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Vestments of Syriac Orthodox Clergy
 

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.

Priests

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 Eskimo.

[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 prayer.]

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 triumphs.

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 glory.

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 enemies.

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

Deacons wear a white kutino and an uroro 'stole' in various shapes according to their rank.

Singers (mzamrono) wear the kutino without the uroro.

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.

Singer Reader Subdeacon Deacon Archdeacon

Note: The 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 Kaplan.

All images on this page were photographed in July-August 1997 at St. Ephraim's Cathedral, Burbank.

 
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Last Update: August 2, 1997