The clergy of the Syrian Orthodox Church have unique vestments
quite distinct from other Christian denominations. The vestments
worn by the clergy vary with their hierarchical order in the
priesthood. The deacons, the priests, the bishops, and the
patriarch have distinct liturgical vestments.
The priest's daily dress is a black robe; in India, due
to the hot weather, priests tend to wear a white robe. Bishops
usually wear a black or a red robe with a red belt. They do not,
however, wear a red robe in the presence of the Patriarch who
wears a red robe. Bishops visiting a diocese outside their
jurisdiction also wear black robes in deference to the bishop of
the diocese, who alone wears red robes.
The liturgical vestments are worn by the priest during the
Order of Aaron in the preparatory prayers that precede the
celebration of the divine mysteries. The priest first puts away
his outer garments, saying: Remove from me, O Lord God, the
unholy garments wherewith Satan has clothed me by the filth of my
evil deeds, and clothe me with the choice garments that are
fitting for the service of Thy glory and for the praise of Thy
holy Name, O our Lord and our God, forever.
The priest then puts on the
phiro (lit. 'fruit'), a small black cap
which the priest must wear during all public prayers. It consists
of seven sections which indicate the full priesthood of the
celebrant. Bishops including the Patriarch wear it under the
[Note: In Malankara, a cylindrical black
cap is used by priests in liturgical as well as secular settings.
Priests in the Middle East wear such black caps in non-liturgical
settings, while bishops and the Patriarch may use a red cap.
These caps were part of the secular dress required of Syriac
Christian priests in the days of the Ottoman empire. However, the
skull cap shaped phiro is always used in public
If the priest is a monk, he then
puts on the eskimo, a hood worn by
monks at all times.
[Note: In Malankara, this vestment is
incorrectly referred to as 'masanapsa', a corruption of
masnaphto, described below.]
The priest also
puts on msone, ceremonial shoes which
are worn during the celebration of the Holy Qurbono.
Since animal products are prohibited on the sanctuary, the shoes
are not made of leather. Upon wearing the left shoe, the priest
recites, May my feet, O Lord God, be shod with the
preparation of the Gospel of peace so that I may tread underfoot
serpents and scorpions and all the power of the enemy, for
ever. Upon wearing the right shoe, he recites, Cast down
under my foot, Lord God, all false pride that is exalted against
Thy knowledge, and grant that by Thy help I may bring the lusts
of the flesh into subjection, for ever.
He then puts on the
kutino 'alb', a white surplice whose
color is an indication of the priest's purity. The priest signs
the cross over it three times saying, Clothe me, O Lord, with
the robe of incorruption through the strength of Thy Holy Spirit,
and make me worthy to keep the true faith and walk in the paths
of purity and righteousness all the days of my life.
Then he puts on
the hamnikho 'necklace,' the stole
which symbolizes the priest being armed with the fear of the
Lord. He signs the cross over it twice, reciting Psalm 18:39, 40:
Gird me with strength unto the battle and subdue under me
them that rise up against me, defeat my enemies and silence those
who hate me.
Then he puts on
the zenoro 'girdle' which speaks of the
priest's control over all bodily desires. He signs the cross over
it once reciting Psalm 45:3: Gird thy sword upon thy thigh, O
thou most mighty with thy splendor and glory. Thy glory
He then arms himself with the
zende 'sleeves' which symbolize the
priest's readiness to keep God's Law and do works of
righteousness. He signs the cross twice over the left sleeve and
recites Psalm 18:34 while wearing it: He trains my hands to
war; and he strengthens my arms like a bow of brass. He then
signs the cross once over the right sleeve and recites Psalm
18:35 while wearing it: Let Thy right hand help me up, and
let Thy loving discipline raise me.
If the celebrant is
a prelate, he puts on the
masnaphto 'turban', a head-cover
which symbolizes the cloth with which the Lord's head was bound
for His burial. He makes the sign of the cross twice on it and
wears it reciting Psalm 4:6-7: Who can show me He who is
good? May the light of Thy countenance shine upon us, O Lord,
Thou hast given gladness to my heart.
The priest then puts on the
phayno, a cope which symbolizes Aaron's
robe of many colors and the Savior's seamless robe. He signs the
cross over it thrice reciting Psalm 132:9-10: Let Thy priests
be clothed with righteousness and Thy righteous with glory. For
Thy servant David's sake, turn not away the face of thine
anointed. Then he puts it on reciting Psalm 132:9:
Clothe Thy priests with salvation and Thy saints with
If the celebrant is a prelate, he puts on the
batrashil `Pallium' which is
similar to the Hamnikho but extends both front and back.
It reminds the prelate of the Cross which the Savior carried. He
crosses it once reciting Psalm 27:5: In the day of trouble,
he protects me in the shadow of his tabernacle. He exalts me upon
a rock; and now he shall lift up my head above mine
The Patriarch wears the sakro `shield'
attached to the zenoro on the right side. The shield of
faith symbolizes his authority and his position as the protector
of the faith (Ephesians 6:16 ".. above all taking the shield
of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery
darts of the wicked one).
Prelates also wear a Cross and an icon, usually of
the Mother of God, around the neck. While wearing the cross he
recites Psalm 34:5: Turn your eyes to him and hope in him and
you shall not be disappointed.
Then the prelate takes the crosier
(mooroneetho) in his left hand, which
symbolizes the bishop's authority and reminds us of the
shepherd's staff, reciting Psalm 110:2: The Lord will send
forth the sceptre of Thy power out of Zion: thou shalt rule in
the midst of thine enemies. He also takes a hand Cross in
his right hand, from which a cloth called mqablonitho
'veil' is hung reciting Psalm 44:5: For Thy cause we shall
combat our enemies and for the cause of Thy name we shall trample
those who hate us. Upon completing this, the celebrant
washes his hands.
Deacons wear a white kutino and an uroro
'stole' in various shapes according to their rank.
Singers (mzamrono) wear the kutino without
Readers (qoruyo) wear the uroro in the form
of a Cross.
Subdeacons (apodyaqno) wear the uroro folded
around the neck.
Deacons (shamosho) wear the uroro over the
left shoulder, on either side like wings.
Archdeacons (archedyaqno) wear the uroro
round the neck. They also wear a zenoro and
zende similar to priests.
vestments for all the orders were worn by the subdeacon
exclusively for the purposes of illustrating this web page with
permission from H.E. Archbishop Clemis Eugene
All images on this page were photographed in
July-August 1997 at St. Ephraim's