Ok, here's a question I'll throw out there to y'all. I've been reflecting a lot on my churchmanship and its development and in so doing I've been trying to recall the way the Liturgy was celebrated at my home church growing up, in detail. One of the points I remember is that the Celebrant (Presider) always crossed his stole in the front of his alb, rather than wearing it with both ends hanging equally straight down. The assisting priest usually wore his stole hanging striaght down and so growing up, I thought this was to symbolically designate who was the celebrant and who was the assistant. Then, last year, I was back home visiting and had a chance to serve at the Altar with the Rector Emeritus who was taking the 7:30am service that day. He was explaining a great deal to me in the Sacristy as we prepared for the Mass. One of the things he said, as he was vesting, was that the priest always crosses the stole in front, that only the Bishop has the strength to wear the stole hanging straight down. I was taking in so much information at that time that I just let everything wash over me. Now, I have grown curious about that point again.
Why is this done? Why do some priests cross their stole over their chests? I have looked it up. The Episcopal Church's website acknowledged the practice but did not comment on reasoning.
A Roman Catholic website addressed the issue from the perspective of "legality" and acknowledged that traditionally only those with the privilege of wearing pectoral crosses could have their stole uncrossed.
But I can't find a succinct reason why this practice developed and then fell into disuse except among more traditional clergy. Anyone out there want to hazard an opinion or a definitive answer?