Tie one on!

manipleA reader reminded me about something on the Vatican website for the Office of Liturgical Ceremonies:

5) The maniple is an article of liturgical dress used in the celebration of the extraordinary form of the Holy Mass of the Roman Rite. It fell into disuse in the years of the post-conciliar reform, even though it was never abrogated. The maniple is similar to the stole but is not as long: It is fixed in the middle with a clasp or strings similar to those of the chasuble. During the celebration of the Holy Mass in the extraordinary form, the celebrant, the deacon and the subdeacon wear the maniple on their left forearm. This article of liturgical garb perhaps derives from a handkerchief, or “mappula,” that the Romans wore knotted on their left arm. As the “mappula” was used to wipe away tears or sweat, medieval ecclesiastical writers regarded the maniple as a symbol of the toils of the priesthood.

This understanding found its way into the prayer recited when the maniple is put on: “Merear, Domine, portare manipulum fletus et doloris; ut cum exsultatione recipiam mercedem laboris” (May I deserve, O Lord, to bear the maniple of weeping and sorrow in order that I may joyfully reap the reward of my labors).

As we see, in the first part the prayer references the weeping and sorrow that accompany the priestly ministry, but in the second part the fruit of the work is noted. It would not be out of place to recall the passage of a Psalm that may have inspired the latter symbolism of the maniple.

The Vulgate renders Psalm 125:5-6 thus: “Qui seminant in lacrimis in exultatione metent; euntes ibant et flebant portantes semina sua, venientes autem venient in exultatione portantes manipulos suos” (They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. Going they went and wept, casting their seeds, but coming they shall come with joyfulness, carrying their maniples).

And remember: How to keep that maniple on your arm.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in "How To..." - Practical Notes and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. wchoag says:

    My pastor has begun wearing the maniple for all liturgies–OF and EF.

    I hope the parish deacon follows suit soon!

  2. JMGDD says:

    The priest of my old high-church Anglican parish still wore a maniple at every Mass, and would even “borrow” a mismatched one from another set of vestments if necessary. He told me it was symbolic of the towel with which Our Lord washed the feet of the disciples, reminding the priest that he is always a servant.

  3. basilorat says:

    I had discovered the reason why the priest removes the maniple after the Gospel, for the homily. Apparently it is a vestige of medieval days when, to distinguish the role of the priest acting “in persona Christi” as the celebrant of the Mass, he divested of, at one time all vestments, then the chasuble and maniple, to now just the maniple to deliver his panegyric because these were his own words, and not that necessarily the words of Christ or Christ speaking through the Church. Not sure how valid it is, but it is marvelous if true.

  4. JKnott says:

    Thank you basilorat!
    I have been wondering the same thing myself.
    Our pastor always removes the maniple for the sermon. The server helps him remove it and then put it back on before the Credo.

  5. Henry Edwards says:

    In their Masses that I have seen, the priests of the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest (ICK) generally remove not only the maniple but also the chasuble before approaching the pulpit for their sermon.

    This can be observed in the EWTN video of the solemn high Mass celebrated on 8/14/2008—the first anniversary of the implementation of Summorum Pontificum—at (Mother Angelica’s) Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Alabama. In this case the deacon preached the sermon, and we see him, after chanting the gospel and then incensing the celebrant, proceeding to the sedila where his dalmatic is removed before he goes to the pulpit.

    I understand this practice to illustrate the fact that, in the older form of Mass, the sermon was regarded not as part of the Mass, but as an interruption in it. So the priest removed his priestly vestments when he interrupted his celebration of the liturgy, and then replaced them when he resumed the liturgy.

    [I always take off my maniple before leaving the altar, but I almost never remove my chasuble before entering the pulpit.]

  6. Ignatius says:

    I have a question regarding the maniple. ¿How was it fixed/used by monastics which wore cowls instead of albs as their proper liturgical vestment under the chasuble, such as the Trappists? It seems that the ample sleeves of a cowl would make it very difficult to affix a maniple to it, doesn’t it?.

    Best regards,

  7. spock says:

    I believe that the topic of a NO celebrating Priest wearing a maniple was a topic a few months back. As I remember from the FSSP’s “Sensus Traditionis” website, the point of the removal of the maniple signifies that the Priest is stopping the rite of Mass, and that the readings in the vernacular and the homily in the Extraordinary form are not actually part of the Mass. In the new Mass, they are. So I guess a Priest celebrating the Ordinary form would never remove it at all during the Mass. (?) Seems to lessen its signification I think.

  8. spock: In the Novus Ordo I do not remove the maniple.

  9. Spock: I wonder whether it really lessens the signification. In the Holy Father’s vision of mutual enrichment, the faithful Christian who begins to notice such differences as the one currently under consideration will begin to ask, “why?” – and he will get an answer like the one the FSSP give, and that you cite (if he is lucky).


  10. Also, I am going to nit-pick the English translation of the verb form merear with, “May I deserve”: it ought to be, “May I be made worthy”.


  11. Chris Altieri: Be careful with mereo. It is a sneaky, slithery verb. It also comes along as mereor, mereri, deponent. In that form it can simply be “deserve”, which has a middle sense. Merear portare as “May I deserve to bear” is an accurate rendering.

  12. Dear Fr. Zuhlsdorf,

    Indeed, there is that deponent, mereor. That’s actually why I characterized my observation as a nit-pick.

    Your point about the middle sense is well-taken: in fact, I suspect that’s exactly it. I’m going from memory here, (in the mines and without my books, eheu!), but I think medieval Latin was pretty fast and loose with the middle sense, finding it in both forms (and perhaps here we find one of the reasons for which it was never a cause for concern to pray, [L]aetare…quia quem meruisti portare resurrexit).

    The trick for me is that, in the mens latina, the activity and contemporaneous passivitity of the middle sense is immediate and reflexive. In English, I am not so sure.

    I prefer to err on the side of God’s activity and man’s receptivity to grace that makes him worthy.


Comments are closed.