All Byzantine vestments hold a kind of mystical significance. Their symbolism is directed toward ‘transforming’ the celebrant as he assumes them for liturgical celebration. The deacon, moving his stole (orarion) in the manner of the movements of angel wings, prepares the congregation for the heavenly experience. The priest’s outer appearance tells the congregation of the ‘new man’ as he appears for the liturgy. And the bishop becomes the icon of Christ, as the congregation is lifted into the divine presence. The vestments themselves become mystically the wings of angels, the robe of Christ, and the glorious garments of the Saints. Read pages 83-84 in the Red Service book. Special prayers accompany the putting on of the priest’s vestments. It’s quite interesting to read these prayers and understand the transformation and commitment taking place.Thanks to Patricia Rudawski for providing our “Do You Know?” articles.
Two icons written on tile adorn the front garden and a third is at the entrance to the church offices. How were these made? Georgia Xydes, one of our parishioners, used unglazed ceramic tiles which were laid out, numbered, and fired in a kiln. Then images of Alexandra of Egypt, St. Thekla, and Christ with the Children were applied, the tiles were glazed and then re-fired at 2500º F. Next, liquid gold was applied to the halos, and another firing, at a lower temperature, was done so the gold wouldn’t melt. The process took about 40 hours each for the garden icons, and approximately 80 hours for the church office icon. The edges of the icons had to be cut, sanded and beveled by hand to fit the designated spaces. If they remain unbroken, these tile icons will remain vibrant and adorn our church for many years to come.
Thanks to Patricia Rudawski for providing our “Do You Know?” articles.
Above the altar, next to the Platytera, you will see icons of the four Liturgists. Each of them contributed a Divine Liturgy to the Church and it is these liturgies which preserve the unity of the Orthodox faith throughout the world. St. James' Liturgy (1st Century origin) is celebrated on his feast day (October 23). St. Basil’s Liturgy (4th Century) is used ten times during the year including all Sundays of Great Lent. St. John Chrysostom’s Liturgy (5th Century) is celebrated throughout the year but not on Wednesdays and Fridays of Lent or the first three days of Holy Week. The Presanctified Liturgy of St. Gregory (6th Century) is used on Wednesdays and Fridays of Lent and the first three days of Holy Week. The liturgies given to us by these four Evangelists constitute one of the spiritual treasures of the Orthodox Church.Thanks to Patricia Rudawski for providing our “Do You Know?” articles.
Theophany (which means “God shining forth”) is celebrated on January 6th. At the Liturgy a font of water is blessed as the priest immerses a hand cross three times in imitation of Christ’s baptism. The Great Blessing of Water also includes a service where this water is poured into a lake or river which eventually runs into the oceans, thus blessing all the waters of the earth. Since Jesus had no sin, but was God himself, his baptism by John in the Jordan had the effect of Jesus blessing the water, making it holy. Water is seen by the Church as the prime element of creation. In the book of Genesis, creation began when the Spirit of God moved over the face of the waters. Orthodox Christians often bring a small container to take holy water home with them. Traditionally they drink a small amount of holy water daily and ask that blessings and holiness be revealed as they drink it.Thanks to Patricia Rudawski for providing our “Do You Know?” articles.
The bishop’s third role is that of Shepherd. The bishop wears an omophorian (shoulder covering) which is a wide band of brocade decorated with crosses. Its placement recalls the parable of the lost sheep which the Good Shepherd found and lay on his shoulders. So too the bishop is entrusted to safely guide his flock and watch out for those who err. The bishop also wears bells on his vestments to call to his flock and reassure everyone of his presence as he ministers and guides. The bishop carries a “crozier” (like a shepherd’s crook) which has a cross at the top just above the double crook. This double crook, sometimes in the shape of serpents’ heads, symbolizes the serpent lifted up by Moses in the wilderness. As the serpent forces its way through thorny plants to shed its old skin, so also must the bishop lead his flock along the thorny path which leads to the renewal of our souls.Thanks to Patricia Rudawski for providing our “Do You Know?” articles.
Let’s look at some other colors used in Byzantine Iconography. Traditional icons are gilded with gold leaf. The gold shines through on the halos and symbolizes the eternal, uncreated light of God and His heavenly kingdom. Purple is used to represent Christ’s Kingdom. White is used to show heavenly purity and divinity (icons of the Resurrection show Christ in white robes). Green is the color of the living earth and is used to portray youth, hope and where life begins. This contrasts to brown which shows our fallen nature on earth and that we will eventually become dust. Black is used to portray evil and death. There are some variations in colors used. Icons written in parts of the world where certain pigments were not available might substitute green for blue. Every part of an icon tells a story. Look closely because icons yield a world of information and meaning.Thanks to Patricia Rudawski for providing our “Do You Know?” articles.
Before the Anaphora, the choir sings one of two hymns, either “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the Trinity one in essence….” or “I will love thee, O Lord, my strength….”. What determines which of these hymns will be sung? If there is a single priest serving the Liturgy, the choir/congregation sings “Father, Son….” while the priest quietly recites “I will love thee….”. However, if there is more than one priest serving, at this place in the service the priests exchange the Kiss of Peace among themselves, so the choir sings the “I will love thee….” for the priests. Watch. How many priests are serving this Sunday? What does the choir sing?Thanks to Patricia Rudawski for providing our “Do You Know?” articles.
Did you notice that the colors of the altar cloths and priests/deacons vestments changed for the Nativity fast? Before the fast started, everything was adorned in gold and white, but now the cloths are red. Why? This is yet another way for the Church to show us that we are preparing for a feast. Gold is the color used for normal Sundays. Red indicates preparation for some of the special feasts (including Nativity). At Christmas the cloths will again change, this time to white. Not all churches or all clergy have altar cloths or vestments in each color, but churches and clergy make these accommodations as best as they can. The choir has also begun singing “Today the Virgin cometh…”. We are told in color and in song that we have entered a special season. We are to get ready, pay attention, and prepare ourselves.Thanks to Patricia Rudawski for providing our “Do You Know?” articles.
Bishops in our church have several roles – that of Leader, Guardian or teacher, and Shepherd. Pay special attention to Bishop Basil’s robes and you’ll notice how the vestments he wears reflects those roles. In his Leader position the bishop is in a role of authority, where he serves his flock and also asks God to bless them. Bishop Basil wears a mitre (crown) which is an emblem not only of the power conferred on him by the Church, but also represents the crown of thorns worn by Christ the King. The bishop blesses the congregation using candlesticks, one with two candles (symbolizing the two natures of Christ) and the other with three candles (symbolizing the three persons of the Holy Trinity). His short, tunic-like garment with half sleeves called “saccos” is a “garment of humility”. The preferred color is white and is a symbol of holiness and purity.
Thanks to Patricia Rudawski for providing our “Do You Know?” articles.