riddels, and other hangings. The parson who tries it will find that it is as popular and as readily understood now as it was then.

“In churches which are well arranged and decorated this Lenten white looks extremely well, if care is exercised in the choice of a good toned white (such as brown holland is), and of the devices painted on or applied to the hangings. Churches where linen chasubles are used can keep their vestments for Lent when silk and coloured ones are introduced. In other churches it will be better to get vestments and hangings of brown holland or similar material throughout. The use of the Lenten white has the great advantage of distinguishing Lent from Advent (a season to which it has little resemblance), and from the season between Septuagesima and Ash Wednesday.”1

1. Percy Dearmer, The Parson’s Handbook: Containing Practical Directions Both for Parsons and Others as to the Management of the Parish Church and Its Services According to the English Use, as Set Forth in the Book of Common Prayer, with an Introductory Essay on Conformity to the Church of England (London: Henry Frowde, 1907), 125-26.

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