The Garments of Salvation: Orthodox Christian Liturgical Vesture
Author Khouria Krista West began work as an ecclesiastical tailor in 1995 and founded Krista West Vestments in 1997. Her designs may be found in Orthodox churches of every major jurisdiction in North America as well as numerous countries throughout the world. An avid scholar of the history and construction techniques of Eastern Orthodox ecclesiastical vesture, she writes and lectures on the topic as she continues to pursue her research and the development of her own practice of the historic craft of vestment making. She is the wife of Fr. Alban West, rector of St. George Antiochian Orthodox Church in Portland, OR, and the mother of three daughters.
Is beauty within the Church optional or essential? What is the origin of Orthodox Christian liturgical vestments and what is their significance? What meaning is contained in the textiles, colors and designs used in Orthodox Christian liturgical practice? Answering these and many other questions, master vestment maker, Khouria Krista West, invites us to explore the fascinating and colorful world of Orthodox Christian vesture and church adornment. The first comprehensive book on this topic in the English language, The Garments of Salvation is an engaging and compelling presentation of the nearly 2000-year tradition of liturgical garments within the Eastern Orthodox Church.
Khouria Krista West’s book on the origins, history, and theological meaning of Liturgical vestments is both an intellectual and spiritual achievement covering many academic disciplines at once: it is engaging history that traces the civil lineaments of what finally became sacred vestments; it is systematic theology true to holy tradition, teaching you can touch; it is evangelical in that it proclaims the faith in fabrics; it is pastoral, showing how we as members of the clergy are chosen to “put on glorious apparel” as a reflection of Christ Who sits at the right hand of His Father.
She has structured the text of her book so that the theological outline for vestments in the first chapter permeates and legitimizes the other chapters, grounding her discussion of how clothing developed into garments exclusive to worship in a startlingly spiritual framework. So the reader gains a pious experience from reading these words. We can reverence the beauty of the aesthetics of liturgical clothing and ornamentation and realize, through that reverence, an ascetical dimension to the practice of our own faith. I thought that the external and sanctified clothing we put on our bodies must somehow co-ordinate with the inner man of the soul that St Paul talks about in his letters to the churches. The tempered passions of the soul match the luster of textiles. The luminous things I put on to serve the services are rays of the light that shine out from my heart. Kh. Krista writes: “some of the most ornate and elaborate vestments in use today can be seen in the churches of what is, paradoxically, one of the most austere settings in the world: the monasteries of the Holy Mountain. Such devotion to material beauty by those who have found their calling in a life of liturgy and prayer is surely a further witness to the understanding within Orthodox Christianity that physical matter is not only redeemed, but also has a vital role to play in the salvation of mankind.” Asceticism diminishes carnal needs to embellish heavenly goals. The material makes palpable the ethereal.
The craftsman who makes vestments is like the artist who writes or paints icons, as she lyrically describes here. The iconic nature of both tailor and painter displays the picture of His presence everywhere in the Church. After reading this book my perception of priestly ministry expanded. Kh. Krista helped me see offerings everywhere. Now I know that “prosphora,” the bringing out or bringing forth, is giving my gifts to Christ to use as He wants, and that “anaphora,” the lifting up of myself as an offering of my life to Life Himself, is an essentially priestly vocation that everyone has, since everyone is made in the Image and Likeness of God. All material things, once transformed into both functional use and sacramental meaning by us, have a transcendent destiny, liberating them through art and skill and training, from their earthly settings and giving them wings for an ascent to heavenly places.
Khouria Krista has been my teacher. It is an honor for me to introduce this essential book.
—The Rt. Rev. Bishop Anthony (Michaels), Diocese of Toledo and the Midwest, Antiochian Archdiocese