Just as the crown and scepter are part of the regalia reflecting the majesty of a monarch, the liturgical insignia serve as emblems of the authority and dignity of the clergy during the celebration of the Divine Liturgy, reflecting the majesty of God.
A pastoral staff is a long ornamental stick carried by a patriarch or a bishop. It is surmounted by a cross on a small orb between two inwardly curved serpents. This staff is symbolic of the victory of the Cross, as well as the pastoral care expected of a good shepherd. The serpents are an illustration of the words of Christ with reference to Moses’ brazen serpent, when He spoke of His imminent crucifixion, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him may have eternal life” (Jn. 3:14-15).
The pastoral staff is usually carried before a patriarch or a bishop during processions. It has a red silk sash hanging down from its upper curves.
A pectoral cross is worn by the clergy (as well as pious Christians, both men and women) as an insignia and distinguishing mark, giving the clergy spiritual power and protection.
The custom of wearing pectoral crosses seems to have been widespread during the early centuries of Christianity. Saint Macrina, sister of Saint GREGORY OF NYSSA (335-395), is said to have always worn a cross. Saint JOHN CHRYSOSTOM used to encourage every believer to carry a cross and take pride in so doing, as if wearing a crown.
A large cross mounted on a pole is carried by a deacon at the head of a procession during feasts, celebrations, and other special occasions. The crossbearer is followed by two other deacons, each carrying a fan, and then by the rest of the deacons, all holding banners.
Eusebius gave a description of a processional cross designed by Constantine the Great, on which were engraved the initial letters of the name Jesus Christ. It was carried at the head of the army when it went to battle.
On one side of the processional cross there is usually the picture of the Crucified Christ, and on the other side, the Risen Christ.
Cross with Tapers
Allegorically, the cross with three lit tapers symbolizes the fact that Christ, who was crucified on the cross, is the light of the world and that He has called believers out of the darkness into His glorious light (1 Pt. 2:9).
It is used on several occasions. At the evening and morning services, following the creed, the officiating priest holds a cross with lit tapers at the entrance to the sanctuary (haykal) and says the prayer of God, have Mercy on Us. He silently makes the sign of the cross on the congregation three times and then turns to the east and prays, “O God, have mercy upon us, establish Thy mercy unto us, have compassion on us, hear us, bless us, keep us, help us, take away Thy anger from us. Visit us with Thy salvation and forgive us our sins.” To this, the congregation responds Kyrie eleison three times. At the morning service of the two Feasts of the Cross (17 Tut and 10 Baramhat), after the above-mentioned prayer, the clergy and deacons make a circuit round the church with the cross with tapers and then resume the service. At the morning service of Palm Sunday, again after the above-mentioned prayer, they make three circuits round the altar with the cross with tapers, singing the Kyrie eleison, and then stand at the entrance of the haykal and sing the hymn of eulog/menoc. Then they make a circuit round the church and resume the service.
The miter (see also LITURGICAL VESTMENTS) is a representation of the golden crown worn by each of the twenty-four elders seen ministering to God in heaven by Saint John the Divine (Rev. 4:4). It is also symbolic of the authority given by the Lord to His high priest (2 Cor. 10:8), by which a patriarch becomes the steward of the secrets of Christ (1 Cor. 4:4).
- Matta al-Miskin. Hayat al-Salah. Cairo, 1968.
- Matta’us, Bishop. Ruhaniyat Taqs al-Quddas fi al-Kanisah al- Qibtiyyah al-Urthudhuksiyyah, 2nd ed. Cairo, 1980.