Tuesday, July 19, 2011

A Post about Deacon Vestments

When I was consecrated into the diaconate earlier this year, the red stole put upon me was created by DK Brunner & Son. I'm very happy with it all around, especially for the price, it is a great value. I haven't had occasion to wear my red stole since then, and I haven't had the cash to put down for the other stoles yet. However, I did come into possession of the Alpha Omega Deacon Stole set of 4 from autom.com which, not including shipping, costs sixty dollars. For the whole set. The four colors are White, Red, Green, and Violet (no Blue - check with your pastor if your church does blue for Advent in which case you'll either wear purple or forgo your deacon stole). I've worn white and violet in this set so far, and I'm pretty sure the next time I vest, the liturgical color will be green.

So what's the comparison other than price? You get what you pay for. The stoles from Autom are not bad, they aren't falling apart. They are a good, basic, bare-bones, functional, economy vestments. My chief complaint with my Autom deacon stoles is that they tend to slide down my shoulder (unlike pastor stoles which hang on the neck / both shoulders and drape down the front, the deacon stole rests on the left shoulder and goes diagonally across the chest and back, meeting again at the right hip). I will, three or four times throughout the Divine Service, pull the Autom stole back up higher on my shoulder. I've never had this problem with my red stole from DK Brunner & Son, but then again, I've only worn that one once.

But I really like the material that DK Brunner & Son uses compared to Autom. The Autom stoles are wider (approx. six inches across) than my DK Brunner stole (approx. four inches across). Also, the Autom stoles each ship folded into thirds requiring you to iron out (steam, hang, whatever) the creases.

So if you find yourself being consecrated into the diaconate, here is what I recommend:

If you are flat broke, just get the set of four from Autom.

If you are flat broke but can afford one nice one (and really, seventy bucks is a steal compared to the "big name" vestment makers), get a red one from DK Brunner because you'll want a nice one for your consecration (or "ordination" as was the case for Georg Rörer). If you can afford two nice ones, I'd also get a green one from DK Brunner since you'll get the most mileage out of it: there are more green Sundays than any other color, right?

If you're at the point that you're looking to get more than two from DK Brunner, just get all four (or five) from DK Brunner. You're looking at $350 for five stoles. Again, that's a steal for the quality they deliver.

If you have some spending money (and who doesn't in this economy) and your pastor wears a chasuble when he is the Celebrant, it is not improper for the deacon to wear a dalmatic. And I think that the deal DK Brunner has for chasubles also holds for dalmatics: if you buy a dalmatic, you get the matching deacon stole for free. But if the Celebrant does NOT wear a chasuble, it is improper for the deacon to wear a dalmatic. As a deacon, you follow suit according to your bishop, so to speak. If he wears blue during Advent, it is not your place to wear violet (unless you don't have blue and he permits you to wear your violet stole). If he wears a chasuble when presiding over the Sacrament, you should wear a dalmatic if you have one (except Advent and Lent because there is allegedly not supposed to be such a thing as a violet dalmatic, I might have read that in a book somewhere).

I'm pretty sure that my pastor only breaks out the chasuble twice a year: Christmas and Easter. So if I get a dalmatic, it'll be white. I'd recommend the same - if a deacon has occasion to wear a dalmatic, odds are the liturgical color for that day will be white (another possibility is red for ordinations or installations where the Lord's Supper is celebrated).

Amice is cool, too. An amice is always white, always under your alb, and you can wear it whether your bishop does or not. An amice runs twenty bucks or so. I think I got mine from Catholic Supply in Saint Louis for fifteen, maybe?

When I was in seminary, I was a cassock and surplice guy. The main reason was that I already owned a cassock since college (because, when serving my home congregation on Good Friday as Lector, that's how we vest). Most beginning seminarians, myself included, assume that alb vs. cassock & surplice is just a preference (and that's if they even know that cassock & surplice is an option). Looking at CPH's website, the least expensive non-acolyte alb is $110 (not counting the Summer Comfort alb for eight bucks less). By contrast, their cassock is $170 and I got mine at Catholic Supply for $60 or so. So one alb for a hundred or cassock & surplice for more than double of that. But in my case, because I already had a cassock, it was cheaper to just add the surplice.

What I've learned since, thanks to Pastor Heath Curtis and further explanation from Deacon Gaba, is that the alb is worn for the Divine Service (Lord's Supper) and cassock & surplice is worn for the Divine Office (Matins, Vespers, etc.). Further, the conventional understanding of the stole is that it's a symbol of the pastoral office. So if you're a pastor, when you vest, you wear your stole. But I had read and heard previously that when conducting an Office, you don't wear a stole. What has since been explained to me (by Deacon Gaba) is that the stole is a sacramental vestment. You only wear your stole in a service when Sacraments are administered. This goes against our conventional thinking of "if it's Sunday, pastor wears his stole whether it's a 'communion Sunday' or not." Because I was going to say that deacons only wear albs, but this isn't true.

Oh, and if you're a deacon, you're now an alb man. No cassock & surplice for you unless you're leading a prayer office. Side note: and if you are leading a prayer office that ISN'T a non-communion church service (think daily chapel at university or evening vespers at seminary), such prayer offices do not call for stoles (I suppose the argument for stoles on non-communion Sundays is that pastors ALWAYS wear their stoles on Sunday whether the Lord's Supper is celebrated or not, and so the deacons follow suit). If you're wearing a deacon stole, you wearing an alb. I assume the reason is functional more than anything else (but I could be wrong) given that the diagonal deacon stole could interfere with or be obscured by the surplice. Pastor Curtis or Deacon Gaba might know more on this fine point.

I would have gotten deacon stoles from CPH but they don't carry them. And that's nothing against CPH. There isn't enough demand in LCMS circles (yet) to warrant CPH to carry deacon vestments. And for the few of us out there, we are satisfied acquiring our wares from DK Brunner or from Romish sources. There is, of course, always the option of making your own, or having your wife, mom, sister, aunt, grandma, etc. making your stoles (and dalmatics) if they have the necessary patterns, fabrics and equipment.

So that's mainly what's going on vestmentwise with a deacon. One other note: I've NOT been wearing a pectoral cross when wearing a stoles. The Autom stoles have an embroidered design on them which a cross will block. It's just been my experience that the cross on top of the stole is unnecessary (especially the deacon cross which has a deacon stole on it, which seems redundant if you are vested). BUT, I would be more likely to wear a pectoral cross if I was wearing a dalmatic over my stole. But it'll be a while before I have a dalmatic to wear.

Shameless plug for DK Brunner & Son as it is the absolute best value for the price. It's well worth the money (if you can afford it) to go with DK Brunner compared to Autom (which is the cheapest on the market as far as I know), and you will pretty much pay out the nose if you go to Almy or the other name-brand vestment makers. I hope to do more business with DK Brunner & Son in the future.