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Vestments are liturgical garments and articles associated primarily with the Christian religion, especially among the Eastern Orthodox, Catholics (Latin Church and others), Anglicans, and Lutherans. Many other groups also make use of liturgical garments; this was a point of controversy in the Protestant Reformation and sometimes since, in particular during the Ritualist controversies in England in the 19th century.
For other garments worn by clergy, see also clerical clothing.
In the early Christian churches, officers and leaders, like their congregations, wore the normal dress of civil life in the Greco-Roman world, although with an expectation that the clothing should be clean and pure during holy observances. From the 4th century onward, however, modifications began to be made to the form of the garments, and as secular fashions changed from the 6th century the church retained the original forms of their garments, although with separate development and with regional variations. The Catholic churches had essentially established their final forms in the 13th century.
The Reformation brought about a new approach towards simplicity, especially under the influence of Calvinism. The Church of England experienced its own controversies over the proper use of vestments.The resulting varieties of liturgical dress are described below.
The rubrics (regulations) for the type of vestments to be worn vary between the various communions and denominations. In some, clergy are directed to wear special clerical clothing in public at all, most, or some times. This generally consists of a clerical collar, clergy shirt, and (on certain occasions) a cassock. In the case of members of religious orders, non-liturgical wear includes a religious habit. This ordinary wear does not constitute liturgical vestment, but simply acts as a means of identifying the wearer as a member of the clergy or a religious order.
A distinction is often made between the type of vestment worn for Holy Eucharist or Holy Communion and that worn for other services. Non-Eucharistic vestments are typically referred to as "choir dress" or "choir habit" in the Roman Catholic, Orthodox, and Anglican churches, because they are worn for the chanting of the Daily Office, which, in the West, takes place in the choir rather than the sanctuary. In other traditions, there is no specific name for this attire, although it often takes the form of a Geneva gown worn with or without preaching bands and a stole or preaching scarf.
In the more ancient traditions, each vestment—or at least the stole—will have a cross on it, which the clergy kiss before putting it on. A number of churches also have special vesting prayers which are recited before putting each vestment on, especially the Eucharistic vestments.
For the Eucharist, each vestment symbolizes a spiritual dimension of the priesthood, with roots in the very origins of the Church. In some measure these vestments harken to the Roman roots of the Western Church.
Use of the following vestments varies. Some are used by all Western Christians in liturgical traditions. Many are used only in the Roman Catholic and Anglican churches, and there is much variation within each of those churches.
Among the Paleo-Orthodoxy and Emerging Church movements in Protestant and evangelical churches, which includes many Methodists and Presbyterians, clergy are moving away from the traditional black Geneva gown and reclaiming not only the more ancient Eucharist vestments of alb and chasuble, but also cassock and surplice (typically a full length Old English style surplice which resembles the Celtic alb, an ungirdled liturgical tunic of the old Gallican Rite).
In the Eastern Orthodox Church and Eastern Catholic Churches, any member of the clergy of whatever rank will be vested when serving his particular function during the Divine Liturgy or other service. As in the Latin Church, the use of vestments is rooted in the early history of the church. The various vestments serve several different functions. The three forms of stole (Orarion, Epitrachelion, and Omophorion) are marks of rank. The three outer garments (Sticharion, Phelonion, and Sakkos) serve to distinguish the clergy from the laity. Some are practical (Zone and Epimanikia), holding the other vestments in place. Some (Nabedrennik and Epigonation) are awards of distinction.
In addition to these functions, most vestments carry a symbolic meaning as well. These symbolic meanings are often indicated by the prayer that the priest says as he puts each item on. These prayers are verses taken directly from the Old Testament, usually the Psalms. For example, the prayer for the Sticharion is from Isaiah 61:10:
Despite their often elaborate design, the vestments are generally intended to focus attention on God, and the office of the person wearing them, rather than on the person himself. It is partly for this reason that a Russian phelonion is designed with a very high back, so that when the priest is standing facing the altar his head is almost completely hidden. Other items, such as the epimanikia or cuffs, represent manacles or chains, reminding the wearer and others that their office is a position of service.
