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Readers and subdeacons


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#21 Michael Astley

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Posted 02 October 2010 - 09:17 PM

For the sake of clarity of Father David's accurate and concise post, it should be highlighted that, while it is indeed true that in the Russian tradition, subdeacons may not marry, this is not a conceit or innovation of the Russian church, as it is sometimes falsely portrayed (quite adamantly in one conversation I had with a priest of the Greek archdiocese); rather it is obedience to the canons which stipulate that, of the clergy, only readers and chanters may marry, and that any subdeacon who dares to marry after his ordination is to be deposed.

It seems that the case mentioned, in which the option was given to marry and remain a subdeacon but never to progress through the orders was an extension of economy as it was clearly not this subdeacon's fault that he had been ordained by a bishop who was perhaps less than scrupulous in this regard. This leniency seems to be in the spirit of the fathers of Trullo, who decreed that those clergy at the time who had married after ordination, perhaps out of ignorance, and who were repentant, were to be suspended for a time and then reinstated, but never progressing beyond their current order. However, in that instance, they also had to give up their married states.

I think that there is a wider question of jurisdictional culture here but which touches on the subject of this thread. The cultures of different jurisdictions are different where minor clergy are concerned. When I was a reader, and even now I am a subdeacon, I sometimes visit parishes of other jurisdictions and they're often not quite sure what purpose I serve or where I fit into the bigger picture of the Liturgy because they're so unaccustomed to having us around. The consciousness of readers and subdeacons being among the clergy (albeit without the grace of priesthood), and therefore having particular liturgical roles, as well as canonical norms that apply to them, is simply not present to the degree that it is in jurisdictions where it is the norm to have minor clergy as a regular part of the landscape, performing their assigned roles within a canonically-ordered structure. I can see how, in such a culture, it may possibly be easier for an attitude of laxity to develop as far as these things are concerned, not necessarily with any wilful disobedience intended but simply through a lower view of their import. However, the result, as has been illustrated, is pastoral difficulties, not for the bishop who flouts the rules, but for the poor, unsuspecting man who was simply being obedient and suddenly finds himself in the middle of much ado, faced with taking difficult decisions he never expected.

Those are my thoughts, in any case.

M

#22 Joshua G.

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Posted 03 October 2010 - 12:21 AM

"Minor orders" are still ranks of clerical orders. At the tonsure of a reader, the comment is made about this being the first step towards the priesthood. However, being "minor", in practice they tend to be more "honorary" in nature, perhaps depending on the jurisdiction. Once upon a time the Church also tonsured doorkeepers, exorcists, and acolytes. Even today in some practices a reader will first be blessed as a taper-bearer during tonsure.

Herman the non-tonsured cantor

We have a sub-deacon at our MP parish in the US. Our Vicar Bishop Macarius simply gave him the thing that goes around your neck (epitrachleon?) and announced that he is now a sub-deacon (he was as surprised as we were... even the priest didn't know!). Nothing special other than prayers were done. I want to say it took no more than 1 min... MAYBE it took 5... doubt it though. It was as much as ceremony as it is when a priest blesses an icon.

Also, his duties didn't change anymore other than just being the most honored altar server. However, the difference is that it is known that he is on his way to becoming a deacon at which time a lot will change.

Anyway, that's our experience.

Josh

#23 Michael Astley

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Posted 03 October 2010 - 06:34 AM

We have a sub-deacon at our MP parish in the US. Our Vicar Bishop Macarius simply gave him the thing that goes around your neck (epitrachleon?) and announced that he is now a sub-deacon (he was as surprised as we were... even the priest didn't know!). Nothing special other than prayers were done. I want to say it took no more than 1 min... MAYBE it took 5... doubt it though. It was as much as ceremony as it is when a priest blesses an icon.

Also, his duties didn't change anymore other than just being the most honored altar server. However, the difference is that it is known that he is on his way to becoming a deacon at which time a lot will change.

Anyway, that's our experience.

Josh


That sounds about right for an ordination to minor orders. They are conferred very simply because they do not confer the grace of priesthood. So they are done outside of the context of the Divine Liturgy and physically outside the altar, there is only one ordination prayer rather than two, the divine grace is not invoked, among other things.

