The Divine Liturgy ~ Vestments, The Colors

This is another article in the series on explaining the Divine Liturgy of the Orthodox Church.  This time I will attempt to explain the various color traditions of the Vestments worn by the Priests.

There are many varied traditions that one can find on what colors to wear at different times of the Church year.  There are two major influences, Slavic and Greek.  The Arabic is an influence but not as strong as the other two.  Here in Southbridge we are influenced by the Greek tradition.  Hard to believe that the Romanian Orthodox Church is Greek influenced but the common misconception is that Romanian is a Slavic country, but Romania is Latin so the West has also had a great influence on the Church.

In the Byzantine or Greek tradition there are two basic colors of vestments, Bright and Dark.  All a priest really needs is to have one bright, usually white, and one dark usually purple.  With these two vestments you can serve any Liturgy during the Church year.  The Orthodox Church does not have hard and fast rules on vestment colors like the Western Church does.  Some have adopted a much more complex scheme that would follow more of the Russian or Slavic style.  I tend to follow the Slavic style myself.

In the Slavic Tradition there are six different seasons or color schemes:

1.  Feasts of Our Lord Jesus Christ ~ Gold
2.  Feast of the Theotokos ~ Light Blue or White
3.  Feasts of the Cross ~ Purple or Dark Red
4.  Feasts for Martyrs ~ Red
5.  Feasts of Monastic Saints ~ Green
6.  Lent ~ Dark Color, Purple

White is worn for the fests and post feasts of Epiphany, Transfiguration, and Pascha.  It can also be worn on Christmas.  White is also used for Funerals and all Sacraments.

Green is worn for Pentecost, feasts of the Prophets and Angels, Elevation of the Holy Cross and Palm Sunday.  Green is also worn from Pentecost until Ss. Peter and Paul fast.

Gold is worn from Christmas to Epiphany and in some places during advent, although I wear purple or Red.  Gold is also worn on all Sunday’s unless white is worn.

Red is worn for Ss. Peter and Paul, Advent, the Angels, Elevation of the Cross and feasts of Martyrs.

Blue is worn for all feasts of the Theotokos.

Purple is worn on weekends in Lent, black can be worn for weekdays.  I wear purple during Lent as I do not have a black vestment.

So as you can see there is much variation even within the Slavic practice.  Again there is no hard and fast rule as to what one needs to wear or that the altar cloth and other cloths match the vestments.  The one rule is that the Vestments should be clean and free of holes and other such sign of wear.

In the end the local custom of the parish or of the priest of Diocese will dictate what is worn when.

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