Excerpt: Stole

Posted by Jeffrey Pinyan at 10:35 AM


Next comes the stole (from the Latin stola, meaning “garment”), a long and narrow vestment like a scarf, worn around the neck.  This vestment comes from the one worn by Roman magistrates when exercising their official duties (as a judge wears black robes on the bench).  The stole usually has a small cross sewn into it at the middle, which is kissed in an act of reverence before it is put on.  The prayer for the stole is:
Redde mihi, Dómine, stolam immortalitátis, quam pérdidi in prævaricatióne primi paréntis et, quamvis indígnus accédo ad tuum sacrum mystérium, mérear tamen gáudium sempitérnum.

Restore to me, Lord, the stole of immortality,              Rom. 2:7; 1 Cor. 15:53
which I lost through the transgression of our first parents,          Wis. 2:23-24
and, unworthy as I am to approach your sacred mysteries,           Luke 17:10
may I yet attain to eternal joy.                                            Sir. 2:9; Isa. 61:7
In mentioning the “stole of immortality,” the prayer refers to one of the “preternatural gifts” with which our first parents were endowed.  When God created Adam and Eve, He made them incapable of suffering death, but this gift was lost when they transgressed the command which God gave them to test their obedience. (cf. Gen. 3:3, 22)  This immortality is restored to us in the resurrection (cf. Luke 20:36; Rev. 21:4) in which we will attain to “eternal joy.”  Because it is a sign of immortality, it reminds the priest of the immortal and eternal God, the One who instituted the “new and eternal covenant” which he celebrates at the altar.
The stole is worn by ordained ministers during administration of the sacraments as a symbol of the authority of their clerical office, as well as of the obedience and faithfulness with which they should carry out their duties.  It is not just a sign of his clerical authority, but a reminder that he is subject to God’s authority and His divine law in the fulfillment of his duties.
The stole, like the cincture, is evocative of the cords that bound Christ during His trials, so it is also a symbol of the burdens that come with ordained ministry.  It may be associated with the “yoke of Christ,” as it hangs over the shoulders of the priest, but that association is more explicit with the vestment which goes over it, the chasuble.