We know that the Great-Metropolitans (Kehuna gedulim) of the Church of the East, from the time of Mar Yaqaq, wore a distinctive liturgical vestment known as a Marganytha, in order to designate their rank. We know that the Marganytha had twelve pearls, one to represent each of the Twelve Tribes of Israel, and each of the Apostles. Also twelve to represent the highest of the 12 orders of the priesthood, at which the Metropolitan stands as chief.
However no living person had ever seen this vestment, because it stopped being used around 800 years ago when the power of the church at Selucia-Çtiphon began to wane. The rise of Islam and climate change were both significant factors which led to the downfall of what had been the world’s largest Christian denomination in size and influence - a church who’s power once stretched from Jordan in the west, to Japan in the east, and from what is modern day Srî Lanka in the south, to Artic Siberia in the north. Whatever versions of this vestment that were then available have not survived the passing of time.
The word marganytha is an Aramaic idiom, meaning simultaneously “pearl”, “jewel”, “treasure” and “Gift of our Lord”, and sets the Metropolitan aside as the “gonzira”, which is the Aramaic word for “the treasurer”, the one who holds the great mystery of faith and on whom the community is centred. Jesus speaks in the Gospel of Matthew saying, “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls: Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it.” [Matthew 13:44-45]
When His Excellency Hadrian Mâr Élijah Bar Israël became Nazarani Metropolitan (Kehuna Gedula) in 2012, he decided to re-incorporate the use of the Marganytha into the ritual of the Church, as part of our Nazarani rîte. This decision, made in the spirit of humbleness and only after great prayer, has resulted in a design being made which finally reinstated this holy garment to it’s rightful place of adornment in the church. The Marganytha which is now used was designed by Monk Markos (Marc-Antoine Beaulé) and includes twelve pearls, as a treasure collected in a field, centred in adoration around YAH, at the centre.
The Marganytha is worn whenever the Metropolitan performs any liturgical function specific to his office as High Priest (Kahuna Gedula), including ordinations, episcopal consecrations, and the consecration of Holy Myron, dedication of churches, et cetera. It is however not normally worn when the Metropolitan celebrates the Holy Offering by itself.
It is meant to mimic the breastplate of the High Priest of the Jews.