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15 November 2012


An excerpt from the third book of the Rationale Divinorum Officiorum of William Durandus of Mende, Englished by T.H. Passmore:
1. First I must speak of the six Vestments belonging to both Bishop and Priest, according to the foregoing.

The Priest or Bishop who is about to celebrate, having washed his hands, taketh the Amice, and covereth his head with it; and this he hath in the stead of the Ephod or Superhumeral, or of the Breastplate of Judgment; nay, even now it may be called the Superhumeral. This signifieth salvation, which is granted through faith; whereof also the Apostle speaketh, saying unto the Ephesians, PUT ON THE HELMET OF SALVATION. It figureth also chastity of heart and body, because it goeth round his reins and breast, and covereth them; and though it be put on beneath all other sacred Vestments, yet it is supreme over all, for that chastity ought both to dwell within the heart, and in practice to shine out abroad. Wherefore it is drawn tight over the reins, for there desire doth hold his chief sway. Moreover, by the Amice is signified that a man should be strong in good works, for it spreadeth over the shoulders every way: and it is the shoulders that be strong unto the carrying-out of labour, even as the patriarch Jacob saith, HE BOWED HIS SHOULDER TO BEAR, AND BECAME A SERVANT UNTO TRIBUTE.

There be two strings wherewith the Amice is tied across the breast; these are the intention wherewith, and the end whereunto, our works must be informed, that they be not done in the leaven of malice and wickedness, but in the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. Thus ought not the Priest to live in idleness, but to labour in good works, according to that of the Apostle unto Timothy, LABOUR AS A GOOD SOLDIER OF JESUS CHRIST. In certain places a praiseworthy custom holdeth, that a white shift of linen, or a surplice, should be put on over the common dress before the Amice, whereby faith is understood, which ought to be had before all things. Again, the Amice goeth round the mouth of the Chasuble; but of this I will treat in the chapter of the Chasuble.

2. The Amice is drawn tightly round the neck: and by this is symbolised the subjection of the voice, for the neck, wherein is the voice, doth express the act of speaking; it is therefore held bound, as it were, lest falsehood pass unto the tongue therefrom. Yet over the breast and throat it is drawn but loosely, as shall be expounded in the chapter of the Girdle. With the Amice also we cover the head, lest, if we cast the eyes freely every way, we should ponder unlawful things. And the breast and heart are covered with it, for the mind of the Priest ought to be intent on those things which lie upon him; nor may he in that hour relax his heart unto vanities, or to the unrestrained meditation of any worldly thing.

3. Further, as touching that which agreeth unto the head, even Christ, the Amice, which overshadoweth the Priest's head, doth represent that which is described in the Apocalypse, AND I SAW A MIGHTY ANGEL COME DOWN FROM HEAVEN, CLOTHED WITH A CLOUD; and in Esaias, BEHOLD, THE LORD RIDETH UPON A SWIFT CLOUD. And the world's Saviour, the Son of God, the Angel of Great Counsel, coming to save the world, was veiled as with a cloud, when he hid away His Godhead in Flesh. For THE HEAD OF EVERY MAN IS CHRIST; AND THE HEAD OF CHRIST IS GOD.

The Priest's Amice, then, doth symbolise this hiding in flash; but it is more particularly set forth by that Veil which the Holy Father draweth over his head, and of which I will speak in the chapter of the Undergirdle. And it is a comely thought that this very thing, which is typified by the shoes of the feet, is also expressed by the veiling of the head - namely, they lying-hid of the Godhead in Flesh, and Its revelation through it. For when HE WAS KNOWN IN JEWRY, AND HIS NAME WAS GREAT IN ISRAEL; then OVER EDOM DID HE CAST OUT HIS SHOE, and HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS DID HE OPENLY SHOW IN THE SIGHT OF THE HEATHEN.

The Amice doth also represent the fold wherewith the Jews veiled the Face of Christ, saying in the twenty-sixth chapter of Matthew, PROPHECY UNTO US, THOU CHRIST, WHO IS HE THAT SMOTE THEE?

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