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Author Topic: Do deacons serve communion?  (Read 6874 times) Average Rating: 0
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« on: April 22, 2010, 11:31:22 AM »

I was at an OCA parish in St. Paul, MN this last weekend, and the priest as well as both deacons were all serving communion separately in their own "cups." I had not seen this before in any parish, but especially not in a small one. Is this normal or appropriate? I thought the idea of a common cup was theologically significant, but I always imagined multiple chalices at cathedral liturgies, I have just never been to one.
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« Reply #1 on: April 22, 2010, 11:36:48 AM »

I don't think it's anything to worry about. It's my understanding that it's perfectly ok for a deacon to do that if given permission to do so. I'm not sure who has to give the permission, though, whether it is the bishop or just the priest. The deacon at the local Antiochian parish here helps give communion (I'd guesstimate that there are usually about 150-200 people attending liturgy).
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« Reply #2 on: April 22, 2010, 11:39:23 AM »

At this church it seemed like there was maybe about 60 people.
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« Reply #3 on: April 22, 2010, 11:46:37 AM »

We are blessed in my parish to usually have three priests on Sundays for Divine Liturgy (our pastor plus the local chaplain from nearby Ft. Meade and a recently retired chaplain).  Nine times out of ten, all three will distribute the Holy Gifts even though our parish numbers less than 150 full members (including children) w/ about two-thirds of that attending on any given Sunday.  We don't have deacon, but I have seen deacons distribute Communion in other parishes. 

I really wouldn't worry about it.  Deacons are most certainly allowed (given the proper blessings) to give Communion to the faithful.
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« Reply #4 on: April 22, 2010, 12:14:49 PM »

I was at an OCA parish in St. Paul, MN this last weekend, and the priest as well as both deacons were all serving communion separately in their own "cups." I had not seen this before in any parish, but especially not in a small one. Is this normal or appropriate? I thought the idea of a common cup was theologically significant, but I always imagined multiple chalices at cathedral liturgies, I have just never been to one.

You bring up two questions:

1. Your Q in the title of the thread.  Yes, Deacons do "serve" communion - it is part of their job, as one who mediates between heaven and earth, between God and the people.  Deacons can take communion to the sick and shut-in, and can certainly be part of the distribution of the holy gifts.  ISTM that lately Deacons are told to defer to others - hierarchs, presbyters - for distribution of Communion, but I do not think this reflects the ancient historical practice, and IMO is likely due to the confluence of (a) not having as many deacons as we used to (in fact, they're quite rare in this country compared to Presbyters), and (b) looking upon the Deaconate as a "stepping stone" rather than a ministry unto itself.

2. Your Q in the OP (quoted above).  The Common Cup is significant, but it is not "broken" by the use of multiple chalices, because we are still partaking of the One Body and Blood of the Lord.  He is the One who unifies us, not the physical chalice, which is why we say that all of us partake of the same Cup of the Lord on Sunday - whether we're in North America, Eastern Europe, Oceana/Australia/NZ, etc.  In the prayer at the "fracture" of the Body of Christ before the communion of the Clergy, the presiding priest affirms that the Body of Christ is "broken but not divided, eaten yet never consumed" - meaning there are little pieces that we partake, but without regard to location, year, etc. it is still the One Body of Christ.
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« Reply #5 on: April 22, 2010, 01:15:57 PM »

Although I agree with Fr. George's basic point, I just want to add that the rubrics in the modern liturgical books instruct the deacon to carry the holy chalice through the beautiful gates, chanting "With the fear of God...," and then to hand the chalice to the priest. Once the faithful have received communion, the priest blesses the people and then hands the chalice back to the deacon, who carries it into the holy altar.

I'm pretty sure that's how it's been in the written sources since Ecumenical Patriarch Philotheos' Diataxis tis Theias Leitourgias (circa 1353), which was translated into Slavonic and adopted throughout the Slavic churches as well. Before that, we don't have detailed descriptions because most earlier medieval euchologia, even the more complete ones from the Greek areas of Italy, don't really have rubrics -- just lists of prayers.

The patristic era sources vary. On the one hand, St. John Chrysostom says the deacons should patrol around and drive away anyone who is approaching out of turn. On the other hand, Apostolic Constitutions VIII, 13:11-15 says:

Quote
...Let the deacon say, “Let us be attentive!”

