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Canonical role of the subdeacon


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#1 Benjamin Harju

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Posted 31 October 2010 - 01:47 AM

I have been searching the archives here for a thorough treatment on Subdeacons. I was recently and suddenly made a subdeacon by my bishop. I am having trouble nailing down what a subdeacon does _when a Hierarch is not present_, both during the Liturgy and outside the Liturgy. I am aware that he is an altar server, and that he may or may not marry depending on one's jurisdiction. Somewhere on Monachos I read that the subdeacon is in charge of the Doors, and has a general blessing to touch the Holy Table if needed; I've also been told both things are absolutely not the case. !!

Can anyone point me to something that is either addresses the issue from the canons, or something that highlights the different practices of the subdiaconate between jurisdictions (esp. the Antiochians).

In Christ,
Subdeacon Benjamin

#2 Paul Cowan

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Posted 31 October 2010 - 03:15 AM

Sbdcn Benjamin,

You will probably get alot or replies referring you back to your ordaining Bishop, but since Bishop Mark is currently "unavailable" you should probably default to your priest.

Down here in this Diocese a subdeacon does what you describe above. He is in charge of the other acolytes and is the go-to person when the priest needs something done. I don't know if I am spelling this correctly (probably not) but I am being blessed to be a candleff when Bishop Basil visits next month. From what I am told, I will be doing subdeacon work, but without the ordination. It is a non-position in the church but allows me to wear a cassock and "touch" things the boys cannot.

Paul

#3 Anthony Stokes

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Posted 01 November 2010 - 01:59 AM

There are some canons that refer to the duties about subdeacons. One that I just read the other night was that the subdeacon is never to leave the doors, not even to pray in the church. Today, subdeacons don't usually man the doors, but that was the traditional role, making sure that the proper people were in the church, etc.

The blessing to touch the holy table usually only applies to the dikiri and trikiri, and only if they are kept on the table. Outside of a hierarchical service, it is really up to your priest what extra duties you might have. Subdeacons are allowed to prepare the table of oblation, but if there is a deacon they usually do that. You could also be in charge of the vestments, etc. In a hierarchical service, you would add all the things that pertain to assisting the bishop; washing the hands, putting on and taking off the omophorion and mitre, etc.

Hope that helps. There is a book call the Subdeacon's Manual by now Archdeacon Kirill Sokolov, if you can find it. It goes over a lot of this stuff.

Sbdn. Anthony

PS Sbdn. Michael will probably have some advice. I'm a choir director, so my time in the altar is limited to when I visit other churches.

#4 Benjamin Harju

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Posted 01 November 2010 - 04:58 AM

Sbdn. Anthony and Paul,

Thank you for your help. I expected to be pointed toward my bishop or priest, but I posed the question nonetheless. The information you have provided helps shed some perspective on my new role. I found the manual online, but the site that sells it has an expired security certificate. If they get back with me about a safe way to purchase it, I'll pass on the information here.

#5 Michael Astley

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Posted 16 November 2010 - 11:55 AM

I'm sorry to have missed this. I haven't been around on monachos.net for a while.

First of all, to the newly-ordained Subdeacon Benjamin, Axios! and many years!

Thank you, Subdeacon Anthony, for your mention.

I think that some of the confusion about what subdeacons may or may not do is because, for a number of reasons, readers and often lay servers are blessed to vest as subdeacons and perform some of the functions of subdeacons. The reasons are not relevant to this thread but the important thing is that in some places, these men are sometimes referred to as subdeacons, the term in this instance being a reference to the liturgical role that they perform and not an indication of any order. However, although they may sometimes be called subdeacons, these servers may still not touch the Holy Table or the Oblations Table, or anything upon them. They may not touch the Communion vessels. Also, at an Hierarchical Liturgy, when subdeacons are sometimes permitted to pass through the Holy Doors when attending the bishop with the trikiridikiri, laymen serving as subdeacons must use the deacon's doors. With the commonality of laymen and readers serving as subdeacons, and people growing increasingly accustomed to this, some of the actual privileges and duties of subdeacons are sometimes forgotten or outright denied simply through people's lack of experience of serving with real subdeacons. Perhaps this is what lies at the root of what you were told, Benjamin, about what subdeacons may not do. However, whoever said this to you was quite mistaken.

In the case of actual subdeacons who have received cheirothesia, they may do all of the above things. They may touch the Holy Table, Oblations Table, and vessels when it is necessary for the performing of their duties, and in some churches it is the subdeacon who is charged with the duty of looking after and maintaining the vessels, changing the hangings on the Holy Table, and so forth. Certainly, at my parish, it is I who remove the dust covers and ensure that the Holy Table is clean, removing anything that ought not to be there before the services start, and then replace the dust covers at the end. I am also responsible for cleaning within the altar.

