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When to vest.


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#1 Richard A. Downing

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Posted 18 May 2012 - 07:05 AM

As a new subdeacon these questions keep coming up....

I understand how to vest for the Liturgy. But what about Matins and Vespers, and Hours, and Panikida, etc, etc. In many cases all I need to know is what to pack in case I need it - the priest will tell me when I get to church. I am assuming that if I read a reader service in church I would do so just in my podrasnik, since there is no priest from whom to ask the blessing to vest (is this a principle?).

Is there a simple set of rules that I can follow?

I'll ask my Archbishop next week if I can get a few words, but he will be very busy and it seems like something that should be well known.

Thanks,
Richard

#2 Michael Astley

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Posted 18 May 2012 - 06:03 PM

Christ is risen!

Congratulations on your ordination, Richard.

As a general rule, for any service at which you will be serving in the altar or as subdeacon, it is always proper to take a blessing and vest. If you will not be serving but will be on the kliros, then custom varies, even within jurisdictions. My experience doesn't extend much beyond the Russian church, where it seems that only the cassock is usually worn when "in choro", so to speak. This is reflected in a Greek parish where I have friends among the minor clergy.

However, I have been told of readers who wear a stikhar when at the kliros. I have occasionally been known to do this when I have been the lone voice in the choir for evening services in the winter. I'm hardly what might be mistaken for skinny but even I don't have enough padding to counter the effects of failed heating. Your priest is the best person to ask about what is established custom in your jurisdiction or, if he doesn't know due to having spent little time in minor orders, seek guidance from other, more experienced subdeacons in your jurisdiction, or just ask the bishop, (making sure that it doesn't appear that you are bypassing your priest).

At reader services, nothing is done that would usually require the blessing of a priest. In a sense, these are not strictly liturgical but rather, for want of a better term, are "prayer meetings" of gathered Christians. As such, those things which would form part of a liturgical offering and require the blessing of a priest are not done. The doors and veil remain closed, litanies are not given, the Epistle and Gospel are read in a normal speaking voice and are not proclaimed liturgically, and so forth. You would not vest for services such as these but would just be in your cassock as usual for being in the congregation. In fact, not even a deacon would vest if present.

If you are visiting a parish other than your own, I would suggest wearing your cassock. Some places may take a less formal approach to these things but it is better to err on the side of propriety when outside of your home patch so as not to cause raised eyebrows unwittingly.

The question of vesting for Communion isn't one that you have asked but in some jurisdictions, laymen receive the Mysteries as laymen, and the blessing for lay servers to wear the stikhar does not extend to Communion. Therefore, they remove their vestments in order to receive and then put them back on again. The flip side of this is that it is not unknown for minor clergy to vest for Communion in such jurisdictions. With there being such variety of practice, when visiting another parish, again, it is best to check with the priest what the local custom is. Don't be perturbed if he reacts with surprise at your question. I say with the greatest of affection for our clergy that, with notable exceptions, the higher up the orders a man is ordained, the less he seems to be aware of the variety of practice that exists in the Church. This often has quite amusing results, especially in the case of bishops who insist that they all do things in the same way. :) As a subdeacon, whose role is closely linked to the srvice of the bishop, you have this to look forward to.

One thing to be aware of is that the practice in the Diocese of Sourozh is to give subdeacons Communion at the Holy Table. This surprised me when I first encountered it as a guest but it was their archbishop who called me over to the Holy Table, and one of their priests explained to me that this is their custom, so I did as I was told.

I hope this helps a little.

M

#3 Anthony Stokes

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Posted 18 May 2012 - 06:15 PM

It sort of depends on your jurisdiction. Russian practice would be to vest when you are serving in the altar with priest, at any service.

You are correct that you wouldn't vest for a Reader's service.

In some Russian churches here in the US, mostly ROCOR, I believe, subdeacons that aren't serving vest for communion, but not in the OCA.

Sbdn. Anthony

#4 Ilya Zhitomirskiy

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Posted 18 May 2012 - 06:22 PM

You'd probably use a podrasnik, but how probable is it that there will not be a priest present for the normal time. If there is no priest for liturgy, the deacon will serve typica, vest, and distribute the gifts himself. The deacon effectively replaces the priest for the typica. IF in doubt, stick to a podrasnik.

