General collective thoughts and shares of a 28 year old British Orthodox Christian Full Deacon, under the Coptic Patriarchate. Expect to find: Orthodox News, Church Fathers Quotes, Book Reviews and the odd personal thought/post. Don't expect to find: Polemics, support for Theological divergence, support for Phyletism.
Dear Anon, I apologise for the delay.
Among the British Orthodox, we follow the tradition handed to us from our Patriarchate, and thus our form of vesting mirrors that of the wider Patriarchate. I know of many within out Diocese who have moved for a return to the use of the belt and cuffs, though we have been advised not to.
regarding the development in the sider Coptic Patrarchate, I have spoken to some other clergy with a better understanding of the history of this development and heard two possible answers for this.
1) Because of the heat in Coptic Churches, HH Pope Shenouda III allowed for clergy to ‘vest down’ for non-feast day Liturgies. Though this was specifically regarding Egypt originally, the habit spread the lands of dispersion with Priests who serve there.
2) The more likely is that it is down to Theological ignorance, This came from a respected priest I know who stated that:
"The vestments used in the Coptic Orthodox Tradition up until the early 20th century are well documented by authors such as Burmester, Butler and Butcher, and are shown in old photographs, in ancient sources, and in museums and museum catalogues. Photographic sources suggest that there was a gradual reduction in Priestly vestments from the late 19th century, with the phelonion (burnus, cope), sleeves (cuffs), shamlah and belt (zunar) falling into disuse. Under Pope Shenouda, the epitrachelion (stole) became uncommon, and Priests increasingly came to celebrate the Liturgy wearing only the tonya (alb) and, in the case of married Priests, the tailasan (Priest’s mitre). The vestments of Bishops became likewise minimalized, with many (or even most) Bishops celebrating the Liturgy wearing only the tonya (alb). For other Sacraments, only the tonya (alb) seems to have usually worn by both Bishops and Priests.
The situation with “deacons” (virtually none of whom are actually Deacons) has been particularly chaotic in modern times, with the belt of the Subdeacon and the stole of the Deacon being widely worn by people who have no entitlement to them. The real Deacon essentially disappeared in Pope Shenouda’s period (and has only relatively recently seen a gradual reappearance in some places).
The contemporary situation with Coptic Orthodox vestments can best be described as confused and confusing, with considerable variations between churches and Priests and Bishops).
The explanation for the minimization and chaos is essentially theological ignorance (especially in sacramental theology) and, in part, the Protestant influence which was evident in Pope Shenouda’s reign. Old Coptic texts provided rules (and in some case, canons) for (amongst other liturgical matters) vestments and explanations as to what they represent and why they are worn, but there are very few (if any) modern texts that do so. The traditional instruction of new Priests (“The Forty Days”) originally included such material, but since it is an oral transmission of knowledge it depends upon the knowledge of the instructor; there would seem to be fewer and fewer Priests adequately trained in the ancient tradition and therefore able to pass it on.”
I hope these answers help.
O Lord, save your people,
and bless your inheritance!
Grant victory to the Orthodox Christians
over their adversaries,
and by virtue of your cross,
preserve your habitation.
- Troparion of the Holy Cross