DRAWINGS COMING SOON!
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Liturgical vestments were worn by the clergy from very early times. They were patterned
for the most part after the outdoor dress of Roman aristocrats and government officials whose dress
was prescribed by law. Some of these early garments are the tunic, alb (or sticharion), the phelonion
(or chasuble), and the stole. These vestments were added to and refined by the Church through the
centuries until we have the vestments worn in the Eastern Church today.
We will take a look at each of these vestments and learn their names, meaning, use and the prayers
said while putting them on. As we begin, let us first look at the vestments which are common to the
bishop, priest, and deacon in the Orthodox Church. Each of the items is listed with as many of its
various names as possible in parentheses. These vestments are the Alb (Sticharion, Stikhar, Tunic),
Stole (Orarion, Epitrachelion), and the Cuffs (Porutchi, Epimanikia). As these are described below,
look for their pictures in the actual text.
The Alb of the bishop and priest differs slightly from that of the deacon. The deacon's Alb is usually
made of a brocade (a heavy woven and ornate fabric) material, is loose fitting, and has full sleeves
open at the wrist. The Alb of the bishop and priest is loose fitting, made of a plain material like
cotton, silk, or satin and ties with cords at the ends of the sleeves so that they fit snugly. Both are
slipped over the head and cover the body from the neck to the ankle.
The deacon's Alb (Sticharion) is worn as an outer garment. The bishop's and priest's is an inner
garment. The word Alb (Sticharion) means "to walk with order." When it is white, it symbolizes
the baptismal garment, spiritual purity, and godliness as well as the garment worn by the angel who
rolled back the stone at the tomb of Christ on the morning that the Resurrection was discovered (
Matthew 28:2-4). If it is red, it symbolizes the scarlet robe put on Christ when he was mocked by
the soldiers before His crucifixion.
Prayer: While putting on the Alb, the following prayer is said. "I will greatly rejoice in the
Lord, my soul shall exult in my God; for He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He
has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland,
and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels". (Isaiah 61:10)
The Stole of the bishop and priest also differs from that of the deacon in other ways. Another word
for Stole is Epitrachelion which means "on the neck." The stole of the bishop and priest are worn
in just that way. They are usually made of a liturgical brocade material which is draped over the
neck and hangs down to the top of the shoes. They may have seven crosses on them, one at the
top behind the neck, and three down each side of the stole. Often there are rows of fringe at the bottom
of the stole, three for the bishop and two for the priest. The seven crosses represent the seven
sacraments and the fringe represents the rank of ordination; the priest is the second order and the
bishop the third.
The stole of the bishop and priest represents the Grace of the Holy Spirit descending on them. In
the Old Testament this was signified by the pouring of ointment on the head, beard, and garment.
This is reflected in the prayer which is said when this vestment is put on. The stole of the deacon
is a long ribbon of brocade material which is wrapped around the body and hung over the left
shoulder. It represents the angels wings and is often embroidered with the Angelic Hymn: Holy,
Prayer: The prayer said while putting on the stole is "Blessed is our God who pours out His
grace upon His Priests, like precious oil upon the head,running down upon the beard, upon the
beard of Aaron, running down on the collar of his robes!" (Psalm 133:1-2)
The cuffs are the same for bishop, priest, and deacon. They are made of a brocade material and
worn on each wrist. In the case of a deacon, they are tied to the wrist under the Alb. The bishop
and priest wear the cuffs tied over the wrists of the Alb which has been folded and tied underneath
them. The cuffs show that our trust must be put only in the strength and aid of the Lord. They
symbolize the bonds that Christ was bound with when He was delivered to Pontius Pilate. Each
has a spiritual meaning. The right cuff reminds us of God's creating power and Christ's power over
his enemies both visible and invisible. The left cuff symbolizes spiritual energy and the pure
intentions of the clergy who are celebrating the services. The cuffs serve the function of keeping
the long sleeves of the vestments from getting in the way of other things on the altar.
Prayer: The prayer said while putting on the right cuff is as follows: "Thy right hand, O Lord,
is glorious in power, Thy right hand, O Lord, shatters the enemy. In the greatness of Thy majesty
Thou overthroweth Thy adversaries." (Exodus 15:6-7)
The bishop and priest share several other vestments. They are the Belt (Zone, Poyas), and the Palitsa
(Epigonation). The Belt is worn over the stole and around the waist. It is made of a brocade material
and serves to hold the stole in place during the service. It symbolizes the gift of strength given by
God to those who serve Him and calls the celebrant to a blameless life and purity of soul and body.
