A chasuble, called a phelonion in Orthodox churches today, and in 2 Timothy 4:13, is an ornate circular garment with a hole in the center for the wearer’s head. When worn, it reaches to the wearer’s wrists, so that if the wearer holds both arms straight out, the chasuble forms a semi-circle when viewed from the front or the back. The chasuble is the descendant of a first-century paenula that was worn as a coat by both sexes. Today it connotes solemnity and formality. The chasuble can be worn by the celebrant during a Eucharistic service. Sometimes the celebrant puts the chasuble on over other vestments as part of the Eucharistic ceremony. Chasubles are used in Lutheran churches, particularly outside the United States, as well as in Anglican and Roman Catholic churches. From the customs of the day, we can infer that Jesus most likely wore a chasuble at the Last Supper.
The chasuble is always worn with a stole. Generally, the stole is under the chasuble. For us, the stole and chasuble combination is the equivalent of wearing a necktie and jacket. It is not appropriate to wear a chasuble in a service that does not include Communion (except for Good Friday and Holy Saturday services).
The Roman Empire had two modes of execution: non-citizens were thrown to wild animals, but citizens were beheaded with the sword. Therefore when Paul says that he escaped the lion’s mouth in 2 Timothy 4:17, he means he had successfully proved his Roman citizenship. In 2 Timothy 4:13, most translations vaguely refer to a garment or a cloak, but in the Greek, Paul asks Timothy to bring him the chasuble he had left behind in Troas. The design of Paul’s chasuble would have made his status as a Roman citizen obvious to any witnesses to his execution.
Therefore, when the celebrant is dressed in a chasuble, he is dressed like a Christian martyr who is ready to have his head chopped off for Christ, or like Jesus presiding over the Last Supper.
A stole, called an epitrachilion in Orthodox churches, is a long, narrow rectangular garment that is worn around the neck so that it hangs down in front of the wearer’s legs, ending below the knees. The stole merges the functions of two different things. First, ancient government officials wore a stole, just as today a policeman wears a badge. Second, slaves used to wear work cloth around their necks, for polishing things, and for wiping sweat from their faces. In the church, the stole functions as a badge of office to mark the wearer as ordained clergy. It can also function as a cloth that the celebrant uses to clean the Communionware as part of the service. For those reasons, the stole became a Eucharistic garment.