The Purpose of Liturgical Vestments

Vestments:  The Customary Robes of the Pastor and Liturgical Assistants

What is the purpose of liturgical vestments?   Why do Lutherans keep them?  The purpose of vestments is at least threefold:

1.  To cover the person in a uniform manner so that we do not focus on his personality or wardrobe but upon the activity of the means of grace (preaching, Baptism, reading Scripture, administering the Lord’s Supper). 

2.  To indicate the office which the pastor holds by call and ordination, or by appointment as in the case of deacons or acolytes.

3.  To adorn the Lord’s liturgy with appropriate colors and symbols that reflect the hidden heavenly realities of the Divine Service and that show our continuity with the ancient church.  In this it helps separate the sacred from the secular or profane.


ALB — The Alb is a full, white, ankle length garment. It has become popular is recent years because of its cheerful white color and innovative styling. It is the most ancient of Christian vestment. Its origins are traced to the Roman tunic, a common piece of clothing until the 5th century, after which it became a garment unique to the clergy. It reminds Christians of the multitude dressed in robes, “washed and made white in the blood of the Lamb” (Rev. 7:14). The image reminds each believer that he now stands clothed in Christ’s righteousness and that he someday will stand with the white-robed multitude washed in the blood of the Lamb. This hope is expressed in the alb’s vesting prayer: “Clothe me, O Lord, and cleanse my heart, that cleansed in the blood of the Lamb I may always enjoy eternal happiness.”   An alb without stole and chasuble might be worn by deacons or acolytes who assist the pastor.

CASSOCK — The Cassock is a full-length black garment that may be worn with a clergy collar in the case of pastors. Like a fitted shirt above the waist and a full ankle-length skirt below the waist, the cassock comes in two styles. The Roman cassock buttons down the middle and the Anglican down the right side. The cassock is the traditional street garb of the clergy, and as such is not a liturgical garment.   A cassock and surplice may be worn also by acolytes and deacons.

CHASUBLE — The Chasuble developed from the poncho-style warm cloak the Paul refers to in Second Timothy 4:13. In the church it became a highly ornamented covering over street clothes and other vestments. For that reason it became know as “the vestment.” The Chasuble is worn exclusively during the celebration of the Lord’s Supper by the clergy. But recently, other liturgical churches have reclaimed this ancient, colorful and graceful vestment. Yoked around the neck and burdening the shoulders, the Chasuble suggests Jesus’ words, “my yoke is easy and my burden light.” What a compelling invitation to Jesus’ supper when we recall that just before, he said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Mt. 11:28) The prayer used as the Chasuble is put on reflects this, “Lord, you said, ‘My yoke is sweet and my burden is light,’ enable me always to rely on your grace and assistance.”   The stole and chasuble are both made in the colors of the Church Year.   See Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Article XXIV in the Book of Concord, our Lutheran Confessions.  The chasuble is regaining its use among Lutherans in America.

STOLEThe Stole is a cloth band of the color of the liturgical season, worn around the neck and hanging down at the front.  Its symbolic indication that the wearer is functioning in his called office.  The stole’s vesting prayer reflects this symbolism. “Give me again, O Lord, the stole of immortality which I lost in the transgression of my first parents, and though I am unworthy to come to Thy sacred mystery, grant that I may rejoice in the same everlastingly.”   It is not a vestment for confirmands, properly speaking.   Historically there is also a sash-like diagonal stole for deacons.

SURPLICE OR COTTA — The Surplice is a full long, flowing white garb with full sleeves worn over a cassock or black gown. A Nordic or Scandinavian innovation, it allowed pastors serving in cold churches to wear extra-heavy cassocks, which wouldn’t fit under an alb. The surplice serves as an alb, and by the time of the Reformation it replaced the alb for non-communion services. Most consider its symbolism to be the same as that of an alb; however, many have taken note of an alternate symbolism. A white garment worn over a black gown, it can be though of as symbolic of Christ’s righteousness covering our sin, or Christ’s glory driving out darkness.   A cotta is simply a shorter surplice.

Traditionally for Holy Communion the pastor serving as celebrant of Holy Communion would be vested in alb, stole, and chasuble, while an assisting pastor would wear simply alb and stole.  Any lay assistants would simply wear an alb or a cassock and surplice.   For non-communion services a pastor would wear cassock, surplice, and perhaps a stole.

Lutheran quotes on Vestments (including chasubles) in the Lutheran Divine Service

“It is appropriate that the presiding minister wear a white vestment, an alb or surplice, and a stole in the color of

the day or season. He may wear a chasuble over the alb and stole at the Holy Communion.”

            Commission on Worship of The Lutheran Church –Missouri Synod.