If a church has a full complement of servers and other clergy, and plenty of space for all of the ceremonial, then there will be a little more going on to do with the ordination of a subdeacon: the forced prostrations at the hands of other subdeacons, the ceremonial washing of the bishop's hands, the new subdeacon remaining on the solea throughout most of the Liturgy and carrying the lavabo water to the people after the Great Entrance, and so forth. However, it is not uncommon for these things to be done simply or not at all in cases where it's a small parish and there simply isn't the space or manpower. I was ordained at the cathedral but because there was a shortage of servers that day, I was needed to serve, so I was spared the burden of standing around for an hour holding a bowl of water and also the fun of doing a perambulation of the nave with it.

Having said that, an ordination taking a short time is nothing unusual in our tradition. It seemed strange to me at first, having come from a western tradition, where a big song and dance is made over ordinations, especially to the priesthood. Often a Mass is put on specially for the ordination, at a time when there usually wouldn't be a Mass. Special liturgical colours are worn, there are special propers and special readings for ordinations, and so forth, plus a number of pious customs developed, such as the new priest's hands being washed with rose water, him giving flowers to his mother near the end of the Mass, and being seated at the entrance to the altar while the congregation come forward to receive blessings from him. It was a surprise when I came to Orthodoxy. Ordinations have no special service put on, but the ordination itself is usually just a ten-minute insertion into whatever Liturgy happens to be planned for that day. There are no special liturgical colours worn, no special readings or propers, or anything like that. The focus at the ordination is not so much the inidivual man being ordained as it is his service within the life of the Church.

(Regarding your aside question, the stole is worn by bishops, priests, deacons and subdeacons. In the case of the former two, it is worn around the neck and often called the epitrachil, while in the case of the latter two, it is worn in different ways and called the orar. However, it is quite correct to simply refer to the stole, and possibly easier among English-speaking folk).

M

#24 Paul Cowan

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Posted 04 October 2010 - 01:39 AM

I learned today that a person divorced before they were received into the church cannot be ordained even only to be a subdeacon. I knew it was so for a baptised Orthodox Christians, but was unaware for those outside the church well before ever coming in contact with the church. Our actions from our youth have eternal consequences.

Paul

#25 Father David Moser

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Posted 04 October 2010 - 04:10 AM

I learned today that a person divorced before they were received into the church cannot be ordained


Depends on the bishop and the situation. Some bishops overlook all that happened before baptism, some don't. Sometimes the person in question is the kind of person that is going to be ordained no matter what - sometimes the opposite and a "previous marriage" is a convenient excuse. I know people who fall into both categories.

Fr David Moser

#26 Joshua G.

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Posted 05 October 2010 - 12:19 AM

Orar... good to know. Thank you.

By the way, a correction to MY post. My former bishop was His Grace Bishop Mercurius (not Macarius). Sorry, it's been about two-years and my memory is nothing to write home about. :)

#27 John Konstantin

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Posted 05 October 2010 - 01:50 AM

This has been a useful thread. Many thanks for all who assisted with their knowledge. As an adjunct to the original question: when visiting the Holy Mountain would one in minor orders receive permission in a different manner? I know there are different permissions depending on whether one is deemed a member of the laity or the clergy but I suspect by clergy this may only pertain to the 'higher' orders.

In Christ,
JK

#28 John Konstantin

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Posted 08 October 2010 - 03:28 PM

It seems that the case mentioned, in which the option was given to marry and remain a subdeacon but never to progress through the orders was an extension of economy as it was clearly not this subdeacon's fault that he had been ordained by a bishop who was perhaps less than scrupulous in this regard.
M


I guess a bit of economia is going needed in this in the case of these two also. Ordaining boys seems quite common in some places.

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#29 Michael Astley

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Posted 08 October 2010 - 06:30 PM

I guess a bit of economia is going needed in this in the case of these two also.


Not necessarily. It isn't uncommon to bless readers and laymen to vest in the orar and perform some of the liturgical functions of subdeacons if circumstances mean that is suitable. Also, in some traditions, acolytes wear the orar in a manner similar to subdeacons - crossed at the back but hanging straight down at the front.

