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« on: October 29, 2009, 02:58:59 PM »

What is the role/function of the Deacon in the Orthodox Church today?
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« Reply #1 on: October 29, 2009, 04:25:29 PM »

What is the role/function of the Deacon in the Orthodox Church today?

Depends on who you ask, and when you ask.  Since the question is in Liturgy:

The Deacon is essentially a communicator between God and the people, and between the people and God, like the angels.  He leads the people in prayer to the Lord (people -> God) in the petitions, gives directions for prayer (God -> people) like "bow your heads," brings the prepared gifts to the Church (people -> God) in the Great Entrance, and brings out and distributes the precious Body and Blood of the Lord (God -> people).  As agents between God and man, they also serve the Bishop, who stands in the type and place of Christ when present in the Liturgy.

Some of these roles are muted in some way (e.g. in ancient days the Deacons were the ones "entering" at the Great Entrance, not the Priests; many times now the deacons don't distribute communion even when present and serving).  Some roles are distorted (e.g. some folks assume a Deacon should only serve with a Bishop present) by some.  But, sadly, most frequently the role simply isn't present (the shortage of clergy, combined with the low level of giving to the Church, means that most parishes are desperate for priests and, thus, few remain deacons for very long).

Hope this helps.  If you want more information about extra-Liturgical roles, we can discuss that, too.
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« Reply #2 on: October 29, 2009, 05:02:05 PM »

When a deacon has the ability to lead,under the direction of the priest, various ministries and organization within the parish I think it is wonderful.  Not only is the Deacon the man assisting the priest during the divine service he also should assist the priest in the function of the parish and help distribute some of the workload.   
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« Reply #3 on: October 29, 2009, 06:25:32 PM »

Fr. George, Username!, thank you for your answers.

Can the Deacon distribute the Eucharistic gifts during Divine Liturgy?
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« Reply #4 on: October 29, 2009, 06:32:04 PM »

Fr. George, Username!, thank you for your answers.

Can the Deacon distribute the Eucharistic gifts during Divine Liturgy?

Yes.
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« Reply #5 on: October 29, 2009, 09:43:15 PM »

What?
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« Reply #6 on: October 29, 2009, 09:50:58 PM »

Fr. George, Username!, thank you for your answers.

Can the Deacon distribute the Eucharistic gifts during Divine Liturgy?

Yes.

Isn't that unusual, though?  I think in my life, I've seen it done only once.  At my church it seems the deacons aren't even able to touch the holy chalice at communion time.
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« Reply #7 on: October 29, 2009, 10:12:56 PM »

Fr. George, Username!, thank you for your answers.

Can the Deacon distribute the Eucharistic gifts during Divine Liturgy?

Yes.

Isn't that unusual, though?  I think in my life, I've seen it done only once.  At my church it seems the deacons aren't even able to touch the holy chalice at communion time.

I wouldn't say its unusual, it's definitely uncommon. I've only seen it happen in parishes where Communion requires multiple chalices. In other words, it's more necessity than anything else. If there are multiple priests then the Deacons won't distribute the Eucharist.

I do also have this nagging thought in the back of my mind. It seems that I recall reading somewhere that deacons may distribute presanctified gifts, even if a priest isn't present. This doesn't make much sense to me, as the deacons can't vest without a priest being present to bless. This would be in the case of mission fields and the like, where often deacons are assigned as missionaries, and the priest isn't present that often. I'm not sure though, I could be out to lunch.
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« Reply #8 on: October 29, 2009, 10:21:35 PM »

Fr. George, Username!, thank you for your answers.

Can the Deacon distribute the Eucharistic gifts during Divine Liturgy?

This depends on the jurisdiction and the bishop Smiley  In the ACROD (American-Carpatho-Russian Orthodox-diocese) even ordained subdeacons can distrubute the Eucharistic gifts during Divine Liturgy or Pre-Sanctified with the blessing of the Metropolitan.
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« Reply #9 on: October 29, 2009, 10:30:46 PM »

Fr. George, Username!, thank you for your answers.

Can the Deacon distribute the Eucharistic gifts during Divine Liturgy?

This depends on the jurisdiction and the bishop Smiley  In the ACROD (American-Carpatho-Russian Orthodox-diocese) even ordained subdeacons can distrubute the Eucharistic gifts during Divine Liturgy or Pre-Sanctified with the blessing of the Metropolitan.

