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Author Topic: Responsibilities of the Diaconate  (Read 2674 times) Average Rating: 5
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GabrieltheCelt
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« on: October 31, 2008, 03:53:47 PM »

 Hey everyone,

 I was hoping to learn a little more about the diaconate.  What roles/responsabilities do deacons have in the church?  Does one become a reader/cantor first?  Is it necessary to move on to the priesthood?  What about the title of Archdeacon and sub-deacon?  What does that mean?

 In Christ,
Gabriel
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« Reply #1 on: October 31, 2008, 04:21:41 PM »

The meaning of 'deacon' is 'servant'......the diaconate is often seen in that light, as incarnating the serving Christ in the midst of the Church, or as being the example of Christian service in the midst of the community.  When I did some research on the diaconate a couple of years ago, I found some interesting evidence that showed that the deacon is sometimes seen as being the 'ultimate layman', in terms of providing this image and realilty of Christian service to the community.  I find that, because of this, having active deacons in parishes is a great way to make the laity feel more included in the way the parish is run.  It just seems that deacons are more kind of like 'people's clergy', in a way. 

Deacons may be involved in running administrative arms of church business and in visiting people in the parish, as they were in the patristic period of the Church.  Or their roles might be a good deal less defined.  In Slavic Churches, they have tended to be reduced to a kind of 'liturgical ornament' and viewed by people as being 'little priests', which is unfortunate, since the charism given to deacons is quite different from that given to priests.  Many men become deacons and have no intention of ever becoming a priest.  The diaconate is one of the three 'major orders' of clergy in the Church.  Most people probably serve as a reader or subdeacon for some time before becoming a deacon, but although one has to pass throught these two 'minor orders' before becoming a deacon, there is no hard and fast rule about how much time you have to be a reader or subdeacon, and some men are ordained to the diaconate on the same day that they are tonsured a reader and blessed as a subdeacon.  Some kind of higher theological education is usually required before one is ordained deacon, depending on the requirements of your jurisdiciton/bishop.

The liturgical role of the deacon is certainly important, but the whole minsterial function of the diaconate is something that needs to be reinvigorated.  It is a 'full and equal order', one that is really necessary to the healthy functioning of the Church.
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« Reply #2 on: October 31, 2008, 04:51:04 PM »

^^Thank you so much for explaining this.  Do you or anyone else know why we say 'sub-deacon' and 'arch-deacon'?  And is a sub-deacon pretty much the same as a reader?
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« Reply #3 on: October 31, 2008, 09:13:29 PM »

**bump** Grin

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« Reply #4 on: October 31, 2008, 11:41:12 PM »

I'm glad you brought up this subject, Gabriel. Lately I've been wondering about the subdiaconate. Is there a special title given to subdeacons? I am assuming they are not addressed as "father", but merely by their given name?

Can someone who is tonsured/ordained (?) a subdeacon whilst still celibate marry, or is this an issue only when considering the full diaconate?
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« Reply #5 on: October 31, 2008, 11:47:09 PM »

I'm glad you brought up this subject, Gabriel. Lately I've been wondering about the subdiaconate. Is there a special title given to subdeacons? I am assuming they are not addressed as "father", but merely by their given name?
I don't know the answer to this one, but I do know your second question:

Quote
Can someone who is tonsured/ordained (?) a subdeacon whilst still celibate marry, or is this an issue only when considering the full diaconate?
Yes. Only deacons and priests are precluded from marrying after ordination, and of course bishops are celibate their entire lives. Subdeacons and readers are free to marry after being tonsured.
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« Reply #6 on: November 01, 2008, 12:11:31 AM »

You can use the title, Deacon, when addressing a subdeacon according to what a subdeacon told me at one Antiochian Church.  You can't call a subdeacon, Father Deacon.

I wouldn't refer to a subdeacon by only his first name.

Edit to remove dashes.
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« Reply #7 on: November 01, 2008, 12:20:39 AM »

Quote
Can someone who is tonsured/ordained (?) a subdeacon whilst still celibate marry, or is this an issue only when considering the full diaconate?  
Yes. Only deacons and priests are precluded from marrying after ordination, and of course bishops are celibate their entire lives. Subdeacons and readers are free to marry after being tonsured.

