Decree 21 / May 21, 2009
In the name of the Most Holy,
consubstantial, life-giving and undivided Trinity
By the grace of God,
Archbishop and Metropolitan of the Archeparchy of Alba Iulia and Făgăraş,
Major Archbishop of the Romanian Greek-Catholic Church,
in full communion of faith with the Holy Apostolic See of Rome,
According to the rights conferred by the Canons of the Holy Apostles, of the Ecumenical Councils, of the Canon Law for the Eastern Churches, art. 112.1, 387, and 668;
Abiding by the decisions of the Synod of the Romanian Greek-Catholic Church convened in ordinary session in Blaj, on May 4–6, 2009;
Considering the necessity to safeguard the integrity of faith and morals of out faithful, as well as the liturgical unity of action of all the sons and daughters of our Church;
To the knowledge of all the Bishops, protopresbyteroi, clergy, religious, and all the faithful people of our Church, we promulgate the following
D E C R E E
Art. 1. The document “Liturgical Vestments in the Romanian Greek-Catholic Church”, outlined by the Synodal Commission for Liturgy is hereby approved;
Art. 2. These standards, as liturgical laws, are mandatory everywhere in conformity to the canon law.
Art. 3. The four pages attachment to this decree is a part of it.
Art. 4. The present decree has the effects of law starting the day it is published, and will be enforced in its entirety in the whole Romanian Greek-Catholic Church, rescinding any contrary disposition.
We cordially ask Their Excellences, the Most Reverend Eparchial Bishops, to take all necessary measures to make these norms known in our whole Church, and we firmly request that the clergy elude any abuse in the celebration of the public services, and enforce correctly and coherently the prescriptions of this document as part of our Church’s Patrimony, for the edification of our faithful people and for the greatest glory of God.
Promulgated in Blaj, See of the Major Archbishop,
May 21, Anno Domini 2009,
Feast of Saints Emperors Constantine and Elena.
Attachment to the Decree of the Major Archbishop
21 / May 21, 2009
in the Romanian Greek-Catholic Church
The respect towards God is made manifested by the care that the celebrants have towards the external aspects of the divine worship. The clergy vestments represent the distinctive sign of the service and presence of Christ, the High Priest, in our midst. “Vesting ourselves in them must be more than an external event… The fact that we are standing at the altar clad in liturgical vestments must make it clearly visible to those present that we are there in the person of an Other… the essence of the priestly ministry, interpreting the liturgical vestments themselves, which are precisely intended to illustrate what putting on Christ, what speaking and acting in persona Christi.”
II. Liturgical Vestments
The Liturgical Vestments have a practical function, and also an iconic value, completing the meaning of each liturgical movement and helping the understanding of the participation to the unique reality of the heavenly Liturgy. “The Church is the earthly heaven: earthly because visible and touchable, heavenly because the power of the Holy Spirit replenished it with divine grace. In this context, of the general oikonomia of the worship, the liturgical vestments undertake a specific meaning. They are beautiful and precious, yet their value resides in their purpose: they are signs of the heavenly reality, of the given redemption, of the reception of future goods (cf. Hebrews 8:5). ”
1. Clergy Outfits
The clergy outfits have value of liturgical vestments because they have to be worn for the celebrations of sacraments, sacramentals, and Christian burial. They are tailored using black fabric, and shaped according to the specific tradition of our Church
Cassock – A first vestment is the clergy cassock. This is a distinctive outfit with the value of uniform, and also a liturgical vestment, being required for the celebration of the worship services.
Rason or Over-Cassock – For the celebration of the Divine Lauds and Sacramentals apart from the Divine Liturgy, the clergy have to wear the rason on top of the cassock. The rason is a vestment with wide sleeves specific for the celebration of or participation to the Divine Office or Sacramentals (same function as the cota in the roman rite). In specific moments, the priest wears the epitrachilion and the phelonion over the cassock and rason.
Potcap – This is the cover for the head, needed mostly when clergy celebrate services outside of the church, in processions, funerals, etc. depending on the weather. There are different shapes for potcap, specific to different traditions of the sui iuris Churches; in the Romanian environment it is in use the Greek style.
Belt – The leather belt is specific to monks.
Kamilaphion – This is the potcap specific to hieromonks.
The monastic orders exempt from following these prescriptions have the shape of their outfits established by the Regulations approved by the General Curia and the Apostolic See.
For the celebration of the Divine Liturgy and other services it is mandatory the use of liturgical vestments. For the Romanian Greek-Catholic Church these are common to the Constantinopolitan Rite. The Vestments are distinct according to the level of the priestly order, as follows:
2. Vestments of the Deacon:
- Sticharion: it is a long and wide vestment, covering the whole body. Its name comes from the rows (sticha) which decorate the lower part of it. When it is manufactured using white fabric it symbolizes the purity (alba, in Latin), and also the festive garment for the Kingdom’s banquet. It is recommended that for the use of colored sticharia, they match the color of the other vestments, or have “sticha” matching those of the other vestments, or their dominant color when they are produced using fabric with complex patterns.
- Cuffs: they are short pieces of fabric used to adjust the sleeves of the sticharion, and are made of the same material and same pattern as the rest of the vestments. First of all, they have a practical use in holding the sleeves, so they would not hinder the liturgical movements, and symbolizing the spiritual power and the hand of God which works unseen amongst us.
- Orarion: is a vestment specific to the deacon, manufactured from the same fabric as the sticharion and the cuffs, and decorated with Christian patterns; it is worn bended over the shoulder or – in some specific moments of the Liturgy – crossed on the back and in the front; it is inscribed with the words Holy, Holy, Holy. It symbolizes the wings of the Angels which worship unceasingly around God in heavenly Liturgy.