Wow, I'd never heard of that. Thanks for the info!
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« Reply #10 on: October 29, 2009, 11:09:47 PM »

When a deacon has the ability to lead,under the direction of the priest, various ministries and organization within the parish I think it is wonderful.  Not only is the Deacon the man assisting the priest during the divine service he also should assist the priest in the function of the parish and help distribute some of the workload.   

Hence the term Deacon:διάκονος
Probably from an obsolete diako (to run on errands; compare dioko to put to flight, pursue, by impl. to persecute (akin to a prim. verb dió (put to flight)); an attendant, i.e. (genitive case) a waiter (at table or in other menial duties); specially, a Christian teacher and pastor (technically, a deacon or deaconess) -- deacon, minister, servant.
http://strongsnumbers.com/greek/1249.htm

Our deacon (one of two, but the other headed for the priesthood) says that Orthodox deacons are basically glorified laity, and that the Church tries, in contrast to the Vatican, to limit their liturgical/mystical/sacramental functions (don't baptize, marry, etc.).  The deacons originate from the elevation of the laity, from highest grade of royal priesthood to lowest grade of ordained hierarchy, just as the ordained priesthood originates from the lowest grade of the episcopacy devolving into the middle grade of the hierarchy. (the episcopacy is the only order of direct divine establishment, the others being of ecclesiastical creation, which is OK, as the episcopacy has such authority).  The sacramental function of the deacon is akin to that of a patriarch: purely of ecclesiastical origin and of meaning only the total context of the Church.
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« Reply #11 on: October 30, 2009, 12:30:13 AM »

Fr. George, Username!, thank you for your answers.

Can the Deacon distribute the Eucharistic gifts during Divine Liturgy?

This depends on the jurisdiction and the bishop Smiley  In the ACROD (American-Carpatho-Russian Orthodox-diocese) even ordained subdeacons can distribute the Eucharistic gifts during Divine Liturgy or Pre-Sanctified with the blessing of the Metropolitan.

The practice of the Deacons, distributing Holy Communion is common in Greek and Antiochian tradition. It became common in OCA as well. Only Bishop Tikhon (Fitzgerald), now retired, tried to block this practice in his Diocese of the West - OCA. As for UOC of USA, it does take place at least in some places. Not used in MP-USA and ROCOR.
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« Reply #12 on: October 30, 2009, 11:52:05 AM »

First heard of such a tradition. Thank you for the information.
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« Reply #13 on: October 30, 2009, 12:04:42 PM »

What is the role/function of the Deacon in the Orthodox Church today?


There are lots of threads concerning the nature and functions of deacons you can check out.  In fact, you have even participated in at least one of them.  Just click on the tag "deacons" at the bottom of the page to discover some of them.
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« Reply #14 on: October 30, 2009, 10:23:40 PM »

Hence the term Deacon:διάκονος
Probably from an obsolete diako (to run on errands; compare dioko to put to flight, pursue, by impl. to persecute (akin to a prim. verb dió (put to flight)); an attendant, i.e. (genitive case) a waiter (at table or in other menial duties); specially, a Christian teacher and pastor (technically, a deacon or deaconess) -- deacon, minister, servant.
http://strongsnumbers.com/greek/1249.htm

Our deacon (one of two, but the other headed for the priesthood) says that Orthodox deacons are basically glorified laity, and that the Church tries, in contrast to the Vatican, to limit their liturgical/mystical/sacramental functions (don't baptize, marry, etc.).  The deacons originate from the elevation of the laity, from highest grade of royal priesthood to lowest grade of ordained hierarchy, just as the ordained priesthood originates from the lowest grade of the episcopacy devolving into the middle grade of the hierarchy. (the episcopacy is the only order of direct divine establishment, the others being of ecclesiastical creation, which is OK, as the episcopacy has such authority).  The sacramental function of the deacon is akin to that of a patriarch: purely of ecclesiastical origin and of meaning only the total context of the Church.