During the services themselves, it is usually the subdeacons who will open and close the Holy Doors and curtain at the appropriate times, (although - and I say this purely from observation rather than from any authoritative source - it seems that, when more than one deacon is present, it is the first deacon rather than the subdeacons who will close the Doors and Curtain after the Great Entrance. If there is only one deacon, he will still be holding the censer at the time when the Doors are to be closed so this would fall to the subdeacons again). Also, while it is perfectly acceptable for lay servers to carry the fans during the entrances, in processions, and such like, my experience seems to suggest that, if there are subdeacons present, it is they who take the fans.

I am in the process of compiling a servers' guide for my parish, Benjamin, detailing the particular functions of subdeacons as well as the other servers. If you'd like, I could e-mail it to you once it has been finished. I am one of two subdeacons who sometimes serve at my parish so we are all too aware of how little guidance there is for subdeacons outside of an Hierarchical Liturgy. Although serving the bishop is where a subdeacon really comes into his own, if the bishop is not present, the subdeacon is still the head server, responsible for co-ordinating the servers, and he has particular responsibilities that he should know about.

Do let me know whether I can be of any more help.

In Christ,
Michael

#6 Benjamin Harju

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Posted 16 November 2010 - 07:42 PM

Michael,

Thank you for your reply. In the end I will only be permitted to do what my priest gives me to do, which is always fine by me. I would like to discuss these issues with him, though. In order to do so meaningfully it would help to have source material. It's one thing to say a subdeacon can do something, and it is quite another to establish the assertion with proof. Will your server's guide provide evidence to establish the duties you outline above?

Either way, I would certainly be interested in your server's guide, as I know my priest would be, too. Thank you for help.

In Christ,
Benjamin

#7 Michael Astley

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Posted 17 November 2010 - 12:48 AM

Dear Benjamin,

Yes, of course you must only act according to your priest's blessing. 'Be obedient' were my bishop's parting words to me when he first tonsured me to the ranks of the clergy. I try.

My guide will not cite canonical sources as historical study of liturgical roles isn't its purpose. It is intended purely as a instructional guide for the servers at my parish for practical service at the Divine Liturgy based on widespread and well-established custom in the Church. This isn't the sort of thing that requires evidence and the inclusion of canons and such like would likely just complicate it unnecesarily. So while you might find it helpful in your role as subdeacon for the purposes of altar service, I'm afraid it won't be very useful as a source in a discussion about the historicity of these things. I'm sorry. I know that isn't what you asked for in your OP. I merely offered it as something to help in your new role and of course I shall share it when it is finished. I do hope that all goes well for you.

In Christ,
M

#8 John Konstantin

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Posted 19 November 2010 - 05:48 PM

Let me know when your guide is done Michael!

#9 Ilya Zhitomirskiy

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Posted 10 May 2012 - 04:52 PM

Sbdcn Benjamin,

You will probably get alot or replies referring you back to your ordaining Bishop, but since Bishop Mark is currently "unavailable" you should probably default to your priest.

Down here in this Diocese a subdeacon does what you describe above. He is in charge of the other acolytes and is the go-to person when the priest needs something done. I don't know if I am spelling this correctly (probably not) but I am being blessed to be a candleff when Bishop Basil visits next month. From what I am told, I will be doing subdeacon work, but without the ordination. It is a non-position in the church but allows me to wear a cassock and "touch" things the boys cannot.

Paul

"Kenduluff?" You probably mean the old rank of taper-bearer which was the precursor to readers. Some ROCOR readers wear oraria but are not subdeacons, these are probably taper bearers. Hopefully this will help.

#10 Mark Harrison

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Posted 28 August 2013 - 04:33 AM

This is a relatively old thread, but I am hoping that Subdeacon Michael will happen upon this post:

 

I have never seen any reference to subdeacons passing through the Holy Doors and I think any priest I would mention it too would be more than a little skeptical, thinking I was just trying to inflate my role. However, there are a couple of times, like at the great censing at the Polyeleion/Magnification/Evlogitaria at Matins where the bishop or priest must go through the royal doors. When only a priest and deacon are serving, the deacon will lead the priest through the doors and after censing the altar (area) back out onto the solea to cense the ikonostasis. If a hierarch is serving with only one deacon then it would be most practical for the subdeacon(s) to pass through the doors; however, I've always stopped at the Holy doors and waited for the bishop to come back out and no one has corrected me.

 

Come to think of it, Fr John Meyendorff once told me that CELIBATE subdeacons are allowed to pass between the Holy Doors and the Holy Table. His mention is the only other I have encountered until I saw this thread. If Subdeacon Michael or anyone else can refer me to an authoritative source on this, I'd be most interested.

 

If anyone does respond, could you also e-mail me at markandersh@gmail.com? That would be helpful.


Edited by Mark Harrison, 28 August 2013 - 04:37 AM.





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