Liturgical Vestment Colors of the Orthodox Church

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Methodius
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Liturgical Vestment Colors of the Orthodox Church

Postby Methodius » Tue 21 October 2003 6:27 pm

Adapted from an article in the Assumption Orthodox Quarterly
Summer 1991

The Vestments

The Orthodox clergy wear two kinds of robes, non-liturgical and liturgical. The non-liturgical robes are the ordinary daily clothing of the clergy, worn underneath ‘liturgical robes’. Liturgical robes, or ‘vestments’, are worn during church services.

The non-liturgical robes are called cassocks (Greek rason, Slavonic podriasnik) and outer cassocks (Greek exo-rason, Slavonic riassa). Cassocks are floor-length garments that have long sleeves fitted like shirtsleeves. Outer cassocks are also floor-length garments, but they’re more loosely fitting, with very large sleeves.

In the Russian tradition, because monastic clergy wear dark colored cassocks (usually black, dark blue, or dark brown) and married clergy wear whatever color cassocks they have (often lighter colors), they’re referred to as black clergy and white clergy. In Russia, before the Revolution of 1917, this color scheme was true of both under and outer cassocks. Also, the color of sleeve lining of the riassa [outer cassock] signified the rank of the priest. In modern Russia, the clergy use dark colors for riassas, using other colors only for under cassocks. They no longer use colored sleeve linings to denote rank. However, since Russian-tradition Churches outside Russia were not affected by the changes in the Soviet Union after 1917, many Russian-tradition clergy outside Russia, especially in America, continue the pre-1917 styles of dress to the present day.

The practice of wearing colored cassocks comes from the times called Turkocracia, the Turkish rule, or ‘Turkish yoke’. Moslem clergy reserved the right to wear white or black thinking to humiliate the Christian clergy by forcing them to wear bright colored clothing. Once the Greek Church was free of Turkish rule, they dropped the practice of wearing colored cassocks. But the Russian clergy had copied the practice of the Greek clergy and it had become part of the Russian style.

By the way, Greek-tradition clergy wear colored under-cassocks in the tropical and equatorial climes. Cream, gray, and tan are popular. Also, blue under-cassocks are not uncommon (no matter what climate zone).

It is proper to wear a belt on the under-cassock. In the Greek tradition, the belt’s no more than a ribbon or cord tied around the waist. But in the Serbian and Romanian Churches, these belts signify the rank of the priest. In the Russian Church, the belt is often quite elaborate. The late Archbishop John (Garklavs) of Chicago seemed to always wear belts embroidered with roses.

Wearing the under- and outer-cassocks is common to bishops, priests, deacons, monks and nuns. Permission to wear a cassock is often given to seminarians, monastic novices, and sub-deacons and readers in parishes.

As for vestments, when the Typikon says anything about them at all, it only specifies ‘light’ or ‘dark’ vestments, so local tradition is the only ‘standard’. In the Orthodox Church, six liturgical colors are used: white, green, purple, red, blue, and gold. Later, black vestments also came into use. In some places, scarlet orange or rust color is used.

You could assign meanings to the different colors: white for the pure light of God’s energy; green, the color of life, for the Holy Spirit and the wood of the cross; purple for the suffering of Christ; deep red for the blood on the Cross, blood of the martyrs; blue for the Mother of God; and gold for the richness of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and bright red for the fiery flame of the Spiritual Host. Black is traditionally the color of death and mourning in the West, but in the far East white is the color of death and mourning. In Russia, red is the color of beauty, brightness and joy. None of this is written down in the rules, and different colors obviously have different meanings for different peoples.

It is therefore easier to describe various customs than it is to say what are ‘proper’ and ‘improper’ colors to use. Below, we give the most common uses for colors in the Orthodox Church, especially in the Russian (Moscow) and Carpatho-Russian, Ukrainian, or ‘Little Russian’ tradition.