This was my general impression of the position, but I asked the question for further clarification.
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« Reply #15 on: October 31, 2009, 06:02:41 AM »

TO REPLY NO. 3, HandmaidenofGod,

It's my understanding in the GOAA, that deacons are not authorized to distribute Holy Communion, but the diocesan bishop can authorize him to do so in cases of need.  This opinion comes from my own experience in my parish, where our bishop authorized a deacon to distribute Communion, upon the request for such assistance from our presiding priest.
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« Reply #16 on: October 31, 2009, 07:35:48 AM »

The distribution of the Eucharist is a duty originally in the nearly-exclusive purview of the deacons.  The change is likely due to the relative scarcity of the order now (instead of having dozens of deacons per metropolitan Church, we barely have one for every four churches) - and this is likely the cause of some other changes (like not being the exclusive participants in the Great Entrance).  I personally think people don't know what a deacon is supposed to do simply because they've never seen it - and the clergy know exactly what the sources say, but by now we've gone through hundreds of years in which the role has changed because of the aforementioned scarcity.  As I must remind myself whenever someone speaks of "liturgical reform," yes, it may have been better in a different age, but if we believe the Spirit is working in the Church, we shouldn't say the current way is bad lest we wish to criticize the Spirit of God.
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« Reply #17 on: April 04, 2011, 01:16:34 PM »

When a deacon has the ability to lead,under the direction of the priest, various ministries and organization within the parish I think it is wonderful.  Not only is the Deacon the man assisting the priest during the divine service he also should assist the priest in the function of the parish and help distribute some of the workload.   
I wholly agree. THIS was the deacon's main extraliturgical function.
Some deacons still do social work today. That is why I believe deacons are indispensable.

P.S. I actually am interested in becoming a deacon myself
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« Reply #18 on: April 04, 2011, 03:56:36 PM »

The only time I distributed Holy Communion was when Father was sick and didn't want to infect the people.  Also, I had to take Holy Communion to one of our priests, who was dying in the hospital, for the same reason. 

I remember hearing that originally that the Liturgy of Preparation of the Gifts was the domain of deacons.
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« Reply #19 on: April 04, 2011, 06:36:45 PM »

I remember hearing that originally that the Liturgy of Preparation of the Gifts was the domain of deacons.

I've heard this as well, Father. The Rite of Proskomide being served primarily by the deacons, in another place from the main church building, and then bringing the gifts into the church at the beginning of the Liturgy of the Faithful. Eventually, the Table of Oblation was placed in the altar and the priest became the main participant of the Preparation, with the Great Entrance being a vestigial form of the deacons bringing the Gifts into the church.

I know I've heard/read about this from multiple sources, but the only one that sticking out in my mind right now is The Eucharist by Fr. Alexander Schmemann.
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« Reply #20 on: May 30, 2011, 09:36:51 PM »

The deacon is effectively an MC. He is the one who has to deal with chatty altar boys, and keep the liturgy going Wink
According to deacon.ru, he "protects the prayer of the priest", and participates in dialogue between him and the people.
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« Reply #21 on: May 31, 2011, 12:19:21 PM »

The distribution of the Eucharist is a duty originally in the nearly-exclusive purview of the deacons.  The change is likely due to the relative scarcity of the order now (instead of having dozens of deacons per metropolitan Church, we barely have one for every four churches) - and this is likely the cause of some other changes (like not being the exclusive participants in the Great Entrance).  I personally think people don't know what a deacon is supposed to do simply because they've never seen it - and the clergy know exactly what the sources say, but by now we've gone through hundreds of years in which the role has changed because of the aforementioned scarcity.  As I must remind myself whenever someone speaks of "liturgical reform," yes, it may have been better in a different age, but if we believe the Spirit is working in the Church, we shouldn't say the current way is bad lest we wish to criticize the Spirit of God.

Well stated, Father!

I think that one of our big problems as Orthodox is that we are experientially driven. Most of us start from that point of thinking that we saw in 'our' church growing up , or upon conversion as the case may be, and what our grandma or spiritual mentor taught us HAS to be the TRUE and ONLY expression of our faith, while in reality the beauty of Orthodoxy lies in her rich diversity and adaptation. Doctrine and dogma are immutable, process evolves. This board has opened my eyes in many ways, and I think I have a far greater and open minded point of view now regarding our differences.
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« Reply #22 on: June 01, 2011, 06:00:05 AM »

Fr. George, Username!, thank you for your answers.

Can the Deacon distribute the Eucharistic gifts during Divine Liturgy?

Yes.