#5 Michael Astley

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Posted 18 May 2012 - 06:34 PM

You'd probably use a podrasnik, but how probable is it that there will not be a priest present for the normal time. If there is no priest for liturgy, the deacon will serve typica, vest, and distribute the gifts himself. The deacon effectively replaces the priest for the typica. IF in doubt, stick to a podrasnik.


This may be something that varies by jurisdiction, location, and bishop, but many parishes do not have a deacon, (possibly the majority in the UK), and certainly in those that do, the custom of a deacon giving Communion at Typica in the absence of a priest is something I have only heard about. No parish I have been to or with whose people I have discussed it does this. Even when one of our ROCOR churches in this diocese had no regular priest for over a year, the resident deacon was never permitted to do this. It is, however, quite common for a reader or subdeacon to lead the Hours and Typika if there is no priest or deacon.

M

#6 Richard A. Downing

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Posted 18 May 2012 - 09:49 PM

Thank you all. This has been most helpful, especially your long reply Michael. This is just as I expected, so I'm pleased that I have not made any mistakes yet.

The matter of where to receive came up in the Liturgy after my ordination, my priest thought that the Archbishop would commune me in the altar at the Holy Table, but I asked the Archbishop's deacon, and he told me to leave the altar and approach as a layman, I kept my vestments on, and nothing was said, so I suppose that is OK. I'll check with him when I see him next week. We don't have a deacon in Keswick, and my priest is not especially experienced in these matters, which is why I ask here. Oft times I tell him what what Monachos people say, and he then checks with the presbytery for jurisdictional confirmation - it's knowing what to ask.

Love, and many thanks,

Richard.

#7 Paul Fowler

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Posted 19 May 2012 - 10:29 PM

As a matter of interest, I always vest when I serve a Reader's Vespers here in Nottingham-it has been the practice for the Reader to serve Reader's Vespers now for a number of years and he (its not always been me) has always worn his sticha.

On a point of information-seeing m'learned friend Subdeacon Michael (Hi Mike, long time no see) has posted here I wonder if someone could answer a question for me? Simply this...what does a subdeacon do outside of a Cathedral? A subdeacon's role (as I understand it) is to support and give practical help to the Bishop. In that case, it seems to me, that there is no need of a subdeacon outside of a Cathedral. And yet it appears that many Parishes have them. We did have one at Nottingham, but quite frankly all he seemed to be was a glorified Server. he didn't read (the Reader did that), he didn't pray the Litanies (the Deacon did that), all he did was what the Servers do. Which begs the question, why have a subdeacon in a provincial parish?

Reader Paul-who may have completely misunderstood the role of a subdeacon

#8 Richard A. Downing

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Posted 20 May 2012 - 05:48 AM

Talking to my priest at Great Vespers last night, he said that I should only vest when I had a Liturgical Function. This, we concluded, did not include reading at Vespers, even when he was present and vested, since I had no need to enter the Altar. In fact, once blessed to do so, I enter the Altar to remove the Table cover, and light the Vesperal Candles. I am the only reader here, and we have no deacon.

what does a subdeacon do outside of a Cathedral?


The main problem is that no-one, apart from those set aside (ordained) for it, should touch the Holy Table, the Table of Preparation, or any of the items used on the Tables at Liturgy. These all need cleaning, storing properly, and being made available at the right place and time. A sub-deacon can be blessed to do these things, while a Reader shouldn't normally be. Otherwise you are quite right, without the Bishop, a sub-deacon is just an Altar Server, and perhaps a Reader. At least that's how I understand it.

Father and I asked our Archbishop to ordain me so that I can help our priests more than a Reader can - he agreed, which is why I'm now learning the ropes. The deal, of course, is that he gets another subdeacon in Britain for when he needs one (like at our Conference next week.)

Love,
Richard.

#9 Michael Astley

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Posted 20 May 2012 - 04:48 PM

You're very welcome, Richard. Glad to be of help. There are enough of us here that you shouldn't have to ever worry if you get stuck with anything. I have benefitted immensely from the generosity of others here and elsewhere in the past and am glad to pass that on.