Eh, you're technically wrong.  Subdeacons are canonically prohibited from marrying after ordination, a ban which is still followed outside of the U.S.  Here, the OCA and Antiochian archdiocese both tell their subdeacons they can marry; the OCA gets around it (from what I've seen) by not "ordaining" the subdeacon, but rather "tonsuring."  Either way, they've decided to dispense with the rule for whatever reason (IMO- they do it to get more men involved in the Church during young adulthood and into their family lives).  I think the canon is from the synod of Trullo, but I don't have my references here at home to double-check.

FWIW, the Armenians (I believe) actually will allow both subdeacon and deacon to marry after ordination - as long as the bishop gives his approval beforehand.  I know of one Armenian deacon who got the approval but decided to marry a non-Armenian girl and the bishop rescinded his permission; he got married anyways and doesn't serve (last I checked).
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« Reply #8 on: November 01, 2008, 12:26:40 AM »

Is it necessary to move on to the priesthood? 

No, it isn't.  In fact, it would be better if people remained deacons as often as others become priests - we have lost a valuable ministry in this church.

What about the title of Archdeacon and sub-deacon?

Archdeacon is a title going to the senior deacon/s in a particular Diocese.  Usually the Archdeacon is the Bishop's 1st deacon, or one of the senior deacons of administration.  Our metropolis has one Archdeacon (who happens to be the Chancellor, which ironically gives him the the title "Very Reverend" even though he is not a priest - he doesn't use it, though), just as Archbishop Demetrios has an Archdeacon, and the EP has an Archdeacon (actually, two, iirc - one is a Patriarchal deacon, and one is the Archdeacon for the Archdiocese of Constantinople).  I'm sure there are many other hierarchs with Archdeacons in their employ.  Archdeacon is merely a title.

Subdeacon, on the other hand, is an office, as has been pointed out elsewhere here, and not a title.  (Office being Presbyter, Deacon, Bishop, Subdeacon, Reader, Doorkeeper, etc. versus Title, being Metropolitan, Archbishop, Archdeacon, Protopresbyter, Archimandrite, Economos, etc.).
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« Reply #9 on: November 01, 2008, 12:43:50 AM »

Actually, in Ukraine as well as in UOC-USA, subdeacons can marry upon ordination.

Also in Slavic tradition:

Subdeacon - the same status as in other Orthodox traditions

Hierodeacon - a monastic Deacon

Protodeacon - a senior Deacon, not necessarily one in the diocese. Often, experienced Deacons have this title.

Archdeacon - a monastic equivalent to the Protodeacon

As a maximum, only (1) Bishop, (1) Priest and (1) Deacon can be ordained per Liturgy. However, a number of Readers and Subdeacons ordained per Liturgy is unlimited.

Also, in theory, a Protopresbyter, an Archimandrite or a Mitred Protopriest, acting only as a ruling Hierarch's delegate can ordain a Reader or a Subdeacon. Practically, these ordinations normally done by Hierarchs anyway. For ordination of Priests and Deacons, Hierarchs are required. The ruling Hierarch can give the blessing to perform an ordination to higher offices (Deaconate and Priesthood) to another Hierarch (visiting, auxiliary, or retired), but there must be a Hierarch.


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« Reply #10 on: November 01, 2008, 12:52:14 AM »

A little clarification to my own post. Deacon, Hierodeacon, Protodeacon and Archdeacon are titles that belong to the Deacon's office.
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« Reply #11 on: November 01, 2008, 12:53:27 AM »

Man, this is so confusing. Tongue  My priest approached me a few weeks ago and proclaimed that I should seriously consider the diaconate.  I told him we'd discuss it soon but I'm really really shy about standing out.  I suppose my initial post was really to see what I'm getting myself into. Smiley  Thanks for the replies everyone.
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« Reply #12 on: November 01, 2008, 01:04:46 AM »

Man, this is so confusing. Tongue  My priest approached me a few weeks ago and proclaimed that I should seriously consider the diaconate.  I told him we'd discuss it soon but I'm really really shy about standing out.  I suppose my initial post was really to see what I'm getting myself into. Smiley  Thanks for the replies everyone.

You are very welcome.