Isn't that unusual, though?  I think in my life, I've seen it done only once.  At my church it seems the deacons aren't even able to touch the holy chalice at communion time.

Are you talking about Major Order Deacons or minor order clergy who are often called "deacons" in the OO churches?
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« Reply #23 on: June 02, 2011, 08:44:13 PM »

I'm talking about the sargavaks with the oorar over their left shoulder.  At communion time they don't even touch the chalice.

Our priest's father is an elderly retired priest and sometimes he will help distribute communion.  There are times when our priest has to wait for his father to get ready, and during that time he will have both chalices in his hands.  I've often thought it would be easier for our priest to just hand one chalice to a deacon and start communion people with the other while his father gets ready, but that never happens.  He always hands the chalice directly to his father and gets it back directly from him.  The deacons never touch it. 

I've never asked about it;  I've just assumed that deacons aren't allowed to touch the chalice.

I do recall one occasion a long time ago, however, when on a feast day when there were lots of people and there was no second priest, a deacon who was in seminary took the second chalice and communed people.  I took communion from him and I recall his hands were shaking a little.   Smiley
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« Reply #24 on: September 29, 2013, 04:29:58 PM »

Eastern Orthodox deacons may administer the Eucharist, but if there are other priests available, they tend to administer the Eucharist. Deacons sometimes administer the Eucharist in the OCA, but never in ROCOR. Personally, if I was a deacon, I would not administer the Eucharist if there are priests available, but I would just assist the priest. The deacon will generally function as the priest's right-hand man and will do the more mundane tasks such as saying the litanies. If there are multiple deacons, the roles of each deacon expand and become more specialized. The second deacon will cense during the entrances and read the epistle, while the first deacon reads the gospel and says the great and augmented litanies during the liturgy and vigil. 
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« Reply #25 on: September 29, 2013, 04:50:01 PM »

Personally, if I was a deacon, I would not administer the Eucharist if there are priests available, but I would just assist the priest.

If you were a deacon you would listen to your rector personal preferences aside.
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« Reply #26 on: September 29, 2013, 04:52:19 PM »

I have seen a full deacon in the Armenian Church hold a chalice at communion time for an older priest with unsteady hands. The deacon only touched it through a veil covering his hands.

I'm talking about the sargavaks with the oorar over their left shoulder.  At communion time they don't even touch the chalice.

Our priest's father is an elderly retired priest and sometimes he will help distribute communion.  There are times when our priest has to wait for his father to get ready, and during that time he will have both chalices in his hands.  I've often thought it would be easier for our priest to just hand one chalice to a deacon and start communion people with the other while his father gets ready, but that never happens.  He always hands the chalice directly to his father and gets it back directly from him.  The deacons never touch it. 

I've never asked about it;  I've just assumed that deacons aren't allowed to touch the chalice.

I do recall one occasion a long time ago, however, when on a feast day when there were lots of people and there was no second priest, a deacon who was in seminary took the second chalice and communed people.  I took communion from him and I recall his hands were shaking a little.   Smiley
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« Reply #27 on: September 29, 2013, 05:21:11 PM »

I'm talking about the sargavaks with the oorar over their left shoulder.  At communion time they don't even touch the chalice.

Our priest's father is an elderly retired priest and sometimes he will help distribute communion.  There are times when our priest has to wait for his father to get ready, and during that time he will have both chalices in his hands.  I've often thought it would be easier for our priest to just hand one chalice to a deacon and start communion people with the other while his father gets ready, but that never happens.  He always hands the chalice directly to his father and gets it back directly from him.  The deacons never touch it. 

I've never asked about it;  I've just assumed that deacons aren't allowed to touch the chalice.

I do recall one occasion a long time ago, however, when on a feast day when there were lots of people and there was no second priest, a deacon who was in seminary took the second chalice and communed people.  I took communion from him and I recall his hands were shaking a little.   Smiley
The sign of a good deacon.

We often have the deacon serving Holy Communion when the second priest is elsewhere.
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« Reply #28 on: September 29, 2013, 10:10:13 PM »

Personally, if I was a deacon, I would not administer the Eucharist if there are priests available, but I would just assist the priest.

If you were a deacon you would listen to your rector personal preferences aside.