            Lutheran Worship: Altar Book (Saint Louis:  Concordia Publishing House, 1982); p.26


In the 16th century Reformation the Lutherans retained the traditional clerical  vestments [see Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Article XXIV], but the other reformers rejected these and adopted the black gown or robe instead. About two hundred years after the Reformation, Reformed [Calvinist] rulers in Germany more or less forced the black gown also on Lutheran pastors. The chasuble is the most distinctive ancient Eucharistic vestment of the Christian church. The word chasuble comes from the Latin casula, meaning a little hut, because it covered the whole man. The chasuble resembled a present day cape, a garment without sleeves put over the body and completely covering it. It was circular in shape with a hole in the middle for the head, and fell to the feet all around. It had to be lifted up in order to use the arms. St. Paul mentions this garment in 2 Tim. 4:13. When it passed out of common secular use, it was retained as a clerical vestment. At first it was worn full length, but in he course of time, it was shortened until it reached only to the knees. The material was wool or linen, but from about the year 1000, the chasuble began to be made of silk, which is still the general material today. The shape of the chasuble was changed gradually by cutting the sides shorter to free the arms. Only enough was cut away at first to leave the arms partly free. This shape is the so-called Gothic chasuble. Later it was cut so far back on the sides that the arms were entirely exposed, leaving only a garment hanging over the shoulders in front and back. This form is known as the Roman style. At first the chasuble was not ornamented, but during the Middle Ages it was decorated elaborately with orphreys and embroidery. The Roman style had a large Latin cross on the back with a single orphrey down the center of the front. The Gothic style was decorated with a Y-shaped orphrey cross in the back and a single orphrey, called the pillar, down the front. At the time of the Reformation, Luther retained the chasuble and the ancient vestments, while Zwingli and other [radical] reformers discarded them as “papistic,” together with altars, candles, crucifixes, and the like. Since the earliest days, however, the chasuble has been “the vestment” for the celebration of the Holy Communion Service, was retained by the Lutheran Church at the time of the Reformation, and is still used by a large section of the Lutheran Church. [pp.47, 52]

            Ceremony and Celebration: An Evangelical Guide for Christian Practice in Corporate Worship

            by Paul H.D. Lang (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1965)

Apology [Defense] of the Augsburg Confession, Article XXIV.1 – The Book of Concord

At the outset we [Lutherans] must again make the preliminary statement that we 1]

do not abolish the Mass, but religiously maintain and defend it. For among us masses are celebrated every Lord’s Day and on the other festivals, in which the Sacrament is offered to those who wish to use it, after they have been examined and absolved. And the usual public ceremonies are observed, the series of lessons, of prayers, vestments, and other like things.

“While the alb, stole, and chasuble are the primary eucharistic vestments of the Church of the Augsburg Confession, the

cassock and surplice are the standard vestments for non-eucharistic services.”

            John T. Pless –Lutheran Worship: History and Practice. Fred Precht, Editor. (Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House,           1993); p.223

“Along with the alb and stole the minister may also wear a chasuble (from the Latin casual, which means “little house”). The

chasuble is a poncho-like garment that fits over the alb and stole. Its shape is either semicircular, elliptical, or rectangular.

Like the stole, the chasuble will also reflect the color of the liturgical season. This means that its primary color will be

that of the liturgical season or that the material will be of a neutral color with an orphrey or some other ornamentation coordinating with the color of the liturgical season. Since the chasuble is a eucharistic vestment, it is properly worn only at services in which the Lord’s Supper is celebrated. Accordingly, it may be worn for the entire Divine Service, or it may be put on immediately efore the commencement of the eucharistic liturgy (either during the Offering or the Offertory).

            Lee A. Maxwell.  The Altar Guild Manual: Lutheran Service Book Edition (Authorized by the Commission on

            Worship of The Lutheran Church –Missouri Synod.)  (Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1996, 2008); p.70

The Divine Service: Bowing Before the Throne of the Lamb with Angels, Archangels, and All the Company of Heaven, Receiving Christ’s Spoken and Sacramental Gospel

18 For you have not come to what may be touched, a blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a tempest 19 and the sound of a trumpet and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that no further messages be spoken to them. 20 For they could not endure the order that was given, “If even a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned.” 21 Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I tremble with fear.” 22 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, 23 and to the assembly[a] of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.

25 See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven. 26 At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” 27 This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. 28 Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, 29 for our God is a consuming fire.

Excerpt from Hebrews, chapter 12

At the outset we [Lutherans] must again make the preliminary statement that we1 do not abolish the Mass, but religiously maintain and defend it. For among us masses are celebrated every Lord’s Day and on the other festivals, in which the Sacrament is offered to those who wish to use it, after they have been examined and absolved. And the usual public ceremonies are observed, the series of lessons, of prayers, vestments, and other like things.


Of the Term Mass.

78 The adversaries also refer us to philology. From the names of the Mass they derive arguments which do not require a long discussion. For even though the Mass be called a sacrifice, it does not follow that it must confer grace ex opere operato, or, when applied on behalf of others, merit for them the remission of sins, etc.

79 Leitourgia, [liturgy] they say, signifies a sacrifice, and the Greeks call the Mass, liturgy. Why do they here omit the old appellation synaxis, which shows that the Mass was formerly the communion of many? But let us speak of the word liturgy.