|Priest vested for Liturgy, |
this is an Exomologos (confessor Priest)
who, in the Greek tradition, has the honor of wearing the Epigonation.
|Priest vested for Liturgy||Priest vested for Vespers |
and smaller services
|Protodeacon vested for Liturgy||Subdeacon vested for Liturgy||Altar Server/Chanter vested for Liturgy|
|Bishop||Priest with grey Zostikon, a |
Kontorasson and wearing a Skufia.
|Priest||Hieromonk||Schemamonk||Monk in an Exorasson||Reader/Subdeacon/Deacon |
dressed in the Zostikon
Within the Oriental Orthodox and Oriental Catholics there is much variance as to what vestments are used.
In these Churches, generally only a white robe will be used for the Eucharistic service. On more solemn occasions, an epitrachelion-like vestment is worn, and sometimes a vestment resembling a cope is worn. Priests and bishops always carry a Hand Cross during services. Deacons wear either an orarion crossed over the left shoulder, or brought around the back (where the two pieces form a cross) and then hanging down in front (not crossed), secured by the cross piece.
In these Churches, a more full set of vestments is used. Apart from the usual Sticharion (called Kutino in Syriac), Epitrachelion (called Hamnikho), Zone (called Zenoro), and Epimanikia (called Zende), a priest will wear a Cope-like vestment called a Phanyo. Prelates will in addition wear a hood-like head-covering called a Masnaphto over the Kutino and under the Phanyo. Prelates will also wear a Batrashil or Pallium (similar to an Epitrachelion but reaching down in both front and back) as well as Pectoral Icons. In addition, they will have a vestment similar to the Epigonation worn attached the Zenoro on the right side (called a Sakro) and will carry a crosier and hand cross. Deacons wear the Kutino and an Orarion (called an Uroro) in different ways depending on their order:
|Syriac Patriarch||Syriac Bishop||Coptic Priest||Syriac Priest||Syriac Priest |
Subdeacon is a title used in various branches of Christianity.
An acolyte is an assistant or follower assisting the celebrant in a religious service or procession. In many Christian denominations, an acolyte is anyone performing ceremonial duties such as lighting altar candles. In others, the term is used for one who has been inducted into a particular liturgical ministry, even when not performing those duties.
A surplice is a liturgical vestment of the Western Christian Church. The surplice is in the form of a tunic of white linen or cotton fabric, reaching to the knees, with wide or moderately wide sleeves.
The cassock or soutane is a Christian clerical clothing coat used by the clergy of the Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church, in addition to certain Protestant denominations such as Anglicans and Lutherans. "Ankle-length garment" is the literal meaning of the corresponding Latin term, vestis talaris. It is related to the habit, which is traditionally worn by nuns, monks, and friars.
An altar server is a lay assistant to a member of the clergy during a Christian liturgy. An altar server attends to supporting tasks at the altar such as fetching and carrying, ringing the altar bell, among other things. If young, the server is commonly called an altar boy or altar girl. In some Christian denominations, altar servers are known as acolytes.
The stole is a liturgical vestment of various Christian denominations. It consists of a band of colored cloth, formerly usually of silk, about seven and a half to nine feet long and three to four inches wide, whose ends may be straight or may broaden out. The center of the stole is worn around the back of the neck and the two ends hang down parallel to each other in front, either attached to each other or hanging loose. The stole is almost always decorated in some way, usually with a cross or some other significant religious design. It is often decorated with contrasting galloons and fringe is usually applied to the ends of the stole following Numbers 15:38-39. A piece of white linen or lace may be stitched onto the back of the collar as a sweat guard, which can be replaced more cheaply than the stole itself.
The chasuble is the outermost liturgical vestment worn by clergy for the celebration of the Eucharist in Western-tradition Christian churches that use full vestments, primarily in Roman Catholic, Anglican, and Lutheran churches. In the Eastern Orthodox Churches and in the Eastern Catholic Churches, the equivalent vestment is the phelonion.
The dalmatic is a long, wide-sleeved tunic, which serves as a liturgical vestment in the Catholic, Lutheran, Anglican, United Methodist, and some other churches. When used, it is the proper vestment of a deacon at Mass or other services. Although infrequent, it may also be worn by bishops above the alb and below the chasuble, and is then referred to as pontifical dalmatic.