Deacons do not have the responsibility to serve Holy Communion, neither is it a Deacon's choice to decide if he wishes to serve Communion.  However, a Presiding Priest may ask his bishop to grant his blessing to a Deacon to serve Holy Communion, if he needs such assistance.
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« Reply #29 on: September 29, 2013, 10:43:32 PM »

Personally, if I was a deacon, I would not administer the Eucharist if there are priests available, but I would just assist the priest.

If you were a deacon you would listen to your rector personal preferences aside.

Deacons do not have the responsibility to serve Holy Communion, neither is it a Deacon's choice to decide if he wishes to serve Communion.  However, a Presiding Priest may ask his bishop to grant his blessing to a Deacon to serve Holy Communion, if he needs such assistance.
Key diagramming of that paragraph: priest asks bishop and then deacon is told.
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« Reply #30 on: October 01, 2013, 01:18:31 PM »

So, it is not normally the deacon's job to distribute the Eucharist. And that is why I would not encourage the practice, nor would I take part in it unless told to do otherwise for good cause.
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« Reply #31 on: October 01, 2013, 01:57:34 PM »

So, it is not normally the deacon's job to distribute the Eucharist. And that is why I would not encourage the practice, nor would I take part in it unless told to do otherwise for good cause.
In my parish, the two deacons dispense the Mysteries along with the priest. It make the line go MUCH faster.  They do that even if there is a visiting priest.
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« Reply #32 on: October 01, 2013, 02:04:53 PM »

So, it is not normally the deacon's job to distribute the Eucharist. And that is why I would not encourage the practice, nor would I take part in it unless told to do otherwise for good cause.
In my parish, the two deacons dispense the Mysteries along with the priest. It make the line go MUCH faster.  They do that even if there is a visiting priest.

Really? In my parish the two deacons only hold to cloth to make sure that the Eucharist doesn't get spilled on the floor.
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« Reply #33 on: October 01, 2013, 02:24:24 PM »

So, it is not normally the deacon's job to distribute the Eucharist. And that is why I would not encourage the practice, nor would I take part in it unless told to do otherwise for good cause.
In my parish, the two deacons dispense the Mysteries along with the priest. It make the line go MUCH faster.  They do that even if there is a visiting priest.

Really? In my parish the two deacons only hold to cloth to make sure that the Eucharist doesn't get spilled on the floor.
We have either altar servers or trusted laymen hold the cloth.
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« Reply #34 on: October 01, 2013, 02:54:53 PM »

So, it is not normally the deacon's job to distribute the Eucharist. And that is why I would not encourage the practice, nor would I take part in it unless told to do otherwise for good cause.

Would you place your personal opinion on this matter over the directions of your priest or bishop if you determined that they had 'no good cause' to bless the practice at your parish?
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« Reply #35 on: October 01, 2013, 04:22:19 PM »

I would say the litanies and do the other stuff that the Typikon and the Sluzhebnik demands, but I would not do the Eucharist unless specifically instructed otherwise. I have never seen deacons administering the Eucharist in ROCOR. The deacon's job is to do the Gospel reading or the Epistle, depending on how many deacons there are, and the routine stuff. If there are other priests available, the deacon just holds the cloth, and I feel that that is reasonable. The deacon is employed as an MC and a liturgical stress reliever, but he also has to know the Typikon and how to properly serve. I don't know if a deacon administering the Eucharist violates the spirit of the Typikon (the letter is violated, but no one cares or even can care), so I am reluctant to engage in such a practice until I know better.
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« Reply #36 on: October 01, 2013, 04:27:32 PM »

I would say the litanies and do the other stuff that the Typikon and the Sluzhebnik demands, but I would not do the Eucharist unless specifically instructed otherwise. I have never seen deacons administering the Eucharist in ROCOR. The deacon's job is to do the Gospel reading or the Epistle, depending on how many deacons there are, and the routine stuff. If there are other priests available, the deacon just holds the cloth, and I feel that that is reasonable. The deacon is employed as an MC and a liturgical stress reliever, but he also has to know the Typikon and how to properly serve. I don't know if a deacon administering the Eucharist violates the spirit of the Typikon (the letter is violated, but no one cares or even can care), so I am reluctant to engage in such a practice until I know better.

I don't think a deacon would have much say in the matter.
Key diagramming of that paragraph: priest asks bishop and then deacon is told.
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« Reply #37 on: October 01, 2013, 05:41:50 PM »

I would say the litanies and do the other stuff that the Typikon and the Sluzhebnik demands, but I would not do the Eucharist unless specifically instructed otherwise.