Prayer: The prayer said while putting on the belt is "Blessed is our God who girded me with
strength, and made my way safe. He made my feet like hind's feet and set me secure on the
heights." (Psalm 18:32-33)
The Sword (Palitsa) is worn by the Bishop and Priest on the right side, hanging by the thigh. It is
given to Priests as a sign of honor. It reminds us of the zeal for the faith and salvation of Christ's
people. It is a symbol of the "Sword of the Spirit," which is God's word. (Ephesians 6:17)
Prayer: The prayer that is said while putting on the Sword reflects this. "Gird your sword upon
your thigh, O Mighty One, in your glory and majesty! In your majesty ride forth victoriously
for the cause of truth and to defend the right; let your right hand teach you dread deeds!"
The last of the Priest's vestments is the Chasuble (Phelonion, Felon). It is one of the most ancient
vestments, perhaps worn by St. Paul as we hear mentioned in 1 Timothy 4:13. St. Paul speaks of
the cloak (Phelonion) which he left at Troas with Carpus. It was originally the outer vestment of
both the Bishop and Priest, but later the Bishop began wearing the Sakkos and the Priests retained
the Chasuble. The Chasuble is a large cape-like vestment which is slipped over the head of the
Priest and is cut waist high in the front and hangs down to the top of the shoes in the back. It is made
of brocade material and usually has an icon, cross or symbol on the back. The Chasuble is symbolic
of the scarlet robe placed on Christ when He was mocked prior to His crucifixion.
Prayer: The prayer said while the Priest puts on this vestment: "Let Thy Priests be clothed with
righteousness, and let Thy saints shout for joy." (Psalm 132:9)
The remaining vestments are worn by the bishop alone. They are the Dalmatic (Sakkos), Pall
(bishop's stole, Omofor, Omoforion) and the Crown (Mitre).
The Dalmatic is similar to the Alb worn by the deacon. It's name means "bag" or garment. It is
the outer vestment of the bishop worn over the Alb, Stole, and Belt. The Palitsa is kept outside of
the Dalmatic when it is buttoned. It is worn by the bishop in place of the Chasuble of the priest.
The Dalmatic is made of a liturgical brocade material like the Alb of a deacon, but it is short-sleeved
and hangs down just below the knees. It is fastened on the sides with small bells and loops. The
bells are like those worn by the High Priest Aaron so that their "sound shall be heard when he goes
into the holy place before the Lord, and when he comes out." (Exodus 28:33-35) This reminds us
that the bishop must continually preach the word of God without fear. The Dalmatic itself
symbolizes Christ's coat without seam, woven from top to bottom.
Prayer: The prayer said by the bishop while putting on the Dalmatic is the same as that of the
Priest putting on the Chasuble: "Let Thy Priests be clothed with righteousness, and let Thy
saints shout for joy." (Psalm 132:9)
The Pall is the bishop's stole. It is worn over the Dalmatic around the neck, over the shoulders
much like a scarf from which it originated. It's name means to bear on the shoulders and it reminds
us of Christ the Good Shepherd who bears the sheep on His shoulders and brings him back to His
Father's house. The Pall was originally made of lamb's wool because of this symbolism but is now
made of a liturgical brocade material to match the rest of the bishop's vestments. The Pall also
corresponds to the breastplate in the vestments of the High Priest in the Jewish Temple (Exodus
28:15-30). It also signifies the cross which Christ carried on His shoulder, the insults and persecu-
tions suffered by the followers of Christ which should be endured with patience and long-suffering,
and our human nature which Christ took on His shoulders and carried to His Father in Heaven.
Prayer: The prayer said by the Bishop while putting on the Pall reminds us of these meanings:
"When Thou hadst taken upon Thy shoulders human nature which had gone astray,O Christ,
Thou didst bear it to heaven, unto Thy God and Father."
The last of the bishop's vestments is the Crown (Mitre). It is symbolic of the power given to the
bishop in the Church. It also represents the crown of thorns placed on Christ's head. The Crown
or Mitre is believed to have been derived from the jeweled turban borrowed by the Byzantines from
the Persians. It is not older than the 15th Century in its use. The Crown also corresponds to the
Mitre worn by the Jewish High Priest in the Old Testament. (Exodus 28:4; 37-39) It was first worn
only by the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople when he took the crown of the Byzantine
emperors. Later other patriarchs and then bishops used the Crown and still later in some traditions,
the crown was given to archimandrites (an unmarried priest), abbots (the head of a monastery) and
certain archpriests (married priests). The Crown is made of fine material and gold thread. It is
adorned with jewels and icons and may have a jeweled cross on the very top.
