In the Armenian Church, part of the physical preparation for the Divine Liturgy is vesting of the priest when he puts on vestments which show he is God’s special servant about to begin a sacred path. As the priest puts on each vestment, he says a special prayer successively asking for salvation, righteousness, cleanliness of heart, faith and strength to serve God.
Vestments Worn in the Divine Liturgy
Shabig (Alb) is a long extending tunic down to the ankle. The Celebrant’s Shabig worn during the Divine Liturgy is always plain and made of white linene. It is the first vestment to be put on beneath the others. It shows the gladness of spirit with which the priest must approach the Lord’s Table. The white Shabig also symbolises purity.
Poroorar (Stole) is about nine inches wide and four feet six inches long. It is of the same material as the cope. At one end it has an opening for the neck and it hangs down in front over the Shabig. It is in fact the deacon’s stole worn round the neck with the two stripes.
Kodi (Zone or Cincture) is a band of about two or three inches wide and long enough to go round the waist. Usually it is of the same material as the cope. It has a buckle in front. It is worn by the celebrant over the Shabig and Poroorar, at the waist. It symbolises faith which gives strength to the soul and the priestly authority of binding and loosing.
Pazban (Maniple or Cuff) is about five or six inches wide and long enough to go round the fore part of the forearm, over the sleeves of the alb (Shabig). It is of the same material as the cope. Pazbans are worn by the celebrant during the Divine Liturgy, symbolising moral cleanliness as well as strength which enable Christians to serve the Lord.
Vagas (Superhumeral or Amice) is a hard flexible piece, covered with the same material as that of the cope, or of a colour to match with the cope or the crown. It has a linen piece, long enough so that one end is attached to the top edge of the Vagas from inside. The cope is put on this hanging piece of linen, so that the Vagas is kept well in place. The Vagas symbolises righteousness in obedience to Christ as against the “stiffness of the neck”, and also the “blocking” of temptations from view and hearing.
Shoorchar (Cope) is a piece, semi-circular in shape and made of fine rich material of any colour or colours, provided one colour is dominating. The Shoorchar is worn by a priest or bishop during the Divine Liturgy. It is also worn during other services for reading the Gospel or for special solemnities. Symbolically it represents the glory of the new spiritual life and of the faith, as shield and defence against the attacks of the Evil One.
Saghavard (Crown or Helmet) is a tall bulbous headdress, covered with fine rich silk or velvet cloth. The crown is worn b y the Celebrant at certain times during the Liturgy. It symbolises the salvation of the soul from the bondage of the spiritual enemy and the royal attribute of Christ the King, whom the priest represents, enabling the Christian to fight against the Evil One.
Vestments of Bishops
Emiporon (Palllium) is worn as part of the vestment of the Divine Liturgy. It is a long riband with a width of about nine inches and a length of about thirteen or fourteen feet, made of fine rich material, often with embroidered ornaments on it. It is wrapped round the shoulders with buttons and loops in such a way that one end hangs in front down to the ankles, and the other end hangs at the back again down to the ankles. There are four crosses, usually embroidered, on the omophorion: one on either shoulder, one on the front part and one on the part that hangs at the back. It represents the fullness of Episcopal authority.
Ardakhoorag (Infulae or Fanons) are lappets three inches wide and twelve to fourteen inches long, which are hung from the lower edge of the Vagas about six inches away from the centre on either side. They are made of the same material and colour as the Vagas. Usually three tassels are attached to the lower end and it is worn with the Khouyr (Mitre).
Khouyr (Mitre) is worn as part of the vestment of the Divine Liturgy. It has two stiff flexible oblong pieces, each having the shape of a pointed arch at the upper end, are sewn together at the lower half of the sides, which when pressed, open at the base and placed on the head. It symbolises the “helmet of salvation”.
Madani (Ring) is a ring with a large precious stone, often amethyst, sometimes surrounded by small diamonds, worn by bishops, an insignia of their Episcopal administrative authority and granted to them at their consecration. Bishops used to seal documents with their rings.
Banageh (Enkolpion) is an oval medallion with the figure of the Holy Virgin and the Child Jesus represented on it and surrounded by a frame studded with precious stones and suspended with a chain from the neck on the chest. It is an Episcopal decoration granted by the Patriarch-Catholicos to all bishops after their consecration.
Kavazan Hovagan (Pastoral Staff or Pedum) is a rod, often of metal, sometimes of wood, about five feet six inches long, crooked at the top end and sometimes with a knob at the base of the crooked part. It is ornamented in various ways. It is a symbol of Episcopal authority over the flock. It is used during the Liturgy and other solemn services.
Kavazan Vartabedagan (Doctoral Staff or Crocia) is a rod, often of metal, sometimes of wood, having the same length as the pastoral staff, and in the form of tau cross, like the letter T. Very often the arms of the cross thus formed are so made as to represent two serpents facing each other. Sometimes there is a globe, with a small cross on it, on top of the rod where the two serpents branch off. The rod is used by priests or prelates having the doctor’s rank. It may also be used by bishops. It is a symbol of teaching authority, the serpents representing wisdom, directed toward the world.
Asa (Staff or Ferula) is a rod of wood shorter than the other staffs, with a metal knob on top. It is carried by bishops as a walking stick and is not used during the Liturgy or the services.
Shabig (Tunic) is long extending down to the ankle which is worn by clerks and deacons in the church during all services except Lent and other penitential days. It can be of any colour and symbolises purity of mind and of heart with which all who serve the Lord must be clothed.
Oorar (Stole) is a band of about nine feet long and four inches wide. It must be of rich material of the colours, with a cross sewn on where it rests on the shoulder and two other crosses, one in front and one at the back. It is worn on the left shoulder and hangs down loosely in front and at the back. It is the distinctive vestment of ordained deacons, but permission to wear it is often given by the bishop to persons in minor orders, together with the permission to perform some of the duties of a deacon.
Verargoo (Schema or Cassock) is a long vestment of plain black material with wide sleeves, without a waistline, coming down to the ankles. Verargoo is the clerical garb worn by all ranks of the clergy and at all times.
Pilon (Phelonian) is a vestment of the same shape as the cope, made of plain black material. It is worn by priests while attending any service. Some priests (married or unmarried) and all bishops wear the same in silk, black on fast days and purple on other days. This vestment symbolises the spiritual defence of the soul against the attacks of the evil One.
Veghar (Cowl) is a black silken headgear worn by the celibate clergy in the church. Married clergy stand bare-headed in the church during services. Veghar symbolises humility and the denial of the world.
Lanchakhach (Pectoral Cross) is a small metal cross studded with precious stones suspended from the neck on the chest. It is worn by priests as well as bishops. The right to wear the pectoral cross is granted by the Catholicos or the Patriarch, in recognition of long or distinguished service to the church.