The Colors

Here is what the Russian Church’s Nastol’naya Kniga Sviashchenno-sluzhitelia says about colors:

The most important Feasts of the Orthodox Church and the sacred events for which specific colors of vestments have been established, can be united into six basic groups.
The group of feasts and days commemorating Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Prophets, the Apostles and the Holy Hierarchs. Vestment color: Gold (yellow) of all shades.
The group of feasts and days commemorating the Most Holy Mother of God, the Bodiless Powers and Virgins. Vestment color: Light blue and white.
The group of feasts and days commemorating the Cross of Our Lord. Vestment color: Purple or dark red.
The group of feasts and days commemorating martyrs. Vestment color: Red. [On Great and Holy Thursday, dark red vestments are worn, even though the church is still covered with black and the Holy (Altar) Table is covered with a white cloth.]
The group of feasts and days commemorating monastic saints, ascetics and fools for Christ. Vestment color: Green. The Entrance of Our Lord into Jerusalem (Palm Sunday), Holy Trinity Day (Pentecost) and Holy Spirit Day (Monday after Pentecost) are, as a rule, celebrated in green vestments of all shades.
During the Lenten periods, the vestment colors are: Dark blue, purple, dark green, dark red and black. This last color is used essentially for the days of Great Lent. During the first week of that Lent and on the weekdays of the following weeks, the vestment color is black. On Sundays and Feast days of this period, the vestments are of a dark color with gold or colored ornaments. Funerals, as a rule, are done in white vestments.

In earlier times, there were no black vestments in the Orthodox Church, although the everyday clothing of the clergy, especially the monastics, was black. In ancient times, both in the Greek and in the Russian Churches, the clergy wore, according to the Typikon, "Crimson Vestments": dark (blood) red vestments. In Russia, it was first proposed to the clergy of Saint Petersburg to wear black vestments, if possible, to participate in the Funeral of Emperor Peter II [1821]. From that time on, black vestments became customary for funerals and the weekday services of Great Lent.

Colors According to Various Local Customs

White is worn for the feasts and post-feasts of Epiphany, Transfiguration, and Pascha. In antiquity, Christmas and Epiphany were celebrated as one feast, Theophany of the Lord, so, in some places, white is worn on Christmas day, but gold is worn from the second day of Christmas until Epiphany. In Muscovite custom, the Church and the vestments of the priest are changed to white at the prokeimenon of the Holy Saturday Liturgy. And then white is worn until the end of Paschal Matins, and bright red is worn at the Paschal Liturgy and throughout the Paschal season. In some places in Russia, white is worn from Ascension to Pentecost, but in other places, gold is worn for those days. In Carpatho-Russian style, in the Paschal season, white, exclusively, is worn. White, the color of the Resurrection is worn at funerals and memorial services. Also, interestingly, in Russia, at liturgy on Holy Thursday, a white altar cover is used to represent the linen tablecloth of the Last Supper [the priest wears dark red, and the church remains in black until after the liturgy, when the priest’s vestments return to black].

Green is worn for Pentecost and its post-feast, feasts of prophets, and angels. In some places, green is worn for the Elevation of the Cross in September. In Carpatho-Russian practice, green is worn from Pentecost until the Saints Peter and Paul fast. Green is often worn for Palm Sunday.

Gold is worn from Christmas to Epiphany, and in some places, during the Nativity fast. Gold is worn when no other color is specified. In one tradition, gold is worn on all Sundays (except when white is worn), including even the Sundays in all the fasting periods. In Carpatho-Russian style, gold is worn from the eve of Ascension to the eve of Pentecost.

Red, especially dark red or ‘blood red’, is worn for the Saints Peter and Paul fast, the Nativity fast, Elevation of the Cross (Sept 15), and for all feasts of martyrs. Bright red would be worn for Saints Peter and Paul feast, and for the Angels. In Moscow style, on Mount Athos, and at Jerusalem, bright red is worn on Pascha [after Matins] and on the Nativity.

