I have been taught that, in the Byzantine Rite, the hierarchy and communion of the Orthodox Church is shown forth by us receiving the Mysteries of the Church according to our part and within the Mystery of the Church.
Therefore, a priest vests as a priest in order to receive Communion, even if he has not concelebrated at that particular Liturgy, because that is his order within the economy of Christ's Body, the Church, and it makes sense for him to vest as such for Communion. Similarly, a server removes his stikhar to make Confession and receive Communion, because he is not ordained and is a layman, therefore should receive the Mysteries as a layman.
Now, I occasionally visit Byzantine Rite churches of the Greek Archdiocese and the Antiochian Deanery and noticed that their servers receive the Mysteries while wearing their stikhars
. This surprised me at first as it contradicts what I have been taught is the Byzantine Rite custom.
Anyway, it got me to thinking a little bit more about this. The reason that servers wear stikhars is that, properly, they are tonsured and ordained to this ministry, much like readers. However, these days, as I understand it, servers are very rarely, if ever, tonsured and ordained. Therefore, the "servers/acolytes" whom we see in most of our churches today are actually laymen performing an ordained role in the Liturgy. Leaving aside for the moment the matter of whether this is proper, it raises some questions:
- Does anywhere actually tonsure servers anymore? The Athonie Fathers, perhaps?
- Does anybody know where I can find more information about the exploration of St John of Shanghai & San Francisco of restoring the tonsuring and ordination of servers?
- Why do some churches permit laymen to receive the Sacraments as though they were ordained?
- What are the thoughts of others about restoring the ordained misnistry of the server?