80 This word does not properly signify a sacrifice, but rather the public ministry, and agrees aptly with our belief, namely, that one minister who consecrates tenders the body and blood of the Lord to the rest of the people, just as one minister who preaches tenders the Gospel to the people, as Paul says, 1 Cor. 4:1: Let a man so account of us as of the ministers of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God, i.e., of the Gospel and the Sacraments. And 2 Cor. 5:20: We are ambassadors for Christ, as81 though God did beseech you by us; we pray you in Christ’s stead, Be ye reconciled to God. Thus the term leitourgia agrees aptly with the ministry.

Excerpts from the Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Article XXIV

A project you can help with at Trinity this summer

In the past few years we have been doing some catch up on building maintenance for Trinity Lutheran Church. In recent years we’ve repainted Trinity, then Bethel in Presque Isle, and this summer we plan to repaint the parsonage and make a couple of other repairs. While we are going to be doing the painting on the house with volunteer labor, unlike the church painting, we will still have expenses in regard to supplies and equipment. If you would like to help with this project please mark donations specifically for this project.

PLEASE NOTEonly donate to this project above and beyond your regular offerings. The purpose of these designations is to fund the project beyond the regular operating funds of church rather than take away from them. Thank you for keeping this point in mind as well.

2021 Summer Schedule – June 26/27, 2021 through Labor Day Weekend

Starting the weekend of June 26-27 in 2021 our schedule will normally be the following below through Labor Day weekend.

Saturday Evenings

Campfire Bible Study – 6:30 PM in the side yard at Trinity at the firepit – bring a camp chair and a Bible

(if it rains – we’ll move inside to the Bible study room)


9:00 AM – Divine Service with The Lord’s Supper – Trinity, Boulder Junction, WI

11:00 AM – Service of the Word – Bethel Lutheran Chapel, Presque Isle, WI


Join us for Ascension Divine Service!

Thursday, May 13th at 5:30 PM

Christ has ascended on high to fill all things as God and man!

Can you help support Trinity’s ministry in the northwoods for future generations?

Financially Support Trinity Lutheran Church, Boulder Junction


Trinity Lutheran Church (LCMS) of Boulder Junction, Wisconsin and our seasonal chapel, Bethel Lutheran Chapel in Presque Isle, Wisconsin (not far from Marensico, MI), serves the north central vacation area of northern Wisconsin in Vilas and Oneida counties and southern parts  of Upper Michigan.    We are here as an outpost of the biblical gospel of Jesus Christ, confessing salvation by grace alone through faith alone, through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

We are a traditional congregation of The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod (LCMS).   We uphold classical Lutheran ways of worship or liturgical practice.    The Bible, catechism, and hymnal are central to our life together.    We hold to the inspiration and inerrancy of Holy Scripture, and the effectiveness of the Word of God.   We hold a high view of the holy sacraments as instruments of the Holy Spirit and the Lord delivering to us forgiveness, life and salvation.   We uphold the biblical view of creation, of marriage between one man and one woman, and the sanctity of human life.   We hold firmly to the Holy Scriptures and the Book of Concord in teaching and practice.

We are privileged to serve as a key outpost of the truth of Christ where people retire, rest, and vacation and where some find a place for their careers,     We believe it is important to maintain a solid Lutheran presence here despite the challenges.   Many congregations in these kinds of areas struggle or close due to economic, demographic, and other challenges.   We pray that by the Lord’s mercy and the generosity and commitment the Holy Spirit will work in the hearts of those who benefit from our ministry and presence here in Boulder Junction and Presque Isle, Wisconsin, so that we can continue for years to come and perhaps even expand our efforts as resources allow.

To that end, we do not apologize but heartily invite your prayers for us as well as your regular financial support.     Many of our members go south for the winter to warmer climates.    Other members work in the very seasonally affected tourism industry.  Likewise the demographics of our area continue to give challenges.    Support from visitors, seasonal worshipers, and other concerned Lutherans helps us continue, take care of needs, and proclaim the gospel in all the places where our members live, work, rest, and serve.   Please consider an occasional or monthly offering to support the Lord’s ongoing service to us here through the Word and Sacraments in an orthodox Lutheran manner.   We are grateful for your support and your support is a response of gratitude for all that the Lord has done for you in body and soul, in everyday life and in salvation from sin and death.    Thank you for your generous and prayerful consideration.

Trinity Lutheran Church

PO Box 24

Boulder Junction, WI  54512

The Lord grant you steadfastness and the peace of Christ in 2021!

We continue with Divine Service on Sundays at 9:00 AM and Bible Study at 10:30 AM following the service.

We appreciate your continued prayers, encouragement, and offerings of financial support in these challenging times, and especially during these more sparse winter months in the northwoods. Our sincere appreciation is extended to you so that we might continue to have a confessional Lutheran presence for the Divine Service and the teaching of God’s Word in Vilas County where many live, retire, vacation, and otherwise visit for recuperation. More people are coming to this area as they are able to telecommute and take advantage of our improving broadband internet capabilities while enjoying the outdoors and the pace of life afforded by the woods of northern Wisconsin and upper Michigan.

If you wish to send a donation or offering via mail, please send to:

Trinity Lutheran Church

PO Box 24

Boulder Junction, WI 54512-0024