Blue is worn for all feasts of the Virgin, Presentation of the Lord, Annunciation, and sometimes on the fifth Friday of Lent (Akathist). In Carpatho-Russian parishes, blue is worn for the Dormition fast and feast, and then is worn until the Elevation of the Cross, sometimes even until the Nativity fast.

Purple is worn on weekends of Lent (black is worn weekdays). In some places, purple is worn on weekdays of Lent (gold on weekends).

Black is worn for weekdays in Lent, especially the first week of Lent and in Holy Week. In Carpatho-Russian, formerly Uniate parishes, black is worn on all weekdays for funerals and memorial services and liturgies, as is done in the Roman Catholic Church, though this is not universally true any more.

Orange or rust is worn in some places for the Saints Peter and Paul fast, and in other places for Saints Peter and Paul feast through the Transfiguration.

Please note that ‘feast’ refers to the period from the vigil of the feast until it’s apodosis, or ‘putting away,’ usually called the ‘post-feast’. The lengths of these post-feasts vary and are given in the Liturgical Calendar and Rubrics. Generally speaking, there is a post-feast of about a week for each of the twelve major feasts.

As you can see, there is great variety in ways of doing things. In the Western Church, six colors are used: white, red, rose, green, purple and black. Blue and gold are not used. Black is worn on Good Friday, and at requiem masses.

In many parishes the covering on the altar and other tables, other cloths and hangings, the curtain behind the Royal Doors, and even the glass containers for the vigil candles are changed to the liturgical color of the season.

In parishes of the Greek tradition, it is customary for the vigil glasses and curtain behind the Royal Doors to remain red in color at all times. Because of the association of the Gospel story of the curtain in the temple being ‘torn in two’ at the time of the earthquake when our Lord was crucified, and the story of the eggs carried by Pontius Pilate’s wife all turning red (and our use of red eggs at Pascha) the custom is for the curtain behind the Royal Doors to remain red. Remember that this rich deep reddish purple color is also the ancient color of royalty, and for that reason, it is used behind the Royal Doors and as a drapery on the Golgotha and in other places associated with our Lord and His Mother.

See the Nastol’naya Kniga Sviashchenno-sluzhitelia, Volume 4, Moscow, 1983, Translated in The Messenger of St. Andrew’s Russian Orthodox Cathedral, Philadelphia, June, July-August, September, 1999.

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The Symbolism of Vestments

Postby Methodius » Tue 21 October 2003 6:28 pm

Visitors to an Orthodox church service may ask why it is that our clergy wear such seemingly peculiar garments. Accustomed to the sight of a priest in his Sunday vestments, we Orthodox Christians are rarely able to give a satisfactory explanation and our response is often Limited to something about "the beauty of the Church." While it is not necessary for us to become experts on .thhis subject, we could benefit from a closer examination of church vestments-their historical origin and their significance-not only to be able to answer questions, But also to help ourselves enter more deeply into the services.

The historical origin and development of church vestments is a rather complex matter which has lent itself to two different approaches: the "ritualistic"- which assumes that the vestments of the early Christian Church were modeled after those of the Jewish levitical priesthood., and the "anitiquarian"-which holds that it evolved from the ordinary dress of the Roman citizenry in the first few centuries of the Christian era.

That the office of the priesthood was meant to be set apart in its form of dress is clear from the Old Testament. God commanded that when the priests enter the gates of the inner court of the temple, "they shall put on linen robes... and when they go out into the outer court to the people, they shall put off their robes in which they minister and they shall lay them up in the chamber of the sanctuary" (Ezek. 44:17). Linen was considered to be a fine material in comparison with wool which was generally coarser and more commonly used. Besides a linen tunic, the order of Levites was also ordained to wear linen mitres upon their heads and "linen drawers upon their loins" and "they shall not tightly gird themselves" (Ezek. 44:18).

