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Priestly Vestments

March 31, 2013

2000.06.11.31 I have been engaged with an ongoing discussion with a friend about the Papacy, the Catholic Church and the role of Tradition in our understanding of the Scriptures, and who has the authority to interpret them. The large portion of my friend’s opinion of Catholicism is shaped by the famous work of Alexander Hislop: “The Two Babylons” which is the go-to reference guide for all things anti-catholic. Beyond the litany of reasons why the new Pope and the Catholic Church will eventually usher in the one-world religion of the False Prophet in Revelation, my friend contends that the Pope is full of pride. The title “Vicar of Christ” is the main point of contention. But among the complaints not explicitly expressed by my friend, I am willing to guess that vestments and the like are a big part of that opinion.

Not on my friend’s radar, until I brought it up, is the Eastern Orthodox Church. But what does that have to do with my dialogue with my friend? Maybe nothing, but in my mind, I think any contentions Protestants have with the Catholic Church, they would level those at the Orthodox as well. One of the things that I associated with pride and pomp within the Catholic and Orthodox Church, were the vestments. Wasn’t all that stuff spoken against in Scripture? Did the early Church have any of that? If not, why do we have it now? Maybe my connection is a stretch, but if it is, forgive me.

When I first set foot in an Orthodox Church, my Protestant mind thought that all those vestments screamed, “Look at me! I have holiness and authority!” Forgive my ignorance, but that was the upbringing I had. I have come to see just how ignorant that mindset is/was. I have come to see that they are no such thing. They are not intended to make the priest or bishop “look holy” or “cool”. They are meant to draw people’s attention to Christ. Not only do they not point to the priest or bishop as such, they are put on with prayers and recitation of Psalms, in great humility. Fr Thomas Hopko does a 7-Part series on “Vesting For Liturgy” in his podcast called Worship in Spirit and TruthDefinitely worth the listen.

I also found a transcript of the prayers themselves:

   The priest blesses his own robe:

“Blessed is our God always, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.”

He vests himself with the robe, saying:

“My soul shall rejoice in the Lord, for He has clothed me with the garment of salvation; He has covered me with the robe of gladness; as a bridegroom He has set a crown on me; and as a bride adorns herself with jewels, so He has adorned me.”

He blesses the stole, and says as he vests:

“Blessed is God, Who pours our His grace upon His priests, as myrrh upon the head, that runs down the beard, the beard of Aaron, that runs down the border of his robe.”

He blesses the belt, and says as he vests:

“Blessed is God, Who girds me with strength and makes my way blameless. He made my feet like hinds’ feet, and set me secure on the height.”

As he puts on the cuffs, he recites the following:

Right: “Thy right hand, O Lord, has been glorified in power. Thy right hand, O Lord, has shattered the enemies. In the greatness of Thy majesty Thou hast overthrown Thy adversaries.”

Left: “Thy hands have made and fashioned me. Give me understanding that I may learn Thy commandments.”

If he has been awarded the shield, he puts it on, saying:

“Gird Thy sword upon Thy thigh, O Mighty One, in Thy comeliness and in Thy beauty. Go forth and prosper and reign, because of truth and meekness and righteousness. Thy right hand shall guide Thee wondrously always, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.”

He blesses the chasuble (phelonion), and says as he vests:

“Thy priests, O Lord, shall clothe themselves with righteousness, and Thy saints shall rejoice with joy always, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.”

The priest then washes his hands, saying:

“I wash my hands in innocence, and go about Thy altar, O Lord, singing aloud a song of praise, and telling all Thy miracles. O Lord, I love the beauty of Thy house, and the place where Thy glory dwells. Do not sweep my soul away with sinners, nor my life with blood-thirsty men, men in whose hands are evil devices, and whose right hands are full of bribes. But as for me, I walk in my integrity; deliver me, and have mercy on me. My foot stand on level ground; in the churches I will bless the Lord.”

Far from pomp and pride, these prayers are very humble. These prayers definitely give me an appreciation for my priest, my bishop, and the clergy in general. Far from being a position of “lording over people”, these vestments show them to be the “Servants of the Servants of God.”

One more resource I found interesting, is a link about the meaning of the color of vestment. It’s from a blog called Orthodox Christian Education. Not only does every symbol on the vestment point to Christ Himself, but the color of the vestments tell us what we are celebrating in our salvation and what season we are in. As with everything in our Church, we see the vestments as an icon of Christ, pointing us to Him; an icon of His extreme humility.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Susan Deane permalink
    March 31, 2013 11:26 pm

    I really appreciated this reflection, Jeremiah. I often think upon it myself. When I first learned the beautiful vesting prayers, as with many other things I’ve learned about the Church over time, I was so thankful for the beauty, humility, and thoughtfulness of our Orthodox faith. It is sad that so much of what is hated by Protestants is due to lack of information and misunderstanding – I think, unfortunately, it also springs from a true lack of desire to see any good in what they firmly believe is evil, as well.

    God bless you as you and yours fast and prepare during this Lenten time for you. Due to our calendar differences, today was our Pascha, and we are feasting and rejoicing, and looking forward to the following 40 days of celebration. My kids were THRILLED to finally have meat again this morning after our baskets were blessed after liturgy :O)


    On Sun, Mar 31, 2013 at 7:30 PM, Jeremiah Was A Bullfrog… Now He’s

    • April 1, 2013 8:06 am

      Thank for that Susan. It is quite refreshing to see and experience the humility of Orthodoxy. I have been saddened by the gross misinformation and slander that so many Protestants think is scholarly study of he Apostolic Church. But that being said, I try to focus on the Lenten struggle in humility. I know I fail at it, when discussing issues, but I try. Maybe part of my Lent needs to include abstinence from discussing big issues. Anyhow, a blessed Bright Week to you and your family! Soon I’ll be saying Christ is Risen with my newly illumined daughters. Next year we will all say it together. May our Patriarchs, Bishops and the Pope find the means for reunion.

      Sent from my iPhone

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