Skip to comments.Of Miters and Men (brief look at symbolism of bishop's vestments) [Ecumenical]
Posted on 06/01/2008 2:49:57 PM PDT by NYer
Theres an adage that says the clothes make the man. Of course we know that thats not the case. However, I think a brief look at the symbolism of some of the bishops vestments and accoutrements provide some important insights regarding the role of the bishop as servant of the Gospel.
First, theres the bishops ring, which symbolizes his marriage to his particular Church or diocese. He stands in the person of Christ the Bridegroom in relation to His bride, the Church. In totally giving of himself for the People of God entrusted to him, the bishop is called to imitate Christ Himself. One calls to mind St. Pauls teaching in Ephesians 5: Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her (v. 25).
Related to the ring is the pectoral cross that the bishop wears around his neck, to keep ever before him that he is the vicar of our crucified Lord. But why a pectoral cross and not a crucifix? I was told by a doctoral student in Rome that the reason for this is not because the bishop is a Protestant (!), but because the bishop himself provides the corpus. No servant is greater than his master. The bishop is called in a preeminently priestly way to be willing to lay down his life for his flock, for his bride, in union with our High Priest, Christ Himself.
Then there is the crozier, or staff, that the bishop carries. This clearly identifies the bishop as a shepherd-king, as one who has been given charge of the flock. An interesting aspect of the crozier is brought out in the phrase by hook or by crook, which is a fancy way of saying one way or another. A shepherd uses the curved end to collar and bring straying sheep back to the flock. However, he uses the other end to prod the sheep in the right direction. Similarly, the bishop is responsible for everyone in his geographic area, including fallen-away Catholics and those not yet in the fold.
But gathering the people into unity is just part of the process; he also has to challenge and exhort all of us to continue on our pilgrimage of faith and thus keep us focused on and moving toward our heavenly prize.
The miter is another item that points to the kingly nature or headship of the bishop in the local Church. The miter is the crown-like head covering worn by the bishop, especially during liturgical celebrations. Yet, despite its royal appearance and symbolism, the miter is removed by the bishop when he offers prayer on behalf of the community. This not only fulfills the biblical mandate (Any man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head 1 Cor. 11:4) but also shows that all temporal power, even in the Church, must bow before the throne of Almighty God.
The last item Id like to mention is the bishops chair, which represents the bishops teaching authority. The bishops church is called a cathedral, which comes from the Latin cathedra, for chair. The church celebrates the unusual-sounding feast of the Chair of Peter, which recognizes the unique teaching authority vested in Peters successors, particularly when they speak ex cathedra, or from the chair. Typically in cathedrals the bishops chair is found on the northern or Gospel side of the Church, again reflecting the bishops particular charism as an authentic herald of the Gospel.
The clothes do not make the man. Bishops, like the rest of us, struggle in living out their personal vocations in Christ. But the clothes do remind all of us of the awesome gift of apostolic succession in our midst, through which the very life of Christ is passed on to us.
Brief but interesting nonetheless.
The article doesn’t mention the lace curtains. What’s the symbolic point of that? “The Bishop is so tough that he defeated a Victorian window treatment in hand-to-hand combat ...”
Lol ... the article states up front that it is brief ... apparently too brief to include the tatted surplices worn by the Cardinals.
But (you say that coming, didn't you?) your question reminds me of a story told by my pastor. In Lebanon, as in many of the countries surrounding the Mediterranean, the soil has been worked for millenia to the point where tilling brings up rocks and lots of them. While discerning his vocation, he spent one summer at a monastery. The monks put the strong, strapping young men to work pulling out the rocks and using them to form walls for the terraced gardens that cover the hills and mountains (monasteries are always built up high in full view of the local inhabitants. This went on for the better part of the summer (Abouna has muscles in his forearm that rival those of Popeye). Towards the end of the summer program, when their studies were completed, the monk pulled out knitting needles and yarn and distributed them to the young men. He told them that hands must never be idle and taught them how to knit!
That just blew me away! :-0
Highland Scottish warriors knitted. They have a lot in common, culturally, with Lebanese. It’s important to keep your shanks warm :-).
We dig up rocks here in the Carolina Piedmont, every time we dig. I fence my flower beds with them, just like the original settlers did.
You would feel right at home in Italy, Greece, or any of the other countries that surround the Mediterranean :-) - AND - you would have one d--n good suntan.
I have icy Northern European skin, and a dreadful sunburn from one afternoon of swimming in the Atlantic on Friday. The 45spf washed right off!
So do it. The Mediterranean climate is quite different. Each year my ex would take me home to spend the month of August with his family on the beach at Termoli. After several days of exposure, I turned into an Italian goddess! The skin would bronze up, the blue eyes would turn turquoise and the mousy brown hair reverberated with golden highlights. It made him quite jealous ;-0
In my dreams ...
We might go to land-locked Raleigh later in the year :-).