Non-Liturgical And Liturgical Vestments in the Orthodox Church

Since ancient times church vestments have been used by the clergy for church services. The Orthodox clergy wears two kinds of robes, non-liturgical and liturgical.

Non-Liturgical Vestments Vs. Liturgical Vestments: What Is The Difference?

  • The non-liturgical priest robes are called cassocks, which are floor-length garments that have long sleeves fitted like shirtsleeves.
  • Wearing cassocks is common to bishops, priests, deacons, monks and nuns. Permission to wear a cassock is often given to seminarians, monastic novices, and sub-deacons and readers in parishes.
  • The liturgical priest robes are often worn on top of cassocks during the various celebrations to symbolize spiritual cleanliness. Liturgical vestments are much grander and orient in design than cassocks, with various colour schemes depicted, depending on the celebration.

The Liturgical Colors of Vestments in the Orthodox Church

Depending on the colour, different meanings can be associated. For example:

  • White for the pure light of God’s energy
  • Green, the color of life, for the Holy Spirit and the wood of the cross
  • Purple for the suffering of Christ
  • Deep red for the blood on the Cross, blood of the martyrs
  • Blue for the Mother of God
  • Gold for the richness of the gifts of the Holy Spirit
  • Bright red for the fiery flame of the Spiritual Host
  • Black for the colour of death and mourning

None of these colours, however, are set in stone, and different colours can have different meanings for different people, depending on where you are in the world as well.

When Are Coloured Liturgical Vestments in The Orthodox Church Worn?

The most important Feasts of the Orthodox Church and the sacred events for which specific colors of vestments have been established can be narrowed down into six basic groups:

  • Gold vestments – The group of feasts and days commemorating Lord Jesus Christ, the Prophets, the Apostles, and the Holy Hierarchs.
  • Light blue and white vestments – The group of feasts and days commemorating the Most Holy Mother of God, the Bodiless Powers, and Virgins.
  • Purple or dark red vestments – The group of feasts and days commemorating the Cross of The Lord.
  • Red vestments – The group of feasts and days commemorating martyrs.
  • Green vestments – The group of feasts and days commemorating monastic saints, ascetics, and fools for Christ. Additionally, also worn on Palm Sunday, Holy Trinity Day (Pentecost) and Holy Spirit Day (Monday after Pentecost).
  • Dark blue, purple, dark green, dark red and black vestments – Used during the week during and few weeks after Lent.

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