One cannot assume that before Christianity emerged from the catacombs any but the simplest form of vestment was used. The dress commonly worn by men and women 'like in the Roman Empire at that time was the chiton or tunic, a long garment with sleeves, which reached to he ground. The preferred color for celebrants was white as a symbol of that holiness and purity which the Lord commanded; "Let thy priests be clothed with righteousness" (Ps. 132:9). The garments set aside for Church services were decorated with crosses to distinguish them from ordinary garments. To this day the tunic remains as the vestment common to all three orders of clergy-bishops, priests and deacons-the only difference being that the deacon's tunic or sticherion has wide sleeves, while that of the bishop and priest has tight-fitting ones. That this garment has its origin in earlest times is a reminder of the universality of the Church and the immutability of the Faith.

Another item of clerical garb which had its origin the early centuries of the Church was the orarion or stole. It is likely that it developed from the towel or scarf which was an indispensable part. of the Roman attire and was generally worn over one shoulder. A fourth century law required that officials wear a sign of office. The stole served this function as well as having more purely spiritual, significance as a symbol of the grace of the holy Spirit flowing down upon the clergy In.the case of priests, the stole is worn over both shoulders as sign of the double measure of grace and is called the epitrachelion which means "what is worn around the neck." For convenience sake it is sewn or buttoned down the front. Although the~ bishop also wears - an epitrachelion, his distinctive sign of office is the ontophorion-a long, broad strip arranged on the shoulders in such a way that one end descends in front and the other behind. The word 'omophorion' means "shoulder covering" and originally referred to a piece of sheepskin worn over the shoulders by the aged and in firm for warmth. Later it was made out of the same material as the rest of the vestment, but its origin still recalls the parable of the lost sheep which the good shepherd found and lay on his shoulders. So too the bishop is entrusted to safely guide his flock and take thought for the conversion of the erring.

The rise of Byzantium and the close relationship of the Church and State had a marked influence on the further development of Orthodox vestments which have essentially remained in the same form up to this day The mitre, for example,-worn by all those in the episcopal office-is modeled after the crown of the Byzantine emperors. .It is highly unlikely that it was modeled after the Old Testament mitre since it was not adopted by bishops of the Church until the 15th century. The mitre represents both the crown of thorns and also the power entrusted to bishops as the leaders of the Church In more recent centuries the Russian Church has given the mitre to some archimandrites and archpriests as an honorary distinction. During the Byzantine era vestments came to be made of very beautiful fabrics such as brocaded silks, and were adorned with embroidery and jewels. With the hierarchs arrayed in such resplendent vestments, the services were reminiscent of the majestic - court ceremonies and were a striking reminder that the worshippers were in the presence of the King of kings