Prayer: The prayer that the bishop says while putting on the Crown is; "The Lord dost set a
crown of fine gold upon his head. He asked life of Thee; Thou gavest it to him, length of days
for ever and ever." (Psalm 21:3-4)
Each of the vestments of the deacon, priest, and bishop have a rich tradition and are filled with
meaning. When the clergy enter into the church to perform the sacred services, the world is left
behind. They clothe themselves in spiritually meaningful vestments as they prepare to celebrate the
holy services in the church. Each vestment is reverently blessed, kissed and put on while the vesting
prayer is recited. Most of us never witness this vesting ceremony, but now you can build your own
deacon, priest, and bishop.
The Bishop's Mantle (Mantiya) is a monastic vestment that slips over the bishop's head and covers
the whole body. It flows freely and is symbolic of angels' wings. It is often called the "Angelic
Vestment." The folds of the Mantle symbolize God's power which embraces all things as well as
the stictness, meekness and piety of the monastic life. The bishop's Mantie differs from that of a
monk in that the monk's Mantle is black and the bishop's is usually purple in color. Sewed on the
Mantle at the neck are two squares which represent the "tables of the law" and the Old and New
Testament. There are also colored ribbons which are called "Rivers" or "Fountains" and represent
the doctrines of the Old and New Testament which are said to flow out of the mouth of the bishop
like rivers just as the Lord said: "He that believeth in me, out of his belly (his heart) shall flow rivers
of living water." (John 5:8) On the bottom of the Mantle are two other squares called the "poles"
which show that the truth from both the Old and New Testament have watered the entire world from
pole to pole.
The Pectoral Cross is worn by the Bishop and is also given as an award to archimandrites and
archpriests. The bishop's cross is made of gold or silver and ornamented with jewels. It is worn
on a long chain which allows it to hang from the neck over the vestments to the breast. Wearing
the cross shows that the bishop must always carry His cross and follow Christ by keeping His
Prayer: The prayer said while the bishop puts on the Cross over his vestments is: "The Lord
said If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow
me'." (Matthew 16:24)
The Panagia (Engolpion), which means "all holy," is a large circular or oval icon worn only by the
bishop. It usually contains an icon of our Lord and His Mother and is ornamented with jewels and
precious stones. It is suspended by a chain hanging from the neck and reaches to the breast. It is
worn along side the Pectoral Cross. It is a reminder to the Bishop to always bear the Lord and His
Mother in his heart and to keep his heart pure in all that he does.
Build Your Own + 6
Prayer: The prayer reflects this as the bishop says: "Create in me a clean heart, O God, and
renew a right spirit within me." (Psalm 50:10)
The Crosier (Posokh, Staff) is made of metal or some other strong material and is about the height
of a man. It has two branches at the top shaped like serpents which curve toward the top and is
adorned with a cross. This staff represents the fatherly care which bishops should show towards
their flock as their father and chief shepherd. He is to lead them to salvation by declaring God's
word. He is also to guide those who have gone astray and banish those who are out to destroy the
flock of Christ. The two serpents' heads symbolize the visible and invisible enemies of the church
and the cross shows that the bishop must overcome them by the power of the cross of Jesus Christ.
Prayer: When the Bishop takes up the Crosier he says: "The Lord sends forth from Zion your
mighty scepter. Rule in the midst of your foes!" (Psalm 110:2)
The Bishop also uses two candlesticks during the divine services. One is three-branched (Trikiri)
and the other is two-branched (Dikiri). These candlesticks are often carried by the Deacons during
the services and the Bishop blesses the faithful with them at other times during the services. The
three-branched candlestick represents the undivided Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The
two-branched candlestick represents the two natures of Christ, both God and man. The bishop
blesses the people with the candles carrying the three-branched candlestick in his right hand and
the two-branched candlestick in his left.
Prayer: When the bishop is finished vesting, the deacon takes up the candlesticks in his hands
and says the following prayer: "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good
works and give glory to your Father who is in Heaven." (Matthew 5:16)
The Eagle rug (Orletz) is a small circular carpet on which the Bishop stands. It shows an eagle
flying over a city. It is placed about the church where the Bishop is to stand, such as before his
throne and in front of the Holy Altar. The Eagle Rug shows that the bishop is to rule over the city
since each bishop is made the bishop of a particular city. The soaring eagle shows the loftiness and
purity of the bishop's teachings and that he must soar above all earthly things and seek the heavenly