12. Then let the bishop proclaim to the people thus: “Holy things for the holy!”

13. And let the people respond, “One holy, one Lord...”

14. And after that let the bishop communicate, then the presbyters and the deacons and the subdeacons and the readers and the cantors and the ascetics and, from among the women, the deaconesses and the virgins and the widows, then the children, and finally all the people in order, with respect and piety, and without disturbance.

15. And let the bishop give the prosphora, saying, “The body of Christ.” And let the one who receives say, “Amen!”

Let the deacon hold the chalice, and giving it, say, “The cup of life.” And let the one drinking say, “Amen!”
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« Reply #6 on: April 22, 2010, 01:36:22 PM »

I don't know if anyone is interested in taking a poll on this but in my church (antiochian jurisdiction), our deacon does serve communion even when he is "not" serving the Liturgy (i.e. doing litanies, etc.).  It's just to help things move along more quickly. 

However, on a side topic, there seems to be this superstition(at least in my parish) that receiving the Eucharist from the Deacon is somehow not the same as receiving it from the Priest.  People frequently jump lines to get the Eucharist from the priest.  It's really annoying since it does slow things down and it is a practice that really needs to be corrected.  It doesn't matter who you are.  You are receiving the Body and Blood of Christ.  From whom you receive it is mundane.
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« Reply #7 on: April 22, 2010, 08:27:53 PM »

Our deacon has given Communion at the liturgies when our priest was just back from knee surgery and didn't feel he didn't feel comfortable giving Communion at that point.  Also, our deacon tends to give Communion when our regular priest is on vacation and our retired priest is serving.  He is in his 80's and he doesn't feel comfortable giving it, as we usually have 100 people receiving.  Sometimes, our deacon will also handle a second chalice on Pascha. 
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« Reply #8 on: April 22, 2010, 09:51:29 PM »

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 At my parish we normaly have two priests serving and the deacon because we have enough people for three chalices.
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« Reply #9 on: April 22, 2010, 10:03:33 PM »

I was at an OCA parish in St. Paul, MN this last weekend, and the priest as well as both deacons were all serving communion separately in their own "cups." I had not seen this before in any parish, but especially not in a small one. Is this normal or appropriate? I thought the idea of a common cup was theologically significant, but I always imagined multiple chalices at cathedral liturgies, I have just never been to one.

Do you mean seperate communion cups

or multiple chalices? We usually have two chalices.  The deacons  don't usually distribute communion, but we have a second priest.  Deacons distribute Eucharist to the sick, why not the well?


While in St Paul, were you able to see St. Mary's in Minneapolis, St. Alexis Toth's original parish?  The Church Hall now stands on the site of the first Orthodox seminary in this country.

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« Reply #10 on: April 22, 2010, 11:13:23 PM »

Do you mean seperate communion cups or multiple chalices?

Multiple chalices.

While in St Paul, were you able to see St. Mary's in Minneapolis, St. Alexis Toth's original parish?  The Church Hall now stands on the site of the first Orthodox seminary in this country.

Nope. I just went for service to the OCA parish Holy Trinity in St. Paul. Later that day I went and looked at the Vatican's Cathedral of St. Paul. Absolutely breathtaking in every respect.
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« Reply #11 on: April 27, 2010, 12:43:25 AM »

I was at an OCA parish in St. Paul, MN this last weekend, and the priest as well as both deacons were all serving communion separately in their own "cups." I had not seen this before in any parish, but especially not in a small one. Is this normal or appropriate? I thought the idea of a common cup was theologically significant, but I always imagined multiple chalices at cathedral liturgies, I have just never been to one.

Do you mean seperate communion cups

or multiple chalices? We usually have two chalices.  The deacons  don't usually distribute communion, but we have a second priest.  Deacons distribute Eucharist to the sick, why not the well?


While in St Paul, were you able to see St. Mary's in Minneapolis, St. Alexis Toth's original parish?  The Church Hall now stands on the site of the first Orthodox seminary in this country.

That is a massively huge photo to ambush me with. Wink I was not expecting that at all.

