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Subdeacons?


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#1 Albion

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Posted 22 December 2009 - 08:40 PM

What is a subdeacon in the Orthodox Church?

In the nosebleed stratosphere of Anglicanism from which I came, the subdeacon reads the Epistle, holds the Gospel book for the celebrant to read, joins the deacon in receiving the offering of bread and wine from representatives of the congregation, censes the deacon at the beginning of the Liturgy of the Eucharist and assists in the preparation of the altar and the clearing of the altar afterwards.

The subdeacon is not ordained or licenced as such, and the job can be done by either a member of the clergy or a lay person.

#2 Cyprian (Humphrey)

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Posted 22 December 2009 - 08:59 PM

What is a subdeacon in the Orthodox Church?


It depends on whether you're talking about Eastern or Western Rite. In Orthodoxy a subdeacon is ordained, but a seminary education is rarely required. In the Eastern rite, it's basically an overgrown acolyte, with the added responsibility of vesting the bishop, and ability to touch the holy table (what you might know as an altar), but only if there is a need for him to do so. Basically, if you don't have a bishop in attendance, the subdeacon doesn't do anything an acolyte wouldn't (with the obvious exception that an acolyte may not touch the holy table).

In the nosebleed stratosphere of Anglicanism from which I came, the subdeacon reads the Epistle, holds the Gospel book for the celebrant to read, joins the deacon in receiving the offering of bread and wine from representatives of the congregation, censes the deacon at the beginning of the Liturgy of the Eucharist and assists in the preparation of the altar and the clearing of the altar afterwards.


This sounds pretty much like what a Western Rite subdeacon does, although I'm not sure about the reception of bread and wine from the congregational representatives. I've only read about Western Rite, and am not overly familiar with it's actual practice "on the ground". Perhaps some WR folks could weigh in.

The subdeacon is not ordained or licenced as such, and the job can be done by either a member of the clergy or a lay person.


Again, as I've said, the subdiaconate is in the ranks of ordained clergy (but not one of the major orders!) in Orthodoxy. As for who would be able to "cover" a subdeacon's duties in the Western Rite, I don't know. I suspect that a deacon or priest would do the censing, and a Reader would do the Epistle. Again, I hope a WR person could clarify this.

In the Eastern Rite, an acolyte would do all the subdiaconal stuff to the best of their ability, although retrieving the bishop's mitre from the holy table would need a deacon or the priest.

Hope that helps.

#3 Michael Astley

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Posted 22 December 2009 - 10:15 PM

Dear Albion,

Usually, I wouldn't direct anybody to rely on Wikipedia but in this instance, I regularly maintain the page on subdeacons so I know that the Orthodox section of this article is accurate (at the time of posting, at least), alothough it only applies to the Byzantine Rite. I should really get around to expanding it to include Western Rite practice. I hope you find that helpful.

This sounds pretty much like what a Western Rite subdeacon does, although I'm not sure about the reception of bread and wine from the congregational representatives. I've only read about Western Rite, and am not overly familiar with it's actual practice "on the ground". Perhaps some WR folks could weigh in.


I think Albion is referring to the modern Latin and Anglican practice of the bread and wine being brought to the sanctuary by lay people. They are usually handed to the clergy at the entrance to the sanctuary, so it is likely that it is the subdeacon who receives them in Albion's parish.

Traditionally in many Western Rites (as is still maintained in Western Rite Orthodox practice), the oblations are prepared earlier, using a preparation rite that mirrors but is much simpler and less developed than the Byzantine prokomide service, which I believe only became as elaborate as it currently is quite late. The Western Rite preparation is done by the deacon and subdeacon, and historically took place at different times in different rites: sometimes before the Mass began and sometimes during the singing of the Gradual (the equivalent to the prokimen). In those cases, it is done at a side altar and, during the singing of the offerenda, they are carried to the altar in procession before the people by the deacon and subdeacon, preceded by lights and incense. It is a direct parallel to the Great Entrance of the Byzantine Rite. In the local Roman use of the Roman rite, which is followed by some Orthodox, there is no separate preparation rite and the gifts are not prepared until the offertory, so there is no procession and the gifts are simply presented to the priest at the altar by the deacon and subdeacon from a side (credence) table, and he prepares them then and there.

