As a priest dons his/her stole, the cross on the stole’s neckpiece is kissed acknowledging the yoke of Christ - the yoke of service. A bishop’s stole hangs straight down allowing space for a pectoral cross (often worn by bishops) to be symbolically close to the bishop’s heart. From the seventh century until the reforms of Vatican II, a priest’s stole crossed the chest (right arm of the stole over the left), and the position of the stole visually separated priests from bishops. In this paradigm, when a deacon was ordained to the priesthood, the ordaining bishop would swing the stole which was crossed on the former deacon’s right side to where the stole’s arms crossed over the newly ordained priest’s heart. The reforms of Vatican II stated, “The stole is worn by the priest around his neck and hanging down in front.” Some theologians have argued that this canon does not prohibit a priest from crossing the stole, and a crossed stole may be an attractive “fill-in” in lieu of a pectoral cross. Anglican theologians argue that whether the stole is crossed or hanging down in front is a matter of personal preference.
~ Dr. Gil Haas
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