I may be confusing even more, but could it be that your priest had in mind your possible studies at St. Stephen's program? This is a three-years part-time program, preparing potential Deacons:
http://www.antiochian.org/638
http://orthodoxwiki.org/St._Stephen%27s_Course_in_Orthodox_Theology

The program has been established by Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America. The course is open for all jurisdictions. As far as I know, many students got ordained after (2) years of the program or after (3), which means upon completion. Some candidates may be single and they may be ordained to the Deaconate years later, following their weddings. On the other hand, some Deacons and Priests, who did not have an opportunity to finish theological studies before, may study in this program.

I heard many great things about this program.
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« Reply #13 on: November 01, 2008, 02:16:13 PM »

Quote
Can someone who is tonsured/ordained (?) a subdeacon whilst still celibate marry, or is this an issue only when considering the full diaconate?  
Yes. Only deacons and priests are precluded from marrying after ordination, and of course bishops are celibate their entire lives. Subdeacons and readers are free to marry after being tonsured.

Eh, you're technically wrong.  Subdeacons are canonically prohibited from marrying after ordination, a ban which is still followed outside of the U.S.  Here, the OCA and Antiochian archdiocese both tell their subdeacons they can marry; the OCA gets around it (from what I've seen) by not "ordaining" the subdeacon, but rather "tonsuring."  Either way, they've decided to dispense with the rule for whatever reason (IMO- they do it to get more men involved in the Church during young adulthood and into their family lives).  I think the canon is from the synod of Trullo, but I don't have my references here at home to double-check.
Interesting. I did not realize that in other places subdeacons were ordained rather than tonsured. My only experience with Orthodoxy is with the OCA (although I have visited Antiochian and Greek parishes), so I do appreciate perspectives from outside this experience.
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« Reply #14 on: November 01, 2008, 02:23:51 PM »

I'm pretty sure one of the matushkas of my acquaintance told me that one must marry before being ordained as a subdeacon.

We don't have any subdeacons (afaik) at our parish, but during hierarchical services our senior altar servers don the subdeacon's vestments (as symbolic subdeacons?).

So, I am assuming the correct way to address a subdeacon would be "subdeacon (insert first name)"? Huh
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« Reply #15 on: November 01, 2008, 03:19:07 PM »

In addition to being shy (which I can deal with), there is another reason I'm leary of becomming a deacon.  I know this will sound childish, but I get really hot really fast and I'm worried I might suffocate under all those vestments.  The few times I've donned the readers' vestments, I began perspiring profusely, my skin started crawling and I got a bad headache.  Anyone else gone through this?
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« Reply #16 on: November 01, 2008, 03:51:43 PM »

... and of course bishops are celibate their entire lives.
Or at least at the time of consecration to the episcopacy and beyond.  Many bishops are actually widowers with [biological] children.
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« Reply #17 on: November 01, 2008, 03:54:49 PM »

... and of course bishops are celibate their entire lives.
Or at least at the time of consecration to the episcopacy and beyond.  Many bishops are actually widowers with [biological] children.
Yes, of course; I should have specified their entire lives after ordination.
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« Reply #18 on: November 01, 2008, 03:58:44 PM »

In addition to being shy (which I can deal with), there is another reason I'm leary of becomming a deacon.  I know this will sound childish, but I get really hot really fast and I'm worried I might suffocate under all those vestments.  The few times I've donned the readers' vestments, I began perspiring profusely, my skin started crawling and I got a bad headache.  Anyone else gone through this?
I have a couple of times.  The first and worst occurrence for me was in my 6th or 7th Grade school choir during a concert in which I was required to wear concert dress that included a sport jacket.  The Illinois heat and humidity got to me that spring day, and I had to walk off the risers and seek the attention of the school nurse.  Rather embarrassing thing to have happen before an audience, but what else could I do?  (A cold, wet rag on my forehead while I lay flat on the couch with my jacket off cooled me off pretty good.)

All the other singers?  Well, our director had the boys remove their jackets. Cool
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« Reply #19 on: November 01, 2008, 04:03:16 PM »

If I'm not mistaken, from the canons, even a married cleric can be elevated to the episcopate, but will then be celibate (wife going to monastery herself). I'm open to debate, however.

(Sorry for aside. Carry on about deacons.)
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« Reply #20 on: November 01, 2008, 04:05:30 PM »

If I'm not mistaken, from the canons, even a married cleric can be elevated to the episcopate, but will then be celibate (wife going to monastery herself). I'm open to debate, however.

