There are a number of different ways to categorize Christian denominations. One of the principal divisions is liturgical vs. congregational worship. The latter sees Sunday public prayer as a gathering of people, one of whom teaches or preaches. The focus is the pulpit, there is little or no practice of the Lord’s Supper and the leaders are in ordinary or academic (graduation gown) dress.
Liturgical churches like the Catholic, Orthodox, high Anglican and high Episcopalian, focus on the altar as well as the ambo (podium). The priests, deacons and other ministers of the altar are vested in a way that sets them apart from ordinary street dress and denotes their participation in sacred activities.
Here at Prince of Peace, you will see a number of different liturgical offices, each denoted by particular vesture. The basic garment is the alb, a long white garment extending from the neck to the ankles with long, loose-fitting sleeves.
Over the alb, the priest wears a stole, a narrow band of cloth in the day’s liturgical color that extends from his neck down the left and right sides of the torso. This is proper when he is preaching or assisting with communion.
When, and only when, presiding at Mass, he dons a chasuble, a kind of oversized poncho, over the stole in the color of the day.
The deacon wears a stole over his left shoulder, extending diagonally across his body over his stomach and his back to his right knee.
Over the stole, he may also wear a dalmatic, a long T-shaped garment that resembles the chasuble worn by the priest. This, too, is in the liturgical color of the day.
The acolyte, commissioned and installed by the bishop to assist with the Holy Eucharist, likewise wears an alb in this parish. Around his necks is a wooden cross with his initials.
The Master of Ceremonies and the altar servers also wear albs. Theirs are tightened at the waist by a cincture (rope). These belts are more ornate when worn by the MC.
Our seminarians may wear an alb and cincture. They may also wear a black cassock, which covers the whole torso down to the ankles and the wrists and is graced with the clerical collar at the neck.
Over the cassock is a shortened version of the alb, called a surplice. It is a white, loose-fitting over-garment covering the central portion of the body. When the Cardinal is visiting, his personal Master of Ceremonies will be clad this way, too.