3. Vestments of the Priest:
- Epitrachilion: worn hanged on the neck. It is required for any celebration, both for the priest and for the bishop. It is the sign of the priestly power and service within Christ’s Church.
- Belt: girdles the waist of the priest, on top of the epitrachilion and sticharion, adjusting the width of the sticharion. It symbolizes the power given by God during the service.
- Epigonation: for the protosinceloi and other priest rewarded with this honorary distinction.
- Phelonion: it is a cape which is worn over the other vestments, symbolizing “the Lord’s house” entered by the servant and the vesting into Christian virtues.
4.Vestments of the Hierarch:
- Sakos: is a vestment in the shape of sac, shorter than the sticharion, worn by the hierarch as phelonion. It represents the dignity of the bishop and of Jesus Christ, the High and Only Priest of the New and everlasting Covenant, which he plenary represents during the liturgical celebrations and in his Eparchy – the local utter Church.
- Omophorion: is worn on both shoulders, decorated with embroidered icons or other Christian patterns. It can be small or big depending on the liturgical moment when it is worn, according to the liturgical prescriptions. It symbolizes the Good Shepherd who brings the lost sheep back into the unity of His flock.
- Epigonation: is a vestment with the shape of a diamond, worn on the right knee, like a sword. On it is embroidered the Resurrection icon. It symbolizes the Word of God, the spiritual sword used to fight in the world.
- Mandia: is a purple cape, specific to the episcopal dignity, worn in processions and during the celebration of the Divine Lauds.
- Mitra: is made on the shape of a medieval crown, adorned with a cross on top, embroidered icons and other Christian patterns. It symbolizes the royal power of the complete sacramental priesthood conferred by Christ.
During the liturgical celebrations the deacon wears the sticharion and orarion; the priest must wear the epitrachilion and, during specific prescribed moments also the phelonion. The bishop wears the epitrachilion, the sakos, and in specific prescribed moments the mandia. During the celebration of the Divine Liturgy it is mandatory to wear all the liturgical vestments.
III. Liturgical Colors:
Originally all liturgical vestments were white, subsequently combinations of color being introduced as well as silver and golden wires. Gradually the use of color begins to be differentiated highlighting the specifics of the liturgical day, at first for Sundays and Holy Days of obligation. In the Greek-Byzantine rite there is the use of two categories of color, depending on the liturgical day and on the specific time of the liturgical year. These categories are:
a) Light vestments: used on feast days and during the regular time of the year. Based color for this category is white, and it shades can vary up to silver, gold and even light blue. Lately some darker shades of blue and even green got into use. Blue is recommended for the feasts of the Mother of God.
b) Red vestments: are used during lent time and for funeral. Based color is red, shades varying up to purple or combinations on red-purple background.
c) Black vestments are not specific of the Romanian Greek-Catholic Church tradition, but a recent innovation which became common in the use of our Romanian Church. They were never used for celebration of the Divine Liturgy, but are widely used today (epitrachilion and phelonion) for funerals, having the same meaning of the red vestments. It is recommended the return to the specific tradition of our Church.
Besides vestments, the liturgical colors reflect also the beautification of the worship place. In our liturgical tradition we only have the use of light and Lenten colors, for the covers of the Holy Table, and the embellishment of the church’s altar and nave. The use of Lenten colors for the décor of the church is mostly seen during the Great Lent and the Christmas Lent, as these last longer and mark a specific liturgical time, which has to be made fruitful in pastoral ministry; the shift from the Lenten time to feast which is the pinnacle of the preparation time is marked also by the change of the church’s adornment.
For the other fasting times or for Wednesdays and Fridays, it suffices the use of darker liturgical vestments, the church remaining vested in light colors.
The use of vestments:
Light Vestments – are the most used vestments, being worn on feast days, the Sundays around the year and common days. They are used on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays during the period of Oktoichos, Pentikostarion and the preparatory weeks of the Triodhion, before the beginning of the Great Lent.
Red Vestments (and different shades mentioned above) – are used during the Great Lent (and also during the Christmas Lent, where the local custom requires it), on the vigil of certain feast days, and on some specific feast days (e.g. Exaltation of the Holy Cross), according to the specific prescriptions of the typikon. Moreover, red vestments can be worn on Wednesdays and Fridays during the common liturgical time, when Troparia of the Cross are used.
Black Vestments – only epitrachilion and phelonion, are used exclusively for the funeral. It is recommended the return to the specific tradition of our Church.
For concelebrations, the ecclesiarch or the parish priest is responsible to make known the color for the vestments to be used by the concelebrants, thus assuring the uniformity needed for the specific ceremony, as sign of unity. The same stands for funerals when more priests are expected to participate, the color to be used for vestments being announced beforehand (red or black, or light colors in the case of funerals for clergy, religious or during the Bright Week).
Any innovation aiming the change of the vestments’ shape, the use of vestments which do not belong to the own Rite, the intentional omission of wearing certain vestments (e.g. not wearing the cuffs) is forbidden. In manufacturing new vestments it is recommended the use of colors, embroideries, patterns and fabrics according to or following the tradition of our Church.
In specific cases when concelebration with priests of the roman rite occur, the Greek-Catholic clergy are bound to wear a full set of vestments of the own rite, and the exclusive use of only sticharion and epitrachilion (following the roman rite use of only wearing alba and stole) is forbidden; in certain specific situation, if the case requires an inter-ritual concelebration, the local hierarch can set specific regulations.
 Pope Benedict XVI, Homily on the Holy Thursday, Chrism Mass – April 05, 2007.
 Olivier Raquez, Roma Orientalis. Approci al patrimonio delle Chiese d’Oriente. Lipa, Roma, 2000, p. 425.