Yes, technically this can happen, but in practice is very rare indeed. More common is the widower bishop.
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« Reply #21 on: November 01, 2008, 08:24:03 PM »

 Here, the OCA and Antiochian archdiocese both tell their subdeacons they can marry; the OCA gets around it (from what I've seen) by not "ordaining" the subdeacon, but rather "tonsuring."  

Forgive me, but I do not believe that this is the case.  In the OCA, men are blessed subdeacon just like in any other jurisdiction.  (As a side note, IMHO, "blessed" is the term that should be used, rather than "ordained", when one compares the Greek used for an appointment to a "major" order compared to one to a "minor" order, ie cheirotonia versus cheirovtonia.)  What they do to "get around" the problem is to have relatively few "real" subdeacons.  Young men who serve diligently at the altar for a period of time are often blessed to wear the orarion by the bishop without having the formal prayer of blessing as a subdeacon recited.  These young men may or may not be tonsured readers.  In my parish we have several "real" subdeacons and only a couple who are tonsured readers who have been blessed to wear the orarion.  In some Slav traditions at least, those who have not been formally blessed as subdeacons are required to remove their orarion at the same time in the liturgy when the deacon folds his orarion around his body.
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« Reply #22 on: November 01, 2008, 08:39:49 PM »

^^Thank you so much for explaining this.  Do you or anyone else know why we say 'sub-deacon' and 'arch-deacon'?  And is a sub-deacon pretty much the same as a reader?

No problem.  As you have probably gathered by now, the subdiaconate is a separate order in the Church.  In parishes where the bishop is not around much, a subdeacon is pretty much a glorified altar server.  However, when the bishop is around, there are very specific liturgical tasks that the subdeacons are supposed to do in aiding the bishop.  This is especially the case in Slavic Orthodoxy, where two subdeacons will often vest the bishop in the middle of the Church before the liturgy proper begins, but you will also notice their specific function coming into play amongst the Greeks and Antiochians.  It is my understanding that one reason why the order of subdeacon was created was so that deacons wouldn't have to do so many things during the liturgy; they could relinquish some of their tasks to subdeacons. 

It's been interesting to see some of the various replies concerning archdeacons.  My understanding is that this is a title of honour given to monk deacons (ie hierodeacons) and "protodeacon" is a title of honour given to a married deacon.

So, I am assuming the correct way to address a subdeacon would be "subdeacon (insert first name)"? Huh

Just calling them by their first name is perfectly alright.  The same thing goes for readers.  Sometimes they are called "Subdeacon so-and-so" or "Reader so-and-so" too. 
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« Reply #23 on: November 02, 2008, 12:09:45 AM »

Just calling them by their first name is perfectly alright.  The same thing goes for readers.  Sometimes they are called "Subdeacon so-and-so" or "Reader so-and-so" too. 
That better be the case!  Two of my closest friends are tonsured readers. Smiley
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« Reply #24 on: November 02, 2008, 01:23:02 AM »

As as Sub-deacon, I guess I should respond to this.  I was advised by my bishop on tonsuring that as I was married, I could not remarry if I was widowed. I am addressed by members of my parish and the clergy as Subdeacon Thomas. I have received correspondence from my Bishops and diocese addressed as both Reverend Subdeacon and just Subdeacon so I am unsure what the official protocol is, I feel most comfortable being just addressed Subdeacon. As Pravoslavbob  noted, Subdeacons serve primarily as servants or attendants for the Bishops when they are present with specific assigned tasks during a Hierachal Liturgy, otherwise we work under the direction of our parish priest or deacon(s) . One of my tasks is to assist theyounger Altar servers to remember where they are supposed to be and when, as well as to enforce appropriate behavior on the altar.  During Communion, I sometimes will hold the Cloth for the priest or Deacon serving communion.Recently, my priest has drawn my attention to one of the more ancient roles, that of keeping the peace within the temple during communion, so now I often walk through the church reminding adults that communion time is not a time for side conversation or laughter, attention during communion greatly increased. At the end of the service, I lead the congregation through the prayers of thanksgiving before they come to reverence the cross.

