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A History Of The Mass And Its Ceremonies In The Eastern And Western Church -Rev John O'Brien A.M.

The Amice, so called from the Latin amicire, to clothe or cover, is a rectangular piece of linen about three feet long and two feet wide. It has a string at each of its two upper corners by which to fasten it on the shoulders of the wearer, and a cross in the middle of the upper edge, which the priest kisses when vesting.

From the office which the Amice serves various names have been given it, such as Humeral, from the Latin humerus; a shoulder; Anabolagium, from the Greek ἀναβολή (anabole), a cloak; and Ephod, from its resemblance to the Aaronic garment of that name.

The Greek Church uses no article of this kind at the present time, although it did formerly. The priests of the Ambrosian or Milanese rite, also the canons of the Cathedral of Lyons, put on the Amice after the Alb, and not before it, as we do. This is also the discipline of the Maronites of Mt. Lebanon.

The Amice of the Armenians, called by them Vakass, has a breastplate attached, upon which are inscribed the names of the twelve Apostles, in imitation of the Jewish Ephod, whose breastplate displayed, in shining colors, the names of the twelve tribes of Israel (Neale’s Holy Eastern Church, vol. i. p. 306).

Early History of the Amice.—Liturgical writers tell us that the Amice, in early days, served as a covering for the head and neck, and that it continued to be so used until about the tenth century, when its place was supplied by the ecclesiastical cap, or berretta then introduced (Bouvry, Expositio Rubricarum, vol. ii. 216).

This is corroborated by the practice yet prevailing with some of the religious orders, such as the Capuchins and Dominicans, of wearing the Amice over the head until the beginning of Mass, when they cast it back on their shoulders and adjust it around the neck. A vestige of its ancient use may also be seen in the ordination of a subdeacon, where the bishop draws the article first over the candidate’s head, and then lets it fall loosely over his shoulders.

Mystical Meaning of the Amice.—The mystical meaning of the Amice may be gathered from the prayer recited in donning it: “Place upon my head, O Lord! the helmet of salvation for repelling the attacks of the evil one.” It is, then, part of the armor of a soldier of Christ, and serves to remind the priest of the obligation he is under of being ready at all times to fight the good fight of faith in accordance with that sacred admonition of the Apostle of the Gentiles, “Put ye on the armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the deceits of the devil.… And take unto you the helmet of salvation” (Ephesians 6:11–17).








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