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« Reply #12 on: April 27, 2010, 03:26:24 AM »

Supplementing what is written above, at least in the GOAA, the diocesan bishop, a metropolitan, must give his permission for a deacon to serve Holy Communion.
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« Reply #13 on: April 27, 2010, 10:39:39 AM »

I was at an OCA parish in St. Paul, MN this last weekend, and the priest as well as both deacons were all serving communion separately in their own "cups." I had not seen this before in any parish, but especially not in a small one. Is this normal or appropriate? I thought the idea of a common cup was theologically significant, but I always imagined multiple chalices at cathedral liturgies, I have just never been to one.

Do you mean seperate communion cups

or multiple chalices? We usually have two chalices.  The deacons  don't usually distribute communion, but we have a second priest.  Deacons distribute Eucharist to the sick, why not the well?


While in St Paul, were you able to see St. Mary's in Minneapolis, St. Alexis Toth's original parish?  The Church Hall now stands on the site of the first Orthodox seminary in this country.

That is a massively huge photo to ambush me with. Wink I was not expecting that at all.

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The way I used to shrink/enlarge photos here isn't working. How does one do it?
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« Reply #14 on: April 27, 2010, 11:07:23 AM »

Christ is risen!

The way I used to shrink/enlarge photos here isn't working. How does one do it?

Truly He is Risen!

What I did with your image was the following (and I'll replace the usual [ of the tags with {...)

{img width=500}http://www.tustinpresbyterian.org/images/communion_wine_tray.jpg{/img}

The {img} tag was already there, I just added the width restriction.  The browser keeps the image in proportion automatically.
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« Reply #15 on: March 28, 2013, 02:03:19 PM »

The deacon serves communion in a separate chalice at my church when we have a lot of people. I'm told that one of the parishioners actually left the congregation over this and founded a ROCOR parish in the same town. Which leads to another question... does ROCOR allow deacons to distribute communion?
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« Reply #16 on: March 28, 2013, 02:27:22 PM »

I was at an OCA parish in St. Paul, MN this last weekend, and the priest as well as both deacons were all serving communion separately in their own "cups." I had not seen this before in any parish, but especially not in a small one. Is this normal or appropriate? I thought the idea of a common cup was theologically significant, but I always imagined multiple chalices at cathedral liturgies, I have just never been to one.

Yes, deacons do give communion when needed, usually when there are a lot of people.

The common cup is what is on the altar at the Anaphora.  Then before giving communion to people the priest will transfer some of the Blood of our Lord onto another chalice.
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« Reply #17 on: March 28, 2013, 03:28:40 PM »

Here deacons do not distribute Communion.

When you talk about multiple chalices you mean the consecration occurs in one chalice and the Communion is divided after that? Or do you mean the consecration occurs in many chalices?
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« Reply #18 on: March 28, 2013, 03:30:31 PM »

Here deacons do not distribute Communion.

When you talk about multiple chalices you mean the consecration occurs in one chalice and the Communion is divided after that? Or do you mean the consecration occurs in many chalices?

In my church, the former.
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« Reply #19 on: March 28, 2013, 04:57:15 PM »

Here deacons do not distribute Communion.

When you talk about multiple chalices you mean the consecration occurs in one chalice and the Communion is divided after that? Or do you mean the consecration occurs in many chalices?

I believe Slavic traditions, those derived therefrom (including the OCA and the Polish Church) err on the deacon being an extraordinary eucharistic minister, to steal a Catholic term. Antiochians seem to do it all the time, though. I've never been to one of their churches that has a deacon and seen him not distribute.

That said, I have seen deacons distribute in OCA parishes, but only when there were was a number of people and no other priests (or at least, priests that felt they could stand and distribute at the ambo, rather than sitting in the altar. At my parish, we have a number of priests on any given Sunday and communion is usually given out by our rector and assistant rector. If one of them is for some reason absent, another priest will fill in. However, once, we had only one priest (our rector) present, together with our deacon. Our rector took his usual spot, and our deacon took the second one.
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« Reply #20 on: March 28, 2013, 06:26:23 PM »

I believe Slavic traditions, those derived therefrom (including the OCA and the Polish Church) err on the deacon being an extraordinary eucharistic minister, to steal a Catholic term. Antiochians seem to do it all the time, though. I've never been to one of their churches that has a deacon and seen him not distribute.