On a point of information-seeing m'learned friend Subdeacon Michael (Hi Mike, long time no see) has posted here I wonder if someone could answer a question for me? Simply this...what does a subdeacon do outside of a Cathedral? A subdeacon's role (as I understand it) is to support and give practical help to the Bishop. In that case, it seems to me, that there is no need of a subdeacon outside of a Cathedral. And yet it appears that many Parishes have them. We did have one at Nottingham, but quite frankly all he seemed to be was a glorified Server. he didn't read (the Reader did that), he didn't pray the Litanies (the Deacon did that), all he did was what the Servers do. Which begs the question, why have a subdeacon in a provincial parish?

Reader Paul-who may have completely misunderstood the role of a subdeacon


(Waves back, gleefully)

You haven't misunderstood at all, Paul. A subdeacon in a parish is a bit of a cleric looking for a purpose. As Richard says, the blessing to touch the Holy Table and Oblations Table means that a subdeacon can be of particular use in preparing for services, fetching things during services, and cleaning, changing, and maintaining the cloths and other hangings on the Holy Table in a way that other servers would not. This is often very helpful to priests in deaconless parishes. Otherwise, subdeacons can be choir directors, altar servers, some combination of the two, along with other responsibilities.

That said, when a bishop makes a visit to a parish under his care, it can be very helpful to have a resident subdeacon at that parish. From serving for his bishop elsewhere, he will know how to serve the episcopal services and will be able to instruct the other servers in the parish accordingly. Certainly at my parish, when our bishop visited for our patronal feast last year, while my visiting companion (a reader blessed to vest and serve as a subdeacon) had many more years' experience than I had and has taught me much over the years, because it was my parish, I knew where everything was kept, exactly where to find what was needed to resolve minor emergencies at short notice, which servers knew how to do what, and so forth. If I were accompanying my bishop to another church, these are things I simply wouldn't know.

I think, though, that it is important for parish subdeacons not to be tied to their own parishes. My bishop has two dioceses and is not resident in this one, so whenever he is in the country, provided I have sufficient pennies, I try to go and serve for him at the cathedral or other parish where he happens to be. The lack of frequency means that I get things wrong and make mistakes, but I try to learn from them, and he is understanding. Now, as a result of his patience and that of my teachers, along with a considerable amount of my own reading and discussing with others, I am reasonably competent but it is still not unknown for me to go to London and make a complete fool of myself in front of 200 people. I think that God allows us to have these experiences to teach us humility. Besides, my bishop has trusted me enough to ordain me. If I were to hide away in my own parish and never go to serve for him for fear of getting something wrong, what use would I be, and could I blame him if he were to wonder whether his trust was misplaced? No, it is incredibly important, I think, for subdeacons to develop a relationship with their bishop.

In Christ,
M

#10 Paul Fowler

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Posted 20 May 2012 - 08:29 PM

Thank you Michael, for that full answer. I think (I know I am) that those of us who converted to Orthodoxy and did not grow up in the faith have so much to learn and we make many mistakes-although that is not the perogative of converts-I had a most interesting conversation with a Russian Priest who visited us recently when Fr Gregory was indisposed about making mistakes whilst serving-basically he likened it to the Christian life-we go through life seeking to do the will of God, but things go wrong, we make mistakes, or what ever, get back on track and hopefully get there in the End. However, I am still unsure about Subdeacons outside of a Cathedral...........

#11 Michael Astley

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Posted 20 May 2012 - 10:09 PM

...I am still unsure about Subdeacons outside of a Cathedral...........


Hmmm.

Try thinking of it this way:

I know that ordinations happen for the service of the Church, and that men are ordained to various roles and orders according to the needs of the parish or diocese. Nobody is ordained for his own sake. However, in maintaining this focus, which is right and proper, we mustn't lose sight of the fact that the cleric is not merely a tool for an end but is himself a Christian, on his path of theosis, with his own spiritual life and development to be cared for.

