Lenten Journey – Continuing on Physical Preparations and the Vestments

Day #4 of the Lenten Journey into the Divine Liturgy by Fr. Vazken Movsesian.

In physically preparing for the Divine Liturgy the priest dons a set of vestments, specifically designated for the celebration of the Divine Liturgy. Yesterday we were introduced to the tak crown, the white shabikshirt, and oorar or the stole. Today we will continue with the vesting process by understanding the role of the belt, the vagas, and the cuffs.
The belt, or godi, is placed around the shirt and the stole which is hanging from the priest’s neck. The priest recites, “May the girdle of faith encircle me round about my heart and my mind and quench vile thoughts out of them and may the power of Your grace abide in them at all time, by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  As the belt circles his body, we are to understand the totality of commitment to the sacred celebration. Note that the physical attributes of the belt point to the spiritual union of heart and mind in the celebration. Our bodies are the vessels inside which the mind and soul of our being resides. To engage in the Divine we must be present with all of our faculties. The five physical sense of taste, smell, sight, sound and touch are highlighted with the experiences we feel through our heart and engage with our mind. The priest is completely committed at this point, and beckons that we give all of our selves to the celebration.
Next the priest places his hands through the bazbans, or cuffs, so that they cover his arms. He prays, “Give strength, O Lord, to my right and left hands and wash all my filthiness that I may be able to serve you in health of soul and body.” The arms and hands are the means by which the physical work of the church is accomplished. Here, the request for strength should be not be underplayed. Strength is endurance. Strength is patience. Strength is muscle. The Celebration of the Divine Liturgy is an action that has implications and consequences in the real world. Much like the gladiators of old, who would place cuffs on their forearms for protection and as a symbol of strength, the priest is reminded of the necessity to work for the victory, that is, success, of this Mystery known as the Divine Liturgy.
Now the priest well ready to celebrate, and so the next vestment is one which calls for focus. The vagas is placed around the back of the neck of the priest. It stands high and surrounds the back of his head. As the oorar reminded the priest of the yoke, or the burden placed around his neck, the vagas is a reminder of what are sometimes called “blinders” that we see around the eyes of the beasts of burden. While temptation is from all around, the vagas forces the priest’s attention to the celebration of the Liturgy, and the common cup at the center of the Holy Eucharist. In a moment of temptation if the priest’s attention is steered to the right or left, the blinders prevent him from looking further and readjust his attention to the work before him. This is a very special vestment that directs the senses to the essentials of the Liturgy and therefore the essentials of life.

The final article of the vestment set is the robe or shourjar, which we will learn about tomorrow. For today let us focus on the belt, the cuffs and the vagas, as three reminders of commitment. Our devotion must be circular, like the belt, with no signs of beginning or end, encircling our entire being through body, soul and mind. Our faith must be fortified by strength, as the cuffs provide, so that we understand that the purpose of our faith is to do – to share, love and work for the betterment of life.  Our life must be focused, as the vagas directs us, to concentrate on the matters at hand. And if, by the temptation of the moment we should wonder, may we be reminded of the awesome beauty of the life that is in front of us. 

Produced by Suzie Shatarevyan for epostle.net
Background Lent Song: Here I Am to Worship played by Heidi 

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