A crosier (crozier, pastoral staff, paterissa, pósokh) is the stylized staff of office (pastoral staff) carried by high-ranking Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Anglican, and some Lutheran and Pentecostal prelates. The other typical insignia of most of these prelates, but not all, are the mitre and the episcopal ring.
The crosier is conferred upon a bishop during his ordination to the episcopacy. It is also presented to an abbot at his blessing, an ancient custom symbolizing his shepherding of the monastic community. Although there is no provision in the liturgy of the blessing of an abbess for the presentation of a crosier, by long-standing custom an abbess may bear one when leading her community of nuns.
The crosier is used in ecclesiastical heraldry to represent pastoral authority in the coats of arms of cardinals, bishops, abbots and abbesses. It was suppressed in most personal arms in the Catholic Church in 1969, and is since found on arms of abbots and abbesses, diocesan coats of arms and other corporate arms.
The Church of God in Christ, Incorporated is a Pentecostal body, the largest Pentecostal Christian church in the United States. The Church of God in Christ community views the Presiding Bishop as the positional and functional leader of the Church. The Presiding Bishop also bears a crosier.
In Eastern Christianity (Oriental Orthodoxy, Eastern Orthodoxy or Eastern Catholicism), bishops use a similar pastoral staff. When a new bishop is consecrated, the crosier (Greek: paterissa, Slavonic: pósokh) is presented to him by the chief consecrator following the dismissal at the Divine Liturgy. A bishop bears the crosier whenever he is present for church services outside the altar (sanctuary), whether in his own diocese or not, even if he is not serving. Auxiliary bishops also bear it. It is never carried inside the altar; rather, when the bishop enters the sanctuary, he leans the paterissa against the iconostasis, usually by the icon of Christ.
The Archbishop of Cyprus has the unique privilege of carrying a paterissa shaped like an imperial sceptre. This is one of the Three Privileges granted to the Orthodox Church of Cyprus by the Emperor Zeno (the other two being to sign his name in cinnabar—i.e., ink colored vermilion by the addition of the mineral cinnabar—and to wear purple instead of black robes under his vestments).
An Eastern archimandrite (high-ranking abbot), hegumen (abbot) or hegumenia (abbess) who leads a monastic community also bears a crosier. It is conferred upon them by the bishop during the Divine Liturgy where the candidate is elevated.
Crosiers used by Western bishops have curved or hooked tops, similar in appearance to staves traditionally used by shepherds, hence they are also known as crooks. In some languages there is only one term, referring to this form, such as the German Krummstab, Dutch kromstaf. The crook itself (i.e., the curved top portion) may be formed as a simple shepherd's crook, terminating in a floral pattern, reminiscent of the Aaron's rod, or in a serpent's head. It may encircle a depiction of the bishop's coat of arms or the figure of a saint. In some very ornate crozeirs, the place where the staff meets the crook may be designed to represent a church.
In previous times, a cloth of linen or richer material, called the Sudarium, was suspended from the crozier at the place where the bishop would grasp it. This was originally a practical application which prevented the bishop's hand from sweating and discolouring (or being discolourd by) the metal. Over time it became more elaborate and ceremonial in function. In heraldry, the sudarium is often still depicted when croziers occur on coats of arms.
In the Roman Catholic Church, the crosier is always carried by the bishop with the crook turned away from himself; that is to say, facing toward the persons or objects which he is facing regardless of whether he is the Ordinary or not. The Sacred Congregation of Rites on November 26, 1919 stated in a reply to the following question,
"In case an outside Bishop uses a Bishops' staff, this being either required by the function or permitted by the Ordinary, in what direction should he hold the upper part, or crook?
Reply. Always with the crook turned away from himself, that is toward the persons or objects which he is facing." (AAS 12-177)
The croziers carried by Eastern bishops, archimandrites, abbots and abbesses differs in design from the Western crozier. The Eastern crozier is shaped more like a crutch than a shepherd's staff.
The sudarium (crozier mantle) is still used in the Eastern churches, where it is usually made of a rich fabric such as brocade or velvet, and is usually embroidered with a cross or other religious symbol, trimmed with galoon around the edges, and fringed at the bottom. The sudarium is normally a rectangular piece of fabric with a string sewn into the upper edge which is used to tie the sudarium to the crosier and which can be drawn together to form pleats. As the sudarium has grown more elaborate, bishops no longer hold it between their hand and the crosier, but place their hand under it as they grasp the crosier, so that it is visible.
The Eastern crosier is found in two common forms. The older form is tau-shaped, with arms curving down, surmounted by a small cross. The other has a top composed of a pair of sculptured serpents or dragons with their heads curled back to face each other, with a small cross between them, representing the bishop's diligence in guarding his flock.
The symbolism of the tau-shaped crosier lies in its similiarit to a crutch, showing the bishop's role as Elder. The symbolism of the serpent-headed crosier is the bronze serpent made by Moses in . It is also reminiscent of the caduceus, indicating the role of the bishop as healer of spiritual diseases.
The Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Rite Catholic crosier, is found in two common forms. One is tau-shaped, with curved arms, surmounted by a small cross. The other has a top comprising a pair of sculptured serpents or dragons curled back to face each other, with a small cross between them. The symbolism in the latter case is of the bronze serpent made by Moses in . It is also reminiscent of the caduceus, indicating the role of the bishop as healer of spiritual diseases.
A crosier was also carried on some occasions by the pope, beginning in the early days of the church. This practice was gradually phased out and had disappeared by the time of Innocent III's papacy in the eleventh century. In the Middle Ages, popes would carry a three-barred cross (one more bar than on those carried before archbishops), in the same manner as other bishops carried a crosier. This was in turn phased out, but Paul VI introduced the modern papal pastoral staff, which instead of the triple cross depicts a modern rendition of the crucified Christ, whose arms are fixed to a crossbar that is curved somewhat in the manner of an Eastern crozier.
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