This post is part of our “Why of Worship” series – answering questions about Anglican Life and Practice
photo from murphyrobes.com
At out Maundy Thursday service this year, we had the chance to discuss a fair amount of the thought and intention that goes into our daily practice, weekly worship, and annual cycle or feasts and fasts. I attempted to answer as many questions as I could, but some stumped me, and we didn’t have time for all.
The question of cassock color stumped me. I have a general idea of who gets to where what color, but had to go looking to discover the answer to “why?”
I found this blog post from an Eastern Orthodox priest that contains a brief, but compelling instruction. http://www.stgabrielashland.org/why-do-you-wear-that-black-cassock/. He deals a little more fully with the reasons why members of some denominations wear cassocks at all times, but he also addresses the issue of why most clergy cassocks are black.
It is one of those items where practicality and symoblism mix. There are habits that we pick up as practical habits that are infused with meaning as we repeat them, and there are practices that begin with symbolic meaning that feel practical as they become habit.
Cassocks are black because they are a sign of humility and service. Historically, around the world – black has also been the cheapest color, and requires the least care as the lengthy robes will often pick up dirt when worn in the course of daily ministry. It also symbolic of death to the world, in which the clergy of the church are intended to lead the people. So, by example, symbolism, and habit (and a uniquely strong place of unity between all liturgical traditions!), the cassocks of clergy are black.