M

#30 John Konstantin

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Posted 08 October 2010 - 08:40 PM

Phew...that's a relief! :) BTW these were crossed at the front also. And wouldn't the only function that would necessitate the services of two subdeacons be a hierarchical Liturgy?

#31 Olga

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Posted 09 October 2010 - 12:26 AM

John Konstantin's photograph shows the typical attire of Greek altarboys, something I have observed for many years. Michael's description is also quite correct. Russian altar servers wear a stikharion only, and the sight of little boys in a Greek church kitted out like subdeacons can be quite startling for those used to the Slavic tradition. :)

#32 John Konstantin

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Posted 09 October 2010 - 11:33 AM

Thanks Olga! Glad we cleared that one up :)

#33 Anthony Stokes

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Posted 09 October 2010 - 02:57 PM

This has been a useful thread. Many thanks for all who assisted with their knowledge. As an adjunct to the original question: when visiting the Holy Mountain would one in minor orders receive permission in a different manner? I know there are different permissions depending on whether one is deemed a member of the laity or the clergy but I suspect by clergy this may only pertain to the 'higher' orders.

In Christ,
JK


I doubt it, since the Greeks don't really see Readers and Subdeacons in the same way. When I visit St. Anthony's in Arizona, I don't take my cassock or anything, because it is not their tradition to have subdeacons.

Sbdn. Anthony

#34 John Konstantin

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Posted 09 October 2010 - 04:57 PM

Thanks for the heads up Anthony!

#35 Lucas Christensen

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Posted 19 October 2010 - 08:55 PM

Regarding the difference in language between making a subdeacon and a deacon, the Greek is χειροθεσἰα for the former and χειροτονἰα for the latter. The first means "application by hand" and the second "extension of the hand". I do not know when this distinction came about, but I haven't yet found a great rendering for the former into English--we usually just say 'elevation' (i.e. from reader to subdeacon).

#36 Rdr. Andrew

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Posted 19 June 2011 - 09:26 PM


That follows all the way through to Bishop, in that a Bishop is: a layman, a Reader, a Subdeacon, a Deacon, a Priest and a Bishop, all in one.


Is it possible to become a Bishop while skipping any of those intermediate steps? Like, could you be a Priest, elevated to Bishop who was never a Deacon?

#37 Cyprian (Humphrey)

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Posted 19 June 2011 - 10:09 PM

Like, could you be a Priest, elevated to Bishop who was never a Deacon?

Simple answer is: no, simply because you could not be a Priest who was never a Deacon. Sometimes they are ordained in rapid succession, like they wake up one morning a layman, and are made a Reader and Sub-deacon right after each other that day, made a Deacon the next, and ordained a Priest the next. Even if they spent no significant amount of time as a Deacon, they still had to be ordained a Deacon first before being ordained a Priest.

#38 Father David Moser

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Posted 19 June 2011 - 11:20 PM

Sometimes they are ordained in rapid succession, like they wake up one morning a layman, and are made a Reader and Sub-deacon right after each other that day, made a Deacon the next, and ordained a Priest the next.


Actually it wouldn't take that long - a person can be tonsured reader and subdeacon during the hours, then ordained a deacon in the same liturgy. The next day, that deacon could be ordained a priest and the third day ordained a bishop. It is rarely done that fast, however, I believe it was Patriarch Photios the Great who was a layman when elected and then rushed through the ordination process.

Fr David

#39 Rdr. Andrew

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Posted 20 June 2011 - 12:04 AM

... I believe it was Patriarch Photios the Great who was a layman when elected and then rushed through the ordination process.

Fr David


If I recall correctly, I believe St. Ambrose of Milan was a similar story in that regard. I think he went laymen to bishop in a week.

#40 Richard A. Downing

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Posted 20 June 2011 - 11:16 AM

If I recall correctly, I believe St. Ambrose of Milan was a similar story in that regard. I think he went laymen to bishop in a week.


I have a recollection that he was baptised that week too.

R.




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