Again, as I've said, the subdiaconate is in the ranks of ordained clergy (but not one of the major orders!) in Orthodoxy. As for who would be able to "cover" a subdeacon's duties in the Western Rite, I don't know. I suspect that a deacon or priest would do the censing, and a Reader would do the Epistle. Again, I hope a WR person could clarify this.


There is a different expectation in the Western Rite as there are different forms of the Mass according to resources. If it is a High Mass, there are set duties for the priest, deacon, and subdeacon which all inter-relate. In the absence of one or more of those ministers, you generally wouldn't substitute somebody, you'd simply not do a high Mass and instead offer the Mass in another form, (usually a Sung Mass, which is ceremonially simpler). In such a case, the priest could do the Epistle, or indeed a Reader, as you suggest, and there would be nothing to prevent servers from assisting with the censer and oblations at the offertory where a subdeacon would do such at a High Mass.

In Christ,
Michael (who isn't himself Western Rite but has served at it, sung at it, and is otherwise familiar with it).

#4 Michael Astley

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Posted 23 December 2009 - 07:00 PM

Dear Albion,

Usually, I wouldn't direct anybody to rely on Wikipedia but in this instance, I regularly maintain the page on subdeacons so I know that the Orthodox section of this article is accurate (at the time of posting, at least), alothough it only applies to the Byzantine Rite. I should really get around to expanding it to include Western Rite practice.


All done now.

#5 Michael Astley

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Posted 11 March 2010 - 08:49 PM

To anybody who knows, does anybody know the rules surrounding the wearing of the skufia by subdeacons? I had thought that it was only worn by monastics and priests who had been awarded it but then I saw these photographs. Those subdeacons don't look like monks. Am I missing something?

Thank you.

#6 Raphael

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Posted 11 March 2010 - 09:06 PM

Any chance the young fellow is simply keeping his head warm with a black cap that's not a skufia?

#7 Michael Astley

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Posted 11 March 2010 - 09:31 PM

Those definitely look like skufias to me. I should make clear that I am not criticising anybody. I'm genuinely asking for practical purposes. Somebody wants to buy one for a subdeacon-to-be and wants to know whether it would be appropriate.

#8 Raphael

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Posted 11 March 2010 - 09:52 PM

My mistake. I only saw the second pic. Interesting.
Which reminds me, I am soon going to be tonsured a reader and was wondering where I can pick up one of these lovlies ;-) (The two in the lower left.)

#9 Michael Astley

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Posted 11 March 2010 - 10:25 PM

:-) Probably the nearest you'd get these days is anywhere that sells witches' costumes for Hallowe'en.

Congratulations on your impending ordination as a reader. God grant you many years! Let mw know if there's ever any help you need. I can't promise I'll always have the knowledge to be able to give it but I'll try. :-)

In Christ,
M

#10 Father David Moser

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Posted 12 March 2010 - 01:02 AM

Any clerical garb can only be worn with the blessing of the bishop. If your bishop blesses you to wear a skufia, then you can do so. When you are tonsured a reader, the bishop has to give an additional (usually done without ado before the service ) blessing of the podriasnik so you can wear it. When a deacon is ordained, the bishop must also bless the riassa for him before he dons it. So, if you wish, for some reason, to wear a skufia, then ask your bishop (or ask your priest to ask the bishop for you).

Fr David Moser

#11 Michael Astley

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Posted 12 March 2010 - 04:14 PM

Clear and sensible as ever, Father David. Thank you for that.

I wonder, though, whether that may be perceived as presumptuous, and that perhaps another gift may be more suitable. That seems best, I think.




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