Just how a priest should dress, in and out of the church, is subject to debate, to the rules observed by the church and the congregation, by convention, and by the impressions of the person making the argument.
There is no universal consensus on how a priest should or should not dress in church - but regardless of your personal preferences, we have some insight into how to pick out a preaching suit to “suit” your personal style, the time of year, and impress the congregation.
Why It Matters How Priests Dress
It bears noting that there have been some trends in recent memory, followed by some clergy around the country and the world, to “dress down.”
For those that followed such trends, there were several arguments put forth in its defense. For one, they argued that it was inside and not outside that mattered. There may be a scriptural defense for this argument, to say the least, in Matthew 6:1-18.
It’s also been stated that some priests don’t dress up for church because God does not look on the outward appearance. Moreover, some will argue that dressing down will not intimidate newcomers and that dressing more casually is more palatable to the younger generations whose participation in church services is at stake.
Yet it should be asked: When did the leaders of the congregation take their direction from those they profess to lead?
Rather, it is more proper to dress appropriately out of respect for the office and authority of the church and for the significance of the congregation.
Even if that means forgoing the traditional cassock, robe, and stole for a simpler preaching suit.
With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at some of the best ways to add a preaching suit into the rotation of your clerical attire.
Keeping the Liturgical Calendar in Mind
The first and most straightforward way to choose a preaching suit is with respect to the movements and tidings of the liturgical calendar. Doing so
will free you from needing to coordinate (at least in part) with your other clerical garments and vestments.
Let’s look at how you can choose a preaching suit based on color alone, with respect to the time of year:
●Purple: If you’re going to wear a purple preaching suit, keep in mind that this is a color associated with penance and repentance. As such, it is worn during Lent as a mark of preparation for the sacrifice. Because of the nature of this color, it may also be seen as appropriate during the Advent season in the weeks leading up to Christmas. Because it is a color of penitence, it might not be considered appropriate for use at any other times, unless you are a bishop. Bishops may wear purple at any time as a mark of their office.
●Red: Red, being the color of passion, blood, and fire, is associated with sacrifice. Consequently, it is considered acceptable to wear red clerical garments (such as a preaching suit) during Passion Sunday and Good Friday. Red vestments and garments may also be considered appropriate for Pentecost, symbolizing (and in memory of) the fiery tongues that communicated the Holy Spirit to the Apostles. It is also suitable to wear red in observation of the feast day of a martyred Saint. Pink, a variant of red, is a color of anticipation and is commonly worn on the Third Sunday during Advent and the Fourth Sunday during Lent.
●White or Gold: White and gold are both colors that are appropriate to wear during Christmas and Easter, in celebration of the purity and exquisite nature of divine love and divine miracles. White or gold garments, including preaching suits, can also be worn during certain feast days (of non-martyred Saints) as well.
●Green: Green is a color that is appropriate to wear during Ordinary Time and is suitable for a wide range of observations. It’s a great color for a preaching suit for those to wear if there is no other special liturgical color to observe. Green, the color of verdure, Spring, and life, is also a symbol of hope of the everlasting.
●Black: Black is an interesting color to associate with clerical garments, and there are several reasons why it might be appropriate for a priest to opt for a black preaching suit. Black, as the color of mourning, is suitable for use at funerals, but some priests choose to wear it all the time as a symbol of penance or a reminder of their secular duties before their congregation.
These are the prime ways to choose a preaching suit based on the color appropriate with the time of year according to the liturgical calendar, but there are a few other suggestions we can offer.
Matching the Remaining Aesthetic of Your Clerical Wardrobe
If your heart is set on a preaching suit in a slightly non-typical color, according to what we have just laid forth, there are still ways to make it work.
For example, if the time of year calls for purple or red, but you don’t want to wear a preaching suit that is entirely monochromatic, opt instead for one in a different color with trim or buttons that are appropriately aligned with the liturgical color.
One more suggestion we can offer is to choose a preaching suit that is color and style-aligned with your other vestments. By matching the aesthetic of a preaching suit to your robes, cassocks, and other vestments, you can create an impression of consistency.
It’s also important to remember that you can choose a preaching suit while taking a flexible approach to color symbolism. As the leader of your congregation, it’s equally important that you choose a style that impresses and moves them - possibly even if the color is not aligned with the time of year.
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