Liturgical Vestments: The Bishop (Part 1 of 2)

The sacred vestments of the Bishop are as follows (Numbers next to vestments correspond to those provided in the first illustration from the top):

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10. Sticharion:

Description: The long smooth garment reaching to the floor with long sleeves, also called a tunic. Originally, the tunic was white. The tunic is adorned with trim and has a Cross on the back.

Symbolism: Reminds the celebrant of the spotless innocence and purity of body and soul which ought to adorn him at all times, especially when he celebrates the Divine Liturgy. Also the white robe of the angel, who announce to the women glad tidings of the Lord’s Resurrection. (Matthew 28:3, Mark 16:5)

Prayer: “My soul shall rejoice in the Lord, for He hath clothed me with the garment of salvation, He hath covered me with the robe of joy; He hath set a crown on my head like a bridegroom, and like a bride He hath adorned me with ornaments” (Isaiah 61:10)

8. Epitrachelion:

Description: The stole, the garment worn around the neck. It consists of two narrow strips encircling the neck which are sewed or buttoned together in the front. It is commonly decorated with Crosses or distinctive embroideries. Also at the very bottom of the stole are two lines of tassels.

Symbolism: The grace of the Holy Spirit that flows down abundantly upon the officiating clergy; it also symbolizes the spiritual yoke of the priesthood. The stole is the proper emblem of the priestly power and is used at every exercise of that power in Churches and in private dwellings, in public and in private.

In addition to the grace of the Holy Spirit, some scholars interpret the tassels of the Epitrachelion to represent the many souls that hang or cling to the priest for their spiritual salvation; the souls for who he is responsible to God.

Prayer: “Blessed is God, Who pours His grace upon His priests; it is as ointment on the head, that ran down to the beard of Aaron; that ran down to the fringe of his clothing.” (Psalm 133:2)

Zoni:

Description: The Zoni or belt helps to facilitate movement of the priest. It is embellished by with a Cross at it center or an Embroidery.

Symbolism: The symbolism of strength given to him by the Holy Spirit in order to perform the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. The Priest girds himself as he takes on his sacred ministry.

Prayer: “Blessed is God Who girds me with strength, and makes my way blameless; Who strengthens my feet as hinds’ feet, and sets me upon high places.” (Psalm 18:32-33)

4. Epimanika:

Description: These are the cuffs and are placed over the Sticharion sleeves at the wrist.

Symbolism: The Epimanika represent the creative powers of God. According to some interpreters they represent the bonds with which the hands of Jesus were bound.

Prayer: (Right Hand) “Thy right hand, O Lord, has been glorified in strength; Thy right hand has broken enemies and in the abundance of Thy glory Thou hast crushed Thy adversaries.” (Exodus 15:6-7)

(Left Hand) “Thy hands have made me and moulded me; instruct me that I may learn Thy commandments.” (Psalm 119:73)

9. Epigonation:

Description: This rectangular shaped piece of stiff cloth that hangs from the shoulder and suspended from the belt and reaching to the knee.

Symbolism: The Sword of the Spirit, the all-conquering power of the Divine Word. The strength of the Word of God. To some it symbolizes the towel with which Jesus girded Himself to wash the Disciples feet. It is worn by Priest who have been given special stations. This rectangular shape piece is adorned by Christ, an Angel or Cross.

Prayer: “Gird Thy sword upon Thy thigh, O Mighty One, in Thy splendor and in Thy beauty and go forth and prosper and reign in the cause of truth and meekness and righteousness, and Thy right hand shall guide Thee wondrously.” (Psalm 45:3-5)

7. Saccos:

Description: This article is shorter than the Stiharion with wide sleeves and bottom. When the Saccos is opened and stretched out, its shape resembles that of a Cross. It is brought together by large bells, ribbons or buttons.

Symbolism: It represents the purple cloak placed on the Lord by the soldiers before His Crucifixion. The embellishments of the bells denotes the instructional preaching of the Bishop.

Prayer: “Thy priests, O Lord, shall clothe themselves with righteousness and Thy Saints shall rejoice.” (Psalm 132:9)

2. Omophorion:

Description: Shoulder covering: There are two types of Omophorion: Long and Short. The Long is worn over the Saccos around the neck and shoulders. It is worn during the beginning of the Divine Liturgy up to the Gospel. It is during this time the Bishop represents the Arch-priest, Christ. After the Great Entrance the Bishop changes to the Short because he becomes a simple celebrant and servant of the Lord.

The Omophorion is decorated with the figure of Christ or that of a lamb

Symbolism: They are the symbol of the yolk of Christ. They signify the stray sheep that the good shepherd, the Christ, carried upon His shoulders according to the ancient symbolic presentations of the Lord as “the good shepherd”. The Omophorion expresses the most important function of the Bishops, to seek out the lost sheep and to lead them to the fold which is the Church.

Next week, our series concludes with the vestments of priests and deacons…

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