Pope Francis on "Grandma's Lace": Tradition vs. Nostalgia
Beauty is ever ancient, ever new. So we shouldn’t be afraid to abandon the merely old, instead embracing tradition. Accordingly, the Holy Father sees a central problem in the Church: the tendency to get stuck in old ways for reasons of pure nostalgia. He chastises the Sicilian priests for wearing vestments that are outdated in fashion:
“Where are we 60 years after the Council,” he said. “Some updating even in liturgical art, in liturgical ‘fashion….Yes, sometimes bringing some of grandma’s lace is appropriate, sometimes. It’s to pay homage to grandma, right?” he continued. “It’s good to honor grandma, but it’s better to celebrate the mother, Holy Mother Church, and how Mother Church wants to be celebrated. So that insularity does not prevent the true liturgical reform that the Council sent out.”
“Ai Vescovi e Sacerdoti delle Chiese di Sicilia,” June 9 2022, as translated by Hannah Brockhaus of CNA
We can take a great lesson from his words: we should not merely dress according to the liturgical fashions that were favored by the Church in the past. We should not just imitate outdated forms. We should instead cling to the font of life: Christ. We should look to beauty itself: the good under the aspect of the visible. In other words, we should focus on liturgical vestments that look good and are disposed for their purpose: to glorify God by aesthetics and to represent what they stand for symbolically.
For example, the alb “is a long white linen robe, worn as a sign of purity of heart, and represents the white dress of mockery with which Herod clothed our Lord Jesus to revile Him as a fool” (Roman Catholic Daily Missal). The association of the alb with the Passion is meant to represent the sacrificial nature of the Mass and the role of the priest in offering that sacrifice. Below is depicted the latest example of this on sale from Gammarelli, a shop in Rome which is very popular as a maker of new liturgical vestments for traditionally-inclined priests:
Note that crosses are embroidered on this hand-pulled Gigliuccio embroidered-alb. It is very fitting to have crosses in the pattern, in order to reflect the symbolism of the alb as a representation for part of the Passion. The handiwork also is detailed and hand-made as is fitting for something to glorify God via its beautiful symmetry and harmonious proportions. Indeed, the crosses in the central part of the pattern are demarcated by smaller border Gigliuccio stitches, which communicate the symbolism of the cross permeating out from the central ribbon to the rest of the alb.
Let us boldly move forward into the future, abandoning mere nostalgia and instead embracing the traditions of the Church: not merely dusting off that polyester chasuble, but using the latest and greatest materials and designs to glorify God in the sacrifice of the Mass!