De-sacralization of priestly habits and vestments

By Dr. Karo Ogbinaka

Christian priests, as in most religions, are often identified by their attires. This is often called ‘habits‘ and ‘vestments’ if are to include the altar and other elements of worship.’ The most common is the cassock or sultanas. The cassock is actually not a sacred vestment. It may be identified as a common daily attire of a priest.

Nevertheless, most Christian priests are identified with white collars, cassocks and clerical shirts that they put on. Again, only those who can discern would be able to distinguish the differences among priests of the different churches’ denominations.

There are the traditional Anglican cassocks – the simple, double-breasted and 39 articles cassocks – that come in three colours.

Most Priests of the Anglican faith may be seen in three colours of clerical shirts of which one, like the cassock, is reserved for Bishops. Only one who is acquainted with what is referred to as orthodox or so-called liturgical churches, may be acquainted with these details.

Therefore, a theologically trained priest should be able to know a Catholic, Methodist, Presbyterian or Anglican/Episcopal priest by mere appearance.

The English poet, Chaucer says the hood does not make the Monk. But the monk must always wear a hood. In the course of their daily offices, and they are diverse in types and forms, priests appear in various vestments.

Now, Priestly vestments are termed “holy and sacred” since they are biblically regulated along the order of Leviticus.

“And of the blue and purple and scarlet stuff they are made finely wrought garments, for ministering in the holy place; they made the holy garment for Aaron; a the Lord had commanded Moses” (Exodus 39:1).

Again, in Leviticus 8:5, 30, the sacred nature of the vestments of a Priest is put thus: “And Moses said to the congregation, ‘this is the thing which the Lord has commanded to be done. ‘And Moses brought Aaron and his sons and washed them with water.

And he put on them the coat, and girded them with the girdle, and clothed him with the robe, and put the ephod upon him, and girded him with the skillfully woven hand of the ephod, binding him there with…. Then Moses took some of the anointing oil and the blood which was on the altar, and sprinkled it upon Aaron and his garments, and also upon his sons and his son’s garments; so he consecrated Aaron and his garments, anhis sons and his sons’ garments with him.'”

The vestments with which a Christian priest adorns himself are never for profanity.

They may be classified as those used strictly within the confinement of the Church’s sanctuary and those worn outside which are simply meant to identify him as a man of God. Now, there has been the common practice among Nigerian politicians who believe that Christian Pastors and Priests can be engaged, hired and fired depending on if their ‘price’ can be afforded.

Everyman, Thomas Bolt wrote, has his price! Given this, one can easily understand why the Roman Catholic, Anglican, Methodist, and a host of other orthodox liturgical denominations in Christianity can be easily relegated to the background, and handle with disdain by some contemporary Nigerian politicians.

The height of this disdain was demonstrated by the Muslim-Muslim unveiling of the Vice Presidential Candidature of Senator Shetima. Without any regards for the sacredness of priestly vestments; with speechless disregard of their sacerdotal use – liturgical/seasonal colours, stoles and preacher’s scares, chasubles, pastoral staffs and rings name it – some persons, God forgive us in Christ Jesus’ name, were lined up and marched to the ‘unveiling arena’ as epitome representatives of Christianity in Nigeria. It cannot be denied that this was an APC event!

Read Also: Response from readers on previous article – “God position on Tithes”

The implication is grievous for the Nigerian Christian. Christians should be ready for more of such humiliations as well as the de-sacralisation of whatever their faith represents. We have with us a set of desperate politicians who are not ready to value or hold as sacred anything that will stop them from holding on to power in Nigeria. It is only in Nigeria a political party will condescend so low in order to make or score a political point. We have never had it so terribly bad.

Granted that religion was not a criterion used in the choice of the Vice Presidential candidate of the APC, what point was Christian religious characters being paraded meant to score? Why were Islamic clerics not so paraded at the event? Christianity cannot be brought to such profanity by unscrupulous politicians.

The Muslim-Muslim candidature has been foisted upon the psyche of every Christian in the wake of the atavistic murder in the Church at Owo, and the killings of Catholic and other denominations’ priests. Let us not mention Sarah’s killings and burning at the Shehu Shagari College of Education, Sokoto.

We may go back in history to mention the Chibok girls and the forceful conversion of Christians. The attacks on Christians in central Nigeria which are mostly defined in the outright dislocation and occupation of their communities are incidences we are living with in Nigeria.

But those who bear the ticket of the APC at the Presidential level will be appraised and voted for not only in their areas of the stronghold. The entire South-South and South East of Nigeria are Christian-dominated.

Benue and Plateau States are. These politicians may need to reincarnate the MKO Abiola’s formulae in the 2023 election.

They will be appraised with what they did not say or do when Christian communities, priests and leadership were being killed daily. They will be appraised by what they have not promised that they will do to the criminals that are daily being freed and honoured by the powers that are!

The things of God must not be brought to disdain. “Therefore you and your sons with you shall attain to your priesthood for everything at the altar and behind the veil, and you shall serve. I give your priesthood to you as a gift for service, but the outsider who comes near shall be put to death” (Numbers 18:7). In the name of desperately wanting presidential victory, many are becoming despondent and despicable. They have given to themselves what is not a divine gift unto them.

“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:33).

Dr. Karo Ogbinaka
Dr. Karo Ogbinaka

The Rev’d Dr Karo Ogbinaka, an Anglican priest of the Diocese of Lagos West, lectures at the Department of Philosophy, University of Lagos. He is a member of the editorial board of The Trumpet.

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