Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Liturgical Vestments IV: the Priest

Having briefly discussed and displayed the main liturgical vestments between Eastern and Western Rite, it seemed good to revisit the issue according to Order. Of all the clerical orders, a person is most likely to encounter a Priest. The priest's liturgical vestments are as follows:

Eastern Rite

In the Eastern Rite vesting is part of the Prothesis, that is, the Liturgy of Preparation. This is the preparatory rite in which the bread and wine are set apart for use in the Eucharist. In this rite the priest and deacon stand before the holy doors of the iconostasis to say the entrance prayers, then enter and vest, perform the proskomedia, and conclude with the Prayer of Oblation and much incense.

In this article are included two vestments not previously mentioned: the zone (a wide liturgical belt of the same material as the phelonion) and epimanikia (long cuffs of the same material as the phelonion). Links for these two vestments are provided to Orthowiki articles with good pictures.

The priest will bless each vestment with his right hand, kiss the cross on the vestment, and put the vestment on while reciting the appropriate prayer.

  1. Sticharion - Taking in his right hand the Sticharion and making three reverences toward the East to the Holy Doors, the Priest blesses it: Blessed is our God + at all times, now and always and for ever and ever. Amen. He then puts it on, saying: My soul shall rejoice in the Lord, for He has clothed me with a robe of salvation and covered me with a tunic of happiness; He has crowned me as a bridegroom and adorned me with jewels as a bride (Isaiah 61:10).

  2. Epitrachelion - Blessed is God + who pours out grace upon his priests: as the chrism upon the head, which ran down unto the beard, the beard of Aaron, ran down even to the hem of his garment, at all times, now and always and for ever and ever. Amen (Ps. 132/133:2).

  3. Zone - Blessed is God + who girds me with strength and makes my way blameless and strengthens my feet like the hart's, at all times, now and always and for ever and ever. Amen (Ps. 17/18:32).

  4. Epimanikia - This vestment points to the fact that the hands that celebrate the Eucharist are actually Christ's hands, who alone is the High Priest of our salvation. When donning the cuffs, on the right hand, the priest prays, Your right hand, + Lord, is made glorious in might; your right hand, Lord, has crushed the enemies; and in the fullness of your glory, You have routed the adversary (Ex. 15:6-7). The left hand, Your hands + have made me and fashioned me: give me understanding and I shall learn your commandments (Ps. 118/119:73).

  5. Epigonation and Nabedrennik (if awarded their use) - Gird your sword + at your side, Mighty One, in your splendor and beauty. String your bow; go forth, reign for the sake of truth, meekness and righteousness. Your right hand shall lead You wonderfully, at all times, now and always and for ever and ever. Amen (Ps. 44/45:3-4).

  6. Phelonion - Your priests +, Lord, shall clothe themselves with righteousness, and your saints shall rejoice in joy, at all times, now and always and for ever and ever. Amen (Ps. 131/132:9).

Next the priest and deacon wash their hands, saying, I will wash my hands in innocency; so will I compass Thine altar, O Lord, That I may make the voice of thanksgiving to be heard, and tell of all Thy wondrous works. Lord, I love the habitation of Thy house, and the place where Thy glory dwelleth. Gather not my soul with sinners, nor my life with men of blood; In whose hands is craftiness, and their right hand is full of bribes. But as for me, I will walk in mine integrity; redeem me, and be gracious unto me. My foot standeth in an even place; in the congregations will I bless the Lord (Ps. 26:6-12).

Western Rite

Preparation for Mass, if we can call it that, begins when the priest washes his hands and prays, "Give strength to my hands, O Lord, to wash away all uncleanness; that I may be enabled to serve thee without defilement of mind and body."

At this point the priest then will recite a series of psalms and collects before vesting. Sometimes a reader will recite the psalms, meanwhile the priest vesting and reciting the appropriate prayer for each vestment. Then after the psalms and vesting the priest will conclude with the collects, which commemorate the Blessed Virgin, St. Joseph, the Angels and Saints, and any specific saints commemorated at that Mass.

It may be that these prayers correspond to the commemorations made by the priest in the Eastern Rite when the bread is divided during the Prothesis. Also, it is suspected that the prayers said at the foot of the altar correspond to the Entrance Prayers in the Prothesis of the Eastern Rite.

The following are the prayers said by the priest as he dons each vestment:
  1. Amice - "Place upon me, O Lord, the helmet of salvation, that I may withstand the assaults of the devil."

  2. Alb - "Purify me, O Lord, and cleanse my heart, that being made white in the Blood of the Lamb I may come to eternal joy."

  3. Cincture - "Gird me, O Lord, with the girdle of purity, and quench in my loins the fire of lust, that with the virtues of continence and chastity I may abide in Thee."

  4. Stole - "Restore unto me, O Lord, the state of immortality, which was lost through the sin of my first parents; and although I am unworthy to approach Thy sacred mysteries, nevertheless grant unto me eternal joy."

  5. Maniple - This is a band of cloth, of the same style and width as the stole. It is worn over the left arm. The link provided is to a Wikipedia article, which mainly treats it under Roman Catholic use, but a picture or two is found there. The priest prays as he vests with it, "May I deserve, O Lord, to bear the maniple of weeping and sorrow, in order that I may joyfully reap the reward of my labors."

  6. Chasuble - "O Lord who hast said, 'My yoke is easy and My burden light,' grant that I may bear after Thee with thanksgiving. Amen."

These are the vestments that the celebrant priest will wear. If another priest is in attendance in the chancel he will be vested in a suprlice over his cassock. For instance, last time we attended the Western Rite parish Holy Incarnation in Michigan (our home away from home, back home where I'm from), the Vicar General of the Western Rite was in attendance. During Mass he wore a surplice, but when it was time to receive the Eucharist he donned a stole, which he removed after receiving the Sacrament. He would have continued to wear the stole if he had assisted in the distribution of the Sacrament, though. (I am told that this rubric is the same in the Eastern Rite.) Obviously his stole was not worn cross-wise, as the celebrant wore his under the chasuble. Vestments depend upon one's rank and one's role in the Mass.

Vesting for Mass is part of the Liturgy's organic whole. The vesting of the clergy is not just a stepping into a coat-closet to dress up; it belongs to the Mass as much as the Kyrie, the Sanctus, and the other parts, but it is a part that involves the clergy. (In the Mass/Liturgy everyone has their own roles, including the laity; though all are involved in the same whole, not everyone's job is identical.) The rubrics dictate what they do in order to preserve and convey a mystery. It is to be received as such, not reduced to the simplistic capacities of our modern hubris.

The more time I spend comparing Eastern and Western Rite - and living with them both as I've been blessed to do - the more obvious it is to me that they are the same. They are about the same things, they do the same things, they are the same Orthodox Faith, belonging to the same Catholic Church. Some in Protestantism like to bandy about the idea that you can have different styles but the same substance. I've yet to see the Protestants accomplish that among themselves. Yet in the one pure Bride of Christ that ridiculous dictum almost seems to have happened - not by men reinventing the Western Rite, but by overcoming the Western Rite's interruption through the return of Western Christians to the unity of the Church.

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