The spiritual significance of all the various liturgical vestments is underlined by the special prayers read during the process of vesting; When the priest or deacon puts on the sticharon, he says: "My soul shall rejoice in the Lord, for He hath clothed me in the garment of salvation and with the vesture of gladness hath He covered me. .(Is. 61:10). In putting on the epimanika or cuffs, first on the right hand and then on the left, he prays: "Thy right hand, O Lord, is glorified in strength; Thy right hand, O Lord, hath vanquished the enemy, and in the multitude of Thy glory hast Thou crushed the adversaries (Ex. 15:6). "Thy hands have made me and fashioned me..." (Ps. 118:73). The cuffs are symbolic of the bonds of Christ and serve as a re minder that a minister of the Church must rely not on his own strength, but on the help of God. Taking the-epitrachelion, the priest makes over it the sign of the Cross and prays: "Blessed is God Who poureth out his grace upon His priests, like unto the oil of myrrh upon the head, which runneth down upon the beard, upon the beard of Aaron, which runneth down to-the fringe of his raiment" (PS. 132:2). In putting on the zone or belt, worn by both bishops and priests, he says: "Blessed is God, Who girded me with power, and hath made my path blameless..." (Ps. 47:32-33). The zone denotes the priest's readiness to serve the Lord and is also a sign that he is bound to Christ. Those priests honored to wear the thigh-shield and also the epigonation (in Russian-palitsa), then put these on with the prayer: Gird Thy sword upon Thy thigh, O Mighty one.. "(Ps. 443) And indeed, these originated from the "knee-protectors' suspended from the belt and worn on the thigh by soldiers under their swords. The thigh-shield represents the spiritual sword denoting the celebrant as a soldier of Christ. The epigonation also represents the word of God, that is, the spiritual sword (Eph. 6:17) used to fight against all the wiles of the enemy. Over every thing the priest puts on the phelonion or chasuble a long, circular and sleeveless garment, shorter in front to allow the hands freedom of movement. It is symbolic of the robe Christ wore during His Passion; the ribbons which decorate it are reminders of the flow of blood on Christ’s garments. The phelonion is also a token that the priest is “clothed with righteousness” (Ps. 131:9) and thus hedged off from all iniquities. For centureies it was also worn by bishops until it became customary for them to wear the saccos, a garment like a short tunic with half-sleeves, fashioned in all likelihood after the vestment of the Byzantine emperor; as such is is a sign of special distinction and honor. Symbolically it serves as a reminder that the bishop must rise to holiness of life. The term “saccos” means a “sackcloth garment” or “garment of humility”

The pectoral is worn by both priests and bishops as a reminder that they should not merely carry Christ in their hearts, but also confess Him in the face of all men. The round or oval image of the Saviour or Mother of God, which is worn by bishops, is called a I, meaning ‘All-holy.”

During the Divine Services bishops use a crozier or staff indicating that they are shepherds of Christ’s flock. The top of the staff is made to resemble two serpents’ heads, recalling the Saviours’ words: “Be ye wise as serpents”. As a serpent each year forces its way through thorny plants to shed its old skin, so also must the bishop lead others and follow himself along the thorny path which leads of the renewal of our souls.

The orlets is a small round or oval rug bearing the design of an eagle flying above a city. Bishops stand on such rugs as a reminder that they should rise high above the things of this world; through the example of their life and teaching, they are to inspire their flocks also to ascend from earth to heaven.

Although in the early Church the preferred color for vestments was white – as was mentioned above – it was not long before a wide array of colors was used. While there are no set rules as to when to use what colors, certain colors have come by tradition to be connected to particular feasts. White vestments, for example, are associated with the Paschal period (although in some churches the tradition for Paschas is to use red), as the brightest and most radiant celebration of the vanquishing of death. It is a visual reminder that, “He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment” (Rev. 3:5). Green, the color of life and spring, is used at Pentecost to symbolize the beginning of the life of the Church. It is also used on feasts of certain saints, particular monk saints, who dwelt in the wilderness. Red is used at Nativity, on the Feast of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, and for Martyrs. Blue is the traditional color of the Mother of God, as she is the Queen of Heaven. Deep purple is used during Lent as a reminder of the purple robe which the soldiers put on Christ to mock Him before His Passion. Outside of festal periods gold is used to remind us of the heavenly Jerusalem: “and the city was pure gold” (Rev. 21:18).

The use of vestments, then, not only adds to the visual splendor of the church; they have a far greater significance in transforming the celebrants, even young acolytes, into representatives of the Kingdom on high, reflecting that otherworldliness which is the essence of Orthodoxy.

(From a talk given at the St. Herman Winter Pilgrimage, Redding, California, 1983).

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Postby Julianna » Mon 10 November 2003 10:19 pm

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Postby Lounger » Tue 6 January 2004 2:57 pm

I love this stuff!

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Liturgical Colors Broken Down Further!

