An excerpt from the third book of the Rationale Divinorum Officiorum of William Durandus of Mende, Englished by T.H. Passmore:
1. Forasmuch as there is a weariness which often creepeth upon minds well disposed and had in hand for Divine Worship, rendering them slumbrous with a kind of sluggishness, as saith the Psalmist, MY SOUL MELTETH AWAY FOR VERY HEAVINESS; therefore in the left hand of the minister who approacheth unto the service of the Altar is placed a Maniple, which is also called a Sudarium; as that he may wipe away the sweats of his mind and shake off his heart's heaviness, keeping the watch of good works and driving weariness and slumber from him. For the Maniple is a figure of good works and watchfulness, whereof the Lord saith, WATCH, FOR YE KNOW NOT THE HOUR WHEREIN THE SON OF MAN COMETH; and the Spouse in the Canticles, I SLEEP, BUT MINE HEART WAKETH. As a Sudarium it also denoteth penitence, wherewith the stain of daily indulgence and the weariness of worldly life are wiped away; as it is said, MY SOUL MELTETH AWAY FOR VERY HEAVINESS; for the knowledge of sins, and the weakness of the flesh, are a weariness unto the soul.
The Maniple signifieth also the reward of future blessings. Thus in certain places they wear this Vestment, whose name signifieth also a sheaf, on Festivals whensoever Albes are used, to show that in life each one shall receive his due reward; for THEY SHALL COME AGAIN WITH JOY, BRINGING THEIR SHEAVES WITH THEM.
The Sudarium of the Subdeacon is made greater than that of the Priest, for where there is greater transgression, there is required more fruit of repentance. But of the Sudarium I will speak again.
2. The Ministers wear the maniple upon the left arm, to show that they must be bound up as touching earthly things, but untrammeled unto heavenly. They of old were not thus bound, for they served God, not only for spiritual, but also for temporal ends. But we in this life, whereof the left hand is a type, do undergo the irksomeness as it were of much sweating, that is, of pleasure, and other excesses of the mind. The Maniple, hanging upon the left arm, denoteth also the faith, which in this life we must have.
3. The use of the Maniple was not taken from Aaron, but from the ancient Fathers of the Church; as it is written in the Martyrology of Bede, that Arsenius did ever a kerchief in his bosom or his hand, to wipe away the abundance of his tears. the holy Fathers also, while they handled the sacred things and celebrated the Sacraments, had little napkins or handkerchiefs on their hands, sometimes to wipe their hands, and sometimes for covering or reverently handling the things of God.
4. As touching that which agreeth unto the Head, even Christ, the wearing of the Maniple on the left hand denoteth this, that Christ won His Prize while in the way; for, as I have said, the Maniple signifieth a prize, as in that Scripture, THEY SHALL COME AGAIN WITH JOY, BRINGING THEIR SHEAVES WITH THEM; and the left hand is this present life, as it is written, HIS LEFT HAND IS UNDER MY HEAD, AND HIS RIGHT HAND DOTH EMBRACE ME. For Christ did enjoy His reward at one and the same time that He was earning it; He enjoyed it in His own land, and did merit it on His way thither, compassing His prize the while He ran his course, in that He was at once in His native land and on the way to it: as he said, NO MAN HATH ASCENDED UP TO HEAVEN, BUT HE THAT CAME DOWN FROM HEAVEN, EVEN THE SON OF MAN WHICH IS IN HEAVEN.
5. The Maniple is also a figure of the rope with which Jesus was bound, after that He was taken by the Jews, as saith Saint John, THEY TOOK HIM, AND BOUND HIM.
This vestment is wont to be put upon the Holy Father after the Chasuble, and there be many Bishops beside, who observe this.
6. It is to be noted, that the Deacon and Subdeacon, in assisting the Bishop to put on the Sacred Vestments, wear not the Maniple; first, that they may do their parts with the more ease and freedom; and secondly because in the discharge of such a duty they ought not to look for temporal guerdon; which latter is one of the meanings of the Maniple, as I have shown from that of the Psalmist, THAY SHALL COME AGAIN WITH JOY, BRINGING THEIR SHEAVES WITH THEM. And while the Bishop putteth the Vestments on and off, the Deacon standeth at his right, and the Subdeacon at his left; for the Deacon, by virtue of his Order, taketh that mightier and higher place than the Subdeacon, which is signified by the right hand.