That said, I have seen deacons distribute in OCA parishes, but only when there were was a number of people and no other priests (or at least, priests that felt they could stand and distribute at the ambo, rather than sitting in the altar. At my parish, we have a number of priests on any given Sunday and communion is usually given out by our rector and assistant rector. If one of them is for some reason absent, another priest will fill in. However, once, we had only one priest (our rector) present, together with our deacon. Our rector took his usual spot, and our deacon took the second one.

I've never seen a deacon doing that and before I found that forum I hadn't thought it was possible. No matter how many priests or communicants are there.
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« Reply #21 on: March 28, 2013, 06:36:17 PM »

Here deacons do not distribute Communion.

When you talk about multiple chalices you mean the consecration occurs in one chalice and the Communion is divided after that? Or do you mean the consecration occurs in many chalices?

We tend to have two chalices on Sundays. One Lamb and one Chalice is used in the consecration, and half is then placed in another chalice after the Communion of the clergy.

I've never seen our deacon distributing Communion during the Liturgy, but he will occasionally do so on other occasions.
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« Reply #22 on: March 29, 2013, 01:34:41 AM »

We have two priests and a parochial deacon.  All of them distribute Communion at (Sunday) Liturgy.  The deacon is also charged with taking Communion to the sick and homebound.
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« Reply #23 on: May 02, 2013, 10:33:05 AM »

I've been to just about every jurisdiction and deacons help serve Communion pretty much across the board, unless it is an extremely small parish.

Doesn't bother me at all.  Women holding the cloth- now THAT makes me uncomfortable, and I'll change lines if I can.
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« Reply #24 on: May 02, 2013, 11:06:54 AM »

Do you mean seperate communion cups or multiple chalices?

Multiple chalices.

While in St Paul, were you able to see St. Mary's in Minneapolis, St. Alexis Toth's original parish?  The Church Hall now stands on the site of the first Orthodox seminary in this country.

Nope. I just went for service to the OCA parish Holy Trinity in St. Paul. Later that day I went and looked at the Vatican's Cathedral of St. Paul. Absolutely breathtaking in every respect.

Belated greetings and welcome from Minneapolis/St. Paul.
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« Reply #25 on: May 05, 2013, 03:48:03 AM »

Women holding the cloth- now THAT makes me uncomfortable, and I'll change lines if I can.

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« Reply #26 on: May 13, 2013, 09:58:45 AM »

In my own (limited) European/Russian experience - I have never seen a Deacon administer Communion.  Perhaps it is more common in the US.
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« Reply #27 on: May 13, 2013, 10:03:08 AM »

I've never seen our deacon distributing Communion during the Liturgy, but he will occasionally do so on other occasions.

Correction: He distributed Communion a few Sundays ago. First time for everything.
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« Reply #28 on: May 13, 2013, 10:54:14 PM »

#...i had a dream ...when i awoke....i called it .....'god sends the unordained hand to forcefeed the heretic'.......vivid , people i recognize , i could sence displeasure.......so......about a year later....the dream came true.....the priest  gave  the cup to the unordained hand, and then the unordained hand turned and Fed the heretic.......they still do it! there not ashamed................root cause; jezabel !.........woman over ----.
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« Reply #29 on: May 13, 2013, 10:58:27 PM »

If I may give an OO/Coptic Perspective:

Full Deacons (I.e. real Deacons, not wannabe altar-servers who are mislabelled Deacons) may administer the precious blood, but not the body of the Lord (the body and blood are served separately in the Coptic tradition). Full Deacons in the Coptic Church are rare in modern times, however.
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« Reply #30 on: May 13, 2013, 11:08:45 PM »

yes deacons serve communion.
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« Reply #31 on: May 17, 2013, 03:23:43 PM »

#...i had a dream ...when i awoke....i called it .....'god sends the unordained hand to forcefeed the heretic'.......vivid , people i recognize , i could sence displeasure.......so......about a year later....the dream came true.....the priest  gave  the cup to the unordained hand, and then the unordained hand turned and Fed the heretic.......they still do it! there not ashamed................root cause; jezabel !.........woman over ----.