Postby 尼古拉前执事 » Fri 5 March 2004 9:06 am

LITURGICAL COLORS

The SIMPLE designation is a prescription which assumes that one has three sets of vestments - a set of non-metallic gold or some other pale color for general usage, a bright set of white, and a dark set of wine red or purple.

The TRADITIONAL designation is that commonly practiced in this country and which assumes multiple sets of vestments of varied colors.

Season or Feast
Simple Color
Traditional Color


September 1
Beginning of the Church Year
Bright
Gold

September 2 through 7
General or by Category

September 8 through 12
Nativity of the Theotokos through its Leavetaking
Bright
Blue

September 13
Dedication of the Church of the Resurrection
Bright
Gold

September 14 through 21
Elevation of the Cross through its Leavetaking
Dark
Red

September 22 through November 14
General or by Category

November 15 through November 20
Nativity Fast
Dark
Red

November 21 through 25
Presentation of the Theotokos through its Leavetaking
Bright
Blue

November 26 through December 24
Nativity Fast
Dark
Red

December 25 through January 14
Nativity of the Lord & Theophany through its Leavetaking
Bright
Gold

January 8 through February 1
General or by Category

February 2 through 9
Metting of the Lord in the Temple through its Leavetaking
Bright
Blue

March 25
Annunciation
Bright
Blue

February 10 through Cheesefare Sunday
General or by Category

The Great Fast & Great And Holy Week

Forgiveness Vespers/changed during the Prokeimenon to
Bright/Dark
Gold/Purple

Weekdays of the Great Fast
Dark
Purple

Little Compline with Akathist Hymn
Bright
Blue

Saturdays and Sundays of the Great Fast/or some retain
Bright/Dark
Gold/Purple

Sunday of the Cross and the week following/or some retain
Dark/Dark
Red/Purple

Saturday of the Akathist Hymn
Bright
Blue

Services of Lazarus Saturday and Palm Sunday
Bright
Gold

Palm Sunday PM through Wednesday PM
Dark
Black/Purple

Great Thursday Vesperal Divine Liturgy
Dark
Red

Great Thursday PM through Friday PM
Dark
Black/Purple

Great Saturday Vesperal Divine Liturgy/changed during "Arise, O God" to
Dark/Bright
Black or Purple/White

Pascha through Saturday before Pentecost
Bright
White

Pentecost through June 28
Bright
Green

June 29 and 30
Dark
Red

July 1 through 31
Bright
Green

August 1 through 5
Dormition Fast
Dark
Blue

August 6
Transfiguration of the Lord
Bright
Gold

August 7 through 12
Dormition Fast
Dark
Blue

August 13
Leavetaking of the Transfiguration
Bright
Gold

August 14
Dormition Fast
Dark
Blue

August 15 through 23
Dormition through its Leavetaking
Bright
Blue

August 24 through 28
General or by Category

August 29
Beheading of the Forerunner
Dark
Red

August 30
General or by Category

GENERAL

General means a vestment of a pale color, or a mixture of light colors, being neither particularly bright nor dark. The most common general color is a non-metalic gold. Such a vestment is worn during those periods of the year which belong to no particular liturgical or festal season.

Color by Category of Feast
Simple
Traditional


Of the Lord
Bright
Gold

Of the Theotokos
Bright
Blue

Of the Cross, the Forerunner, Apostles & Martyrs
Dark
Red

Of other Saints, Commemorations, etc.
Bright
Gold

Color by Season

The exceptions within these seasonal color designations are listed above.

Pascha through the Saturday before Pentecost
White

Pentecost through July 31st
Green

August 1st through the 23rd
Blue

August 24th through November 14th
General

November 15th through December 24th
Red

December 25th through January 14th
Gold

January 15th through Cheesefare Sunday
General

The Great Fast
Purple

Great & Holy Week
Black

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Postby Valentina » Sat 6 March 2004 1:03 am

Interesting! :)

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Indeed!

Postby 尼古拉前执事 » Mon 29 March 2004 4:02 am

Indeed!


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