As a licensed social worker, I also help the deacon with the "widows and orphans" of the parish in need of resources and navigating social service agencies in the area. Under the priest, I assist with classes to the catechumenate and those newly illumined through baptism and/or chrismation.
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« Reply #25 on: November 02, 2008, 01:30:15 AM »

Ghazar, who used to post here, actually has a page on his website about the diaconate:

http://www.geocities.com/derghazar/stepanos.html
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« Reply #26 on: November 02, 2008, 01:31:24 AM »

^ ^ So if I didn't know better and called you Deacon Thomas, lightning wouldn't strike me?   Wink

My Church can use you during the distribution of the antidoron where conversations do get out of hand from time to time and people clog the aisles with conversations....   Smiley
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« Reply #27 on: November 02, 2008, 08:18:25 AM »

I haven't seen lightning strike yet, I just quietly correct with a smile and educate a little about what a Subdeacon is.

Thomas
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« Reply #28 on: November 02, 2008, 09:47:07 AM »

Traditionally, Readers and Subdeacons, as minor or lay-clergy, are not addressed by their titles except when they are receiving the Holy Mysteries. Deacons and priests are addressed as Father. Deacons are called "Father Deacon" in formal situations where rank is necessary to be announced.
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« Reply #29 on: November 03, 2008, 10:18:58 AM »

WR perspective:

The deacon and the subdeacon have (or should have) pretty much the same non-liturgical functions as ER deacons mentioned above. Liturgically they're quite different, though. Both are required to be present for a high mass (the normative mass style -- sung masses and low masses are simplifications of its rubrics when the required ministers are not available). The deacon does pretty much what an ER deacon does -- he's the priest's right-hand man, making sure everything is arranged at the altar, assisting the priest at the offertory, singing the Gospel, and making liturgical proclamations to the people (such as the dismissal at the end of mass and the Exsultet at Easter).

The subdeacon, though, has a much bigger role than in the ER. Besides helping the bishop vest and assisting with the offertory by bringing the chalice and paten to the priest, pouring the water in the chalice, etc., he also sings the Epistle and is in charge of the Gospel book at its reading. His most notable role, though, is during the canon (from the offertory to the Lord's Prayer). In the WR, the host is offered directly on the altar, so after the offertory the priest slides the host onto the altar, and hands the paten to the subdeacon, who takes it while using a humeral veil (like this). He then stands behind the priest for the entire canon holding it, and hands it back at the Lord's Prayer, when the priest puts the Body back on the paten.
« Last Edit: November 03, 2008, 10:19:27 AM by yBeayf » Logged
Pravoslavbob
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« Reply #30 on: November 03, 2008, 11:59:25 AM »

In addition to being shy (which I can deal with), there is another reason I'm leary of becomming a deacon.  I know this will sound childish, but I get really hot really fast and I'm worried I might suffocate under all those vestments.  The few times I've donned the readers' vestments, I began perspiring profusely, my skin started crawling and I got a bad headache.  Anyone else gone through this?

Not that I know of....sounds like you might have an allergy to the (sometimes rather toxic) fluid used in drycleaning vestments or to the material itself.
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« Reply #31 on: November 03, 2008, 12:02:46 PM »

In addition to being shy (which I can deal with), there is another reason I'm leary of becomming a deacon.  I know this will sound childish, but I get really hot really fast and I'm worried I might suffocate under all those vestments.  The few times I've donned the readers' vestments, I began perspiring profusely, my skin started crawling and I got a bad headache.  Anyone else gone through this?

Not that I know of....sounds like you might have an allergy to the (sometimes rather toxic) fluid used in drycleaning vestments or to the material itself.

That sounds awful! I never thought of it that the vestments had to be drycleaned Sad. What did they do in the days before drycleaning?
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Pravoslavbob
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« Reply #32 on: November 03, 2008, 12:09:11 PM »

In addition to being shy (which I can deal with), there is another reason I'm leary of becomming a deacon.  I know this will sound childish, but I get really hot really fast and I'm worried I might suffocate under all those vestments.  The few times I've donned the readers' vestments, I began perspiring profusely, my skin started crawling and I got a bad headache.  Anyone else gone through this?

Not that I know of....sounds like you might have an allergy to the (sometimes rather toxic) fluid used in drycleaning vestments or to the material itself.

If this is the case, then wearing something that is part cotton and part polyester which is washed conventionally might provide a solution.
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