Orthodox Church in America

The Bishop of San Francisco and the West

650 Micheltorena Street, Los Angeles, California 90026 Telephone: (213) 913-3615; Facsimile (213) 913-0316

Date 03/27/96
Wednesday of the Fifth Week of the Great Tessaracost
Our Holy Mother Matrona of Thessalonica

A Letter of Instruction (IV) on Liturgical Topics:


The Very Reverend and Reverend Rectors & Parish Clergy Diocese of the West

Dearly beloved in Christ!

The blessing of the Lord be upon you!

The 29th Chapter of the Typikon is titled, "About the Covering of Heads:"

Be it known that at Liturgy we uncover our heads at the Entrance, and for the hearing of the holy Gospel, and at the Cherubim Hymn of the Great Entrance, and at the Savior's Words, and at "It is truly meet, and at "Our Father," and at the appearance of the Holy Mysteries, and at the entrance at Vespers.
The above rubric pertains, of course, to the wearing of headgear by Monastics standing in Church; moreover, not to those who are actually serving, but to those that are simply present at the services. As for those Priests that have the right of wearing Mitres, Kamilavkas, and Skufiyas, the following is the received practice of our Church, and is to be followed in the Diocese of the West.

For Divine Liturgy, the Priest enters the Church wearing his Skufiya or Kamilavka and, usually, begins reading the prayers of preparation in front of the Holy Doors without uncovering his head until the end of the penitential troparia, "Have mercy on us, O Lord..." and "Open unto us the door of thy tender-heartedness, O Theotokos." When he has to kiss the Icons, the Priest bares his head. He also reads the Prayer: "O Lord, stretch forth Thy hand," with uncovered head and, without re-covering it, he enters the Altar, makes his reverences before the Holy Table, kisses the Book of Gospels, the Cross and the Holy Table and proceeds to vest, as usual.

He also serves the Proskomedia with uncovered head.[1] He puts on his Mitre, Kamilavka, or Skufiya at the beginning of the Liturgy proper, before uttering "O Heavenly King" and "Glory to God in the highest." He continues with covered head all the way to the Gospel. At the Gospel he takes off his head-covering. He puts it back on again after the reading and stands with covered head up to the Cherubim Hymn or, more exactly, till the Great Entrance. From that point on the Priest leaves his head bare until the exclamation "Always, now and ever and unto ages of ages," and the placing of the Holy Gifts on the Table of Oblation, whereupon, returning to stand before the Holy Table, while the Choir is singing "Let our mouths be filled," the Priest puts on his head-covering, refolds the Antimension and Iliton, reads the Prayer before the Ambo, and proceeds straight through to the conclusion of the Liturgy with covered head.

When serving the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts, Priests take off their Kamilavkas and Skufiyas to kiss the holy Icons during the reading of their (abbreviated) Entrance Prayers while the Choir is chanting the Beatitudes of the Typica. They put them back on again before beginning the Liturgy and take them off again to make a Great Reverence before the Holy Table and take the Presanctified Gifts from the Tabernacle and place Them on the Paten. They put them on again and leave them on until it comes time to make three Great Reverences and transport the Presanctified Gifts from the Holy Table to the Table of Oblation. After placing Them on the Table of Oblation and making a prostration, they put their headgear on again. Headgear are taken off before the blessing with candle and censer and the words: "Wisdom. Attend. The Light of Christ illuminateth all." Then they are put on again. They are again taken off for the chanting of "Let my prayer arise," with its verses, and put on again after three Great Reverences and the Prayer of St. Ephraim. They are put on again for the Fervent Litany and remain on until the time of "Now the Powers of Heaven." Priests then stand bare-headed through the rest of the Service until "Let our mouths be filled," as at Eucharistic Liturgies.

As for other services, in general our practice is not to keep our heads covered during prayers in general--Prayers of Light, Prayers at the bowing of heads, during the Hexapsalmos, Molieben Prayers, and during the time of other such sacred utterances as the reading of Akathists and Gospels. And this usage applies not only to Priests that are serving, but also to those only present at a given Service.

Some Priests have asked if Kamilavkas and Skufiyas can be placed on the Holy Table. This has not been received practice from very early times, and is is best to avoid it. As for Miters, since they have holy icons on them, they may be, and usually are, placed on the Holy Table.

Finally a word about black Skufiyas. These may be worn by any clergy from the rank of Reader if they receive a blessing to do so from their Bishop. If the blessing to wear a black Skufiya is asked for and given for health reasons, then that Skufiya should only be worn for such reasons as protection from the cold and for performing services of need outside the Temple, for such occasions as burials and Cross processions, or in winter in an unheated Church, and even during Services and the Divine Liturgy, in which case the same rules are followed as are given above for the Violet Skufiya.

Any questions on matters addressed in this Letter of Instruction may be addressed to the local Dean, the Diocesan Chancellor, or, in case they are unable to provide necessary guidance, to me personally.

Sending an archpastoral blessing and assuring you of my constancy in prayer for you all,

With love in Christ,


His Beatitude and Members of the Holy Synod

[1] While headgear is not worn during the Proskomedia, all other Vestments are worn during the Proskomedia. There is no provision at all in the Service Books of our Church for deferring any of the vesting until after the Proskomedia. Any Priests that are serving the Proskomedia without their phelonion are making a mistake and disturbing the established order of the services.

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