Black Cloaks as Penitential Copes for Deacons and Subdeacons

Red cope, Watts and Co.

Churches do not often want to pay for large sets of copes covering their deacons (gospellers) and subdeacons (epistollers). Sometimes the best and easiest thing is for these deacons and subdeacons not to wear copes, but sometimes it seems desirable to put an accent on the liturgical themes of the particular service being said, themes brought out when the priest prays the Collect of the Day.

One solution is to adopt a bit of the dress of the Order of Preachers, or the Dominicans. Instead of the Dominican’s tunic and scapular, an Anglican deacon or subdeacon might just as easily wear a standard cassock; and then, over the surplice, a black cappa. The Angiola Leone painting below depicts Dominic, at left, meeting with Francis of Assisi, at right (cf. a man of the Trinitarian order):

Just imagine, instead of the white tunic and scapular, a white surplice with full sleeves. Or again, look at Pius XII, before his becoming Bishop of Rome, wearing a cappa magna with a white rochet underneath:

The cloak is too long, and the rochet should be a surplice, longer with fuller sleeves, but the outfit mechanics are the same. Make the cloak black like a Dominican’s cloak, and you basically have what I mean for funerals and services in Lent. At these times, having the deacon and the subdeacon wear copes could be too elaborate, too festal. But the plain Dominican cloak is both simple and dignified, lending to the service both chastity and gravity. So, while the priest is wearing a cope (which may be black or its secondary manifestations in bluish or brownish tones, or even red for Passiontide) throw a black cloak over this surpliced server:

This use of the black cloak is a simple way to enrich the vesture of the ministers, enabling churches to better set the tone of certain services. The colours of ecclesiastical vesture may be only as important as whether to wear red in a Chinese event, but it is also as important as that. Perhaps black cloaks will prove useful for helping people learn and pray.

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