The alb, is one of the liturgical vestments of the Roman Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, and Methodist churches, is an ample white garment coming down to the ankles and is usually girdled with a cincture. It is simply the long, white linen tunic used by the ancient Romans.
The cope is a liturgical vestment, more precisely a long mantle or cloak, open in front and fastened at the breast with a band or clasp. It may be of any liturgical colour.
The Geneva gown, also called a pulpit gown, pulpit robe, or preaching robe, is an ecclesiastical garment customarily worn by ordained ministers in the Christian churches that arose out of the historic Protestant Reformation. It is particularly associated with Protestant churches of the Reformed and Methodist tradition.
The sticharion is a liturgical vestment of the Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Catholic Churches, roughly analogous in function to the alb of the Western Church. The sticharion is worn by all classes of ordained ministers in the Constantinopolitan Rite and comes in two forms: one worn by priests and one worn by deacon and other altar servers.
The epitrachelion is the liturgical vestment worn by priests and bishops of the Orthodox Church and Eastern Catholic Churches as the symbol of their priesthood, corresponding to the Western stole. It is essentially the orarion adapted for priests and bishops, worn around the neck with the two ends hanging down equally in front and with the two adjacent sides sewn or buttoned together up the center, leaving enough space through which to place the head. In practice, the epitrachelion is made to be worn only this way, tailored to lie flat around the neck, and is never actually unfastened. The portion hanging down in front is sometimes even a solid piece of fabric. It is usually made of brocade with seven embroidered or appliquéd crosses, one at the back of the neck and three down each side. The epitrachelion is the only required vestment whenever a priest is conducting an Orthodox service; without it, he is unable to perform the service.
In some Christian churches, a reader is responsible for reading aloud excerpts of scripture at a liturgy. In early Christian times the reader was of particular value due to the rarity of literacy.
A rochet is a white vestment generally worn by a Roman Catholic or Anglican bishop in choir dress. It is unknown in the Eastern churches. The rochet in its Roman form is similar to a surplice, except that the sleeves are narrower. In its Anglican form it is a descendant of the traditional albs worn by deacons and priests. In the Roman Catholic tradition, the rochet comes below the knee and its sleeves and hem are sometimes made of lace; in the Anglican tradition, the rochet comes down almost to the hem of the cassock and its sleeves are gathered at the wrist.
Epimanikia are liturgical vestments of the Eastern Orthodox Church and Eastern Catholic Churches. They are cuffs made of thickened fabric, usually brocade, that lace onto the wrists of a bishop, priest, or deacon. There is usually a cross embroidered or appliquéd to the center.
Clerical clothing is non-liturgical clothing worn exclusively by clergy. It is distinct from vestments in that it is not reserved specifically for services. Practices vary: is sometimes worn under vestments, and sometimes as the everyday clothing or street wear of a priest, minister, or other clergy member. In some cases, it can be similar or identical to the habit of a monk or nun.
Choir dress is the traditional vesture of the clerics, seminarians and religious of Christian churches worn for public prayer and the administration of the sacraments except when celebrating or concelebrating the Eucharist. It differs from the vestments worn by the celebrants of the Eucharist, being normally made of fabrics such as wool, cotton or silk, as opposed to the fine brocades used in vestments. It may also be worn by lay assistants such as acolytes and choirs. It was abandoned by most of the Churches which originated in the sixteenth-century Reformation.
Pontifical vestments, also referred to as episcopal vestments or pontificals, are the liturgical vestments worn by bishops in the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Eastern Catholic, Anglican, and some Lutheran churches, in addition to the usual priestly vestments for the celebration of the Mass and the other sacraments. The pontifical vestments are only worn when celebrating or presiding over liturgical functions. As such, the garments should not be confused with choir dress, which are worn when attending liturgical functions but not celebrating or presiding.
The liturgical vestments of the Christian churches grew out of normal civil clothing, but the dress of church leaders began to be differentiated as early as the 4th century. By the end of the 13th century the forms used in the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches had become established, while the Reformation led to changes in Protestant churches from the 16th century onward.
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