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What is the need to use elaborate costumes at services and on other occasions? Costumes of some Christian confessions much outshine those of some other religions, including the pre-Christian ones.

Some of the elements can hardly be traced to pre-Christian times and seem to be Christian inventions, while others can be clearly traced to polytheistic religions of Romans and Greeks or even ancient Egypt, like the Crosier:

enter image description here

Yet it seems that pre-Christian dress of the Roman and Greek priests were much simpler, functional and ascetic.

In Orthodox Christianity they use for service a headware called mitre upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/09/Mitre-benaki.jpg.

The corresponding prayer when putting it on mentions "expensive jewels" which is probably a requirement for this kind of vestment. If it is used to show respect to God as some answerers put it, my question is whether wearing expensive Rolex watches will also show one's respect to God?

So what the purpose of those elaborate costumes, especially in Catholic and Orthodox church?

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closed as not constructive by David Morton, Andrew Leach, Andrew, David Stratton, Alypius Mar 22 '13 at 0:38

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In many cases, beauty and symbolism. –  svidgen Mar 21 '13 at 14:39
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The Priestly garments and Temple of Israel were pretty impressive. –  Narnian Mar 21 '13 at 14:42
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One word.... Tradition! –  Affable Geek Mar 21 '13 at 16:35
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-1 because you seem to be more interested in trashing the Catholic Church than in actually finding an answer to this question. (Trashing the Catholic Church is a good thing, of course, but this really isn't the venue for it.) –  TRiG Mar 21 '13 at 18:10
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That particular crozier has a design based on Celtic patterns from the 8th-10th centuries. It's definitely Christian (the crozier itself is basically a shepherd's crook). I'm not sure what this question is asking. –  Andrew Leach Mar 21 '13 at 18:40
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1 Answer 1

In short:

  • Dressing nicely in front of God is a good thing.
  • Priests do not actually dress in an "elaborate" way, but they do dress in a formal way.
  • Some people see pictures of the pope during very special ceremonies, and assume that all priests dress this way, which is simply not true. The pope is required to dress in a way that fits his status as pope. He is the Vicar of Christ, and Catholics expect him to dress like it. This does not mean that his garments must always be ornate, but that they should be appropriate. But this question is about priests, not the pope.

So why should priests wear "special" or "nice looking" clothing? Some of the basis for this is:

John 12
3 Mary took a liter of costly perfumed oil made from genuine aromatic nard and anointed the feet of Jesus and dried them with her hair; the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil. 4 Then Judas the Iscariot, one [of] his disciples, and the one who would betray him, said, 5 “Why was this oil not sold for three hundred days’ wages and given to the poor?” 6 He said this not because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief and held the money bag and used to steal the contributions.

We should not hesitate to make our priests match their position. They are serving God. We dress nicely when we go to meet someone important to us, and priests should do the same. Sometimes, the Catholic priest acts in Persona Christi, which means "in the person of Christ". The priest does not become Christ, and he does not become a high priest, but he exercises certain very sacred powers that have been granted to him by God. We should have respect for that, and we should think of the eternal heavenly service of the High Priest Jesus during Mass, especially during the Eucharistic Prayer. From the Baltimore Catechism:

enter image description here
365. Who said the First Mass?
Our Divine Saviour said the first Mass, at the Last Supper, the night before He died.

The vestments themselves are not actually "ornate", even when the are on the more-elaborate side of the scale. They are simply formal. For example:

enter image description here

The dress goes a long way towards communicating the importance of religious life, and the commitment of the priest to living that life. Appropriate priestly vestments lend dignity to the office of the priest, and they lend dignity to the services themselves:

enter image description here

Catholics generally like to see that sort of formality. It is beautiful, and beauty praises God. Not your taste? That's fine, there are smaller Catholic parishes. But there is nothing wrong with giving praise to God in this way. Jesus might wear humble clothes, but that does not mean that we should wear our most "humble" clothes when going to see Him. He is the King of Kings, the Lord of all creation.

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So what's the purpose of some ornate, complicated, gold-knitted dress compared to wearing some sort of good business suite? The business people or heads of state do not wear white long bedsheets with azure turbans to look good. Why Christians think God will like such vestment more? Especially if the clothing they wear does not resemble neither what Jesus was wearing nor what people were wearing at the time of Jesus' life? –  Anixx Mar 21 '13 at 16:33
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Perhaps because they're not going to see a good businessman. I'm not Catholic, but that's just a guess. :) I suppose what I'm trying to say is, why wasn't the question phrased as such, "Are there any Biblical prohibitions against priests and clergy wearing ornate clothing while acting out their roles within the church?" –  David Morton Mar 21 '13 at 16:38
    
@David Morton it it just a coincidence in English that a civil suite is called "business suite". Actually it is a kind of clothing used not only by businessmen. –  Anixx Mar 21 '13 at 16:40
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It sounds like you're looking more for evidence against the wearing of these ornate outfits, as opposed to evidence for. I think he's answered the question sufficiently towards the "for" argument. Put simply, if they simply wore a business suit, then we would think of a businessman. The idea of an ornate outfit is to have us thinking of someone different, other, or "holy" if you will. –  David Morton Mar 21 '13 at 16:42
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@Anixx See the answer. Priests don't wear "gold-knitted" dress, as I explained. They don't wear business suits because the style of vestment they wear predates the business suit. If I saw a priest saying Mass in a tuxedo, I would probably call my Bishop to, among other things, ask for a psychological examination of the priest. Even if God doesn't care what you wear, we want to show Him that we put an effort towards caring how we dress in front of Him. The reference to "white long bedsheets and azure turbans" suggests that you don't actually care for an answer, but are here to trash the Church. –  Alypius Mar 21 '13 at 16:43
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