ASK FATHER: Why do servers lift the chasuble during the elevation of the Host?

From a reader…


Why do servers elevate the chasuble during the elevation of the host? I was looking for a good answer after my mom asked me. Thanks!

The practical answer is the best answer.

It is a custom to lift hems of chasubles and albs and copes which arose from practical need.  This is not prescribed in the rubrics.

Vestments of yore – and today – were fuller, draping lots of material over the arms, which could sometimes be heavy.  The weight of vestments were increased by ornamentation.  At the consecration, the edge of the the chasuble would be raised to assist the priest or bishop in raising his arms high enough so that the congregation could see the Host and chalice (as per the rubrics).

The same applies while the celebrant incenses the altar and other things.  Copes are held up and away from the arms so that the priest can move.  Yesterday, I used a heavy cloth of gold “Gothic” vestments instead of a Roman.  Hence, I had to instruct the server – not used to the Gothic – to hold it out of my way while incensing the altar.  It makes a difference.

Similarly, the lower hem of albs are held up as priests ascended the stairs, lest he trip or, worse, put his foot through precious handmade lace.

Don’t laugh.  Women would spend years making beautiful lace for albs out of their love for the Lord, because Holy Mass was the center of their lives.  Then some priest puts his foot through it.  I have seen that happen.  I’ve done it once by accident!

The worst case I’ve experienced was watching a know-it-all priest, whose half-baked partial knowledge of what to do inspired him in false know-it-all-ist “humility” to refuse to allow the deacon to lift the alb away from his foot.  Fr. Smarticus Pantsicus promptly put his foot through the beautiful lace.  Thus, he ruined a someone else’s alb.

So… Frs. Smartici Pantsici out there… when it is time for the servers to help you, shut the hell up and let yourself be helped!  Get over yourselves.

That’s the practical.  However, the practical, over time, can also take on symbolic meaning.

Sometimes you might hear that this physical contact with the eminently priestly vestment associates the server more closely with the priest.  Sure.  That’s works for me too.   Think of the woman who wanted to touch the hem of Christ’s garment to be healed.

I’ll conclude with this.

Servers, lift the edge of that chasuble…. BUT… just a little, okay?  Don’t lift it too high. Just a little, okay?  You don’t have to lift it half way up Father’s back.  Less is more.  This especially applies with the more modern Roman vestments which don’t impede the arms and aren’t very heavy.