Where in Orthodoxy is there a deacon who just walks up to the altar and grabs the chalice to give Communion to the people as if he was a priest?  I'd love to meet him. 

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The deacon is employed as an MC and a liturgical stress reliever, but he also has to know the Typikon and how to properly serve.

St Stephen is rolling over in his reliquary, and so is his neighbour St Laurence.  Good grief... 
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« Reply #38 on: October 01, 2013, 10:08:09 PM »

I may be reading between the lines wrongly, but feel compelled to restate that Deacons do not have a choice to make as to whether he would desire to serve Holy Communion, a responsibility not traditionally ascribed to the deaconate.  Only when necessary--typically in a larger parish with one priest, upon the Presiding Priest's request to the Bishop, could a deacon be given the blessing by the Bishop to serve Holy Communion.  It is not the Deacon's decision; it is the Bishop's decision, upon a request from a Presiding Priest.
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« Reply #39 on: October 01, 2013, 10:12:23 PM »

I may be reading between the lines wrongly, but feel compelled to restate that Deacons do not have a choice to make as to whether he would desire to serve Holy Communion, a responsibility not traditionally ascribed to the deaconate

While it is true that deacons on their own cannot make the choice whether or not to serve Communion (this is at the discretion of the bishop and/or celebrant), it is not true that assisting in this manner is "not traditionally ascribed to the deaconate (sic)".  This was most certainly among diaconal responsibilities, esp. when it came to ministry to the sick and homebound but also at the Liturgy if necessary. 
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« Reply #40 on: October 01, 2013, 11:34:42 PM »

Ok, I'll stand corrected.
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« Reply #41 on: October 03, 2013, 02:14:14 PM »

I would say the litanies and do the other stuff that the Typikon and the Sluzhebnik demands, but I would not do the Eucharist unless specifically instructed otherwise.

Where in Orthodoxy is there a deacon who just walks up to the altar and grabs the chalice to give Communion to the people as if he was a priest?  I'd love to meet him. 

Quote
The deacon is employed as an MC and a liturgical stress reliever, but he also has to know the Typikon and how to properly serve.

St Stephen is rolling over in his reliquary, and so is his neighbour St Laurence.  Good grief... 
This is the modern deacon's liturgical function, however,his charitable functions still exists. This is not to say that the deacon's role is solely liturgical. This is just the practical impact of the Deacon's role on the priest
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« Reply #42 on: October 03, 2013, 02:36:14 PM »

This is the modern deacon's liturgical function, however,his charitable functions still exists. This is not to say that the deacon's role is solely liturgical. This is just the practical impact of the Deacon's role on the priest

Even with this qualification, it is still wrong to reduce the liturgical role of the deacon to "stress reliever" or "MC". 
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« Reply #43 on: October 03, 2013, 02:41:40 PM »

This is the modern deacon's liturgical function, however,his charitable functions still exists. This is not to say that the deacon's role is solely liturgical. This is just the practical impact of the Deacon's role on the priest

Even with this qualification, it is still wrong to reduce the liturgical role of the deacon to "stress reliever" or "MC". 

For at least one priest I know who is used to serving alone (in the altar) a deacon would definitely be a stress enhancer!
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« Reply #44 on: October 03, 2013, 03:15:46 PM »

For at least one priest I know who is used to serving alone (in the altar) a deacon would definitely be a stress enhancer!

I've known a few stress inducing deacons.  I've also known some stress inducing priests and bishops.  When these get together around the Lord's altar, it is not only the catholic Church that is made manifest. 
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« Reply #45 on: October 04, 2013, 08:18:59 AM »

For at least one priest I know who is used to serving alone (in the altar) a deacon would definitely be a stress enhancer!

I've known a few stress inducing deacons.  I've also known some stress inducing priests and bishops.  When these get together around the Lord's altar, it is not only the catholic Church that is made manifest. 

Catfight in an alley comes to mind.   Wink 

Some Deacons are a bit much. I'll never forget a new Bishop firmly reminding an overly "helpful" one just what his role was.. (He had it coming for years, btw)
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« Reply #46 on: October 04, 2013, 03:42:55 PM »

By the way, where is he now, and what has happened to him?
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