Wuh?
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« Reply #32 on: May 17, 2013, 03:26:29 PM »

#...i had a dream ...when i awoke....i called it .....'god sends the unordained hand to forcefeed the heretic'.......vivid , people i recognize , i could sence displeasure.......so......about a year later....the dream came true.....the priest  gave  the cup to the unordained hand, and then the unordained hand turned and Fed the heretic.......they still do it! there not ashamed................root cause; jezabel !.........woman over ----.
this is going to be interesting....

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« Reply #33 on: May 17, 2013, 06:47:25 PM »

#...i had a dream ...when i awoke....i called it .....'god sends the unordained hand to forcefeed the heretic'.......vivid , people i recognize , i could sence displeasure.......so......about a year later....the dream came true.....the priest  gave  the cup to the unordained hand, and then the unordained hand turned and Fed the heretic.......they still do it! there not ashamed................root cause; jezabel !.........woman over ----.
this is going to be interesting....



Maybe absurd, but hardly interesting. Wink
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« Reply #34 on: May 17, 2013, 07:10:56 PM »

yes deacons serve communion.
not if it can be helped.

A deacon I knew (he's in seminary for ordination now) contrasted us from the Vatican on this issue: the Vatican delegates almost anything that can be to the deacon, whereas the Orthodox tries to give him as little liturgical role as possible.  The Vatican sees the deacon as a subpriest, the Orthodox as a glorified layman.
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« Reply #35 on: May 17, 2013, 08:25:13 PM »

yes deacons serve communion.
not if it can be helped.

A deacon I knew (he's in seminary for ordination now) contrasted us from the Vatican on this issue: the Vatican delegates almost anything that can be to the deacon, whereas the Orthodox tries to give him as little liturgical role as possible.  The Vatican sees the deacon as a subpriest, the Orthodox as a glorified layman.

I've heard the term "glorified" applied to sub-deacons (as in glorified altar boys) but not deacons. Otherwise I agree with you. it's been my observation that in the Russian tradition there are some deacons who are more equal than other ones and even "more equal" than most priests. I 've heard one of our Bishops dress down a particularly officious deacon that if he wanted to run the show, he should finish seminary and get ordained....
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« Reply #36 on: May 17, 2013, 08:28:06 PM »

#...i had a dream ...when i awoke....i called it .....'god sends the unordained hand to forcefeed the heretic'.......vivid , people i recognize , i could sence displeasure.......so......about a year later....the dream came true.....the priest  gave  the cup to the unordained hand, and then the unordained hand turned and Fed the heretic.......they still do it! there not ashamed................root cause; jezabel !.........woman over ----.
this is going to be interesting....



Maybe absurd, but hardly interesting. Wink

Sometimes I wonder of the very few and weird posters we have here, and then I worry about them, speaking from a clinical perspective.

This is very close to being an attack on the person posting and not on the content of the post. Do not comment on the person posting, and instead comment on the content of their post.

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« Reply #37 on: May 18, 2013, 12:11:32 AM »

#...i had a dream ...when i awoke....i called it .....'god sends the unordained hand to forcefeed the heretic'.......vivid , people i recognize , i could sence displeasure.......so......about a year later....the dream came true.....the priest  gave  the cup to the unordained hand, and then the unordained hand turned and Fed the heretic.......they still do it! there not ashamed................root cause; jezabel !.........woman over ----.

Wuh?

And you claim knowledge of poetry.

Put down that Baudelaire and update your collection.
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« Reply #38 on: May 18, 2013, 12:35:14 AM »

A deacon I knew (he's in seminary for ordination now) contrasted us from the Vatican on this issue: the Vatican delegates almost anything that can be to the deacon, whereas the Orthodox tries to give him as little liturgical role as possible.  The Vatican sees the deacon as a subpriest, the Orthodox as a glorified layman.

If you study the traditions overall, as well as each tradition over time, I think it's a little more complicated than simply saying the Orthodox view the deacon as a glorified layman. 

