Friday, December 19, 2008

Catholic Priest Vestments- Part I

The amice (amictus, humerale, more rarely superhumerae) is an oblong linen cloth (at least 32 inches long and 24 wide), which is first placed upon the head and then brought down and drawn about the neck where it is fastened with cords. Originally it served as a head-covering for the priest; at present only a few orders wear it over the head on the way to and from the altar. The existence of the smite can be proved only since the end of the eighth century, and it is probably referable to some ancient priestly ceremonies. Its reference to the ephod of the Old Testament is purely arbitrary, as is the symbolical interpretation of liturgical writers; the attempt to explain it as a neck-cloth to protect the garment which rests upon it from perspiration is unsatisfactory. As long as the smite was worn upon the head or even projected above the other garments, embroidery or other ornamentation might be shown on it; but it gradually became hidden beneath the other vestments, so that at present only a cross is required; this is kissed by the priest when he assumes the vestment.