My thesis research was on funeral rites, and while it seems the OO traditions have retained a special funeral rite for deacons, the EO use the layman's rite, but bury the deacon in full vestments; in the past, however, the EO also had a diaconal funeral rite, which fell out of use at some point.  On the other hand, in the OO traditions, deacons don't always and everywhere get to wear clerical garb (cassocks, rasson, hats, etc.), while they do in the EO traditions.  Each tradition basically has ways of indicating that deacons straddle the fence between both "worlds" (and this is one of the traditional explanations, for example, of why deacons in Syriac tradition are ordained while kneeling on one knee--one foot forward toward the altar, the other back toward the nave).  I prefer this "on the fence" imagery rather than saying that deacons are "glorified laymen" or "half priests"--they have their own charism. 

With regard to the Liturgy, I don't know that I'd say the Orthodox try to assign the deacon as little a role as possible; when you have a deacon, his role is pretty prominent in the Byzantine rite, for example, though not as prominent in the OO rites.  But it is true that certain things are not delegated unless it's necessary.  Assisting with the communing of the faithful, for example: they can assist with this, but it has to be done with a blessing, and if it can be avoided, it is.  They can also read the Gospel, but this also varies among the traditions: Byzantines and Armenians will typically give this to the deacon, while Syrians reserve the Gospel almost always to the priest or bishop, EVEN if the deacon is asked to assist with Communion later.  But Syriac tradition will allow the deacon to do certain things that I am not aware happen in any other tradition: there is an "emergency" rite of baptism which a deacon can administer in the absence of a priest, which includes prayers, "blessings", etc.; deacons can, in the absence of a priest, conduct funerals, offer incense (we view this as a sacrificial function, and so it can ordinarily be done only by priests), read certain priestly prayers during the Office, and complete the Liturgy if the priest should be incapacitated at some point after the epiclesis and another priest cannot be summoned to complete it.  Deacons are funky creatures. 

Your deacon friend was right about the RC's delegating whatever could be delegated to deacons, but he didn't go far enough IMO.  Apparently, they not only delegate the distribution of Communion, but also funerals, weddings, and baptisms to laypeople (typically, but not exclusively, in "mission" territories...I've read of lay-led funerals in Europe).  Basically, it seems you only need a priest for the Liturgy, for confession, and for unction--everything else can theoretically be done by Bill or Peggy as long as the bishop signs off on it.  Undecided     
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« Reply #39 on: May 18, 2013, 09:34:12 AM »

A sad phenomenon in the RCC' s post priest era. Mandatory celibacy, anyone?
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« Reply #40 on: May 18, 2013, 10:36:59 AM »

#...i had a dream ...when i awoke....i called it .....'god sends the unordained hand to forcefeed the heretic'.......vivid , people i recognize , i could sence displeasure.......so......about a year later....the dream came true.....the priest  gave  the cup to the unordained hand, and then the unordained hand turned and Fed the heretic.......they still do it! there not ashamed................root cause; jezabel !.........woman over ----.

Wuh?

And you claim knowledge of poetry.

Put down that Baudelaire and update your collection.

Touche.

I'm collecting the Kra-nion posts and publishing them in a new volume, tentatively titled, Forcefed by Unordained Hands.
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« Reply #41 on: May 18, 2013, 10:56:33 AM »

#...i had a dream ...when i awoke....i called it .....'god sends the unordained hand to forcefeed the heretic'.......vivid , people i recognize , i could sence displeasure.......so......about a year later....the dream came true.....the priest  gave  the cup to the unordained hand, and then the unordained hand turned and Fed the heretic.......they still do it! there not ashamed................root cause; jezabel !.........woman over ----.

Wuh?

And you claim knowledge of poetry.

Put down that Baudelaire and update your collection.

Touche.

I'm collecting the Kra-nion posts and publishing them in a new volume, tentatively titled, Forcefed by Unordained Hands.

Perhaps a Seinfeldian alter-ego with a touch of the poet???
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« Reply #42 on: May 18, 2013, 11:39:57 AM »

last time I communed it was from an Arab deacon. it's recent.
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« Reply #43 on: May 18, 2013, 11:43:49 AM »

My parish usually has one or two deacons communing parishioners, this is of course in conjunction with the priests (we have 2 regular and one retired), and not just a deacon up there. We also have well over 100 people on a Sunday and this helps expedite the process. 
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« Reply #44 on: May 18, 2013, 01:58:33 PM »

A sad phenomenon in the RCC' s post priest era. Mandatory celibacy, anyone?

True. However, as far as I know, deacons in the RCC are allowed to marry.
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