As a subdeacon, I am incredibly grateful for the fact that I first spent a year as a reader. I am very grateful that I wasn't just a nominal reader but that my parish priest actually expected me to function as such. It gave me a great opportunity for learning the services, their structure and composition, how the variable portions are determined, and the tones to which their constituent parts are sung. Had I been whizzed from being a layman straight to being a subdeacon, holding the office of reader for no more than ten minutes between the third and sixth hours, this would have robbed me of the understanding of the services that I need to be able to serve properly as a subdeacon. I know when to do what because I can listen to the choir and know what supposed to happen next: when to light candls for the entrances, when to perform a whols host of ceremonial actions, and so forth, as a subdeacon because of the knowledge I gained as a reader.

When I think of the role of deacons at episcopal services, I imagine that this similarly applies. The roles of the deacon and subdeacon intertwine in such a way that I think it would be very difficult for a deacon to serve at episcopal services if he had no real experience of the practicalities of the subdiaconal role. Similarly, I have seen for myself priests who are unaccustomed to serving with a deacon struggle to do so because they themselves were deacons for little over 24 hours and have no experience of serving as such. This is perhaps less of a problem at the Liturgy than it is with other occasional services but it is still something to consider.

The point is that, while it may not be absolutely necessary for a non-cathedral parish to have a subdeacon, if a man in such a parish is being groomed for a higher order, it seems to me to be fitting and beneficial that he spend some time as a reader and at least a year as a subdeacon, in order to gain the knowledge and experience that he needs so that, if and when the time comes, he may serve God and aid the worship of God by the people in a dignified way that befits his office, and not be a hindrance to their prayer.

I know that someone will be along soon to tell me about various saints and holy bishops whom they have known to be ordained reader, subdeacon, and deacon one day, priest the next, and bishop the next, and I do not doubt their holiness, but I could just as easily recount memories of higher clergy who do not know how to construct a service of Vespers or how to train a deacon in their own parishes because they never had to learn themselves, and that isn't counting the occasion I had to explain to a deacon how to put on his vestments - not because he was careless about such things but because his bishop had performed a drive-by ordination and left the poor Father with no support structure for his formation.

In thinking of the needs of the Church, I think we also need to be very careful not to lose sight of the needs of the clergy in their development as they seek to serve the Church.

Just some thoughts from little me.

M

#12 Father David Moser

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Posted 21 May 2012 - 01:47 AM

As a matter of interest, I always vest when I serve a Reader's Vespers here in Nottingham-it has been the practice for the Reader to serve Reader's Vespers now for a number of years and he (its not always been me) has always worn his sticha.


In order for a deacon, subdeacon or reader to vest, he must have his vestments blessed by the priest. If the priest is not there to bless the vestments, he does not vest.

Fr David Moser

#13 Paul Fowler

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Posted 21 May 2012 - 09:46 PM

In order for a deacon, subdeacon or reader to vest, he must have his vestments blessed by the priest. If the priest is not there to bless the vestments, he does not vest.

Fr David Moser


Thank you for that comment Father. I took over the role of Reader some years ago and followed the practice of previous Readers. We have had some difficulties in our diocese over the past few years (now thankfully resolved) and it may be that in that period, some anomalies have crept in. I will discuss the situation with my priest-it may be that a blessing was given for the Reader to vest and either I have forgotten (most likley) or the situation was not explained clearly to me.

#14 Paul Fowler

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Posted 21 May 2012 - 10:00 PM

Hmmm.





The point is that, while it may not be absolutely necessary for a non-cathedral parish to have a subdeacon, if a man in such a parish is being groomed for a higher order, it seems to me to be fitting and beneficial that he spend some time as a reader and at least a year as a subdeacon, in order to gain the knowledge and experience that he needs so that, if and when the time comes, he may serve God and aid the worship of God by the people in a dignified way that befits his office, and not be a hindrance to their prayer.


Just some thoughts from little me.

M


Thanks for that full reply Michael-I would expect nothing less from someone as thorough as you, and I can see the thrust of your argument, which I take on board. The problem is that in a small provincial parish a subdeacon is not likely to gain the experience of sub-deaconing-so to my pea size brain why make him a subdeacon in the first place? I suppose part of what is behind my question is the fact that in terms of bishops we have in our diocese gone from one extreme to another-the previous bishop seemed to want to ordain anyone who was male and breathed and our present bishop is far more circumspect-it was made very clear to me that had the present bishop been around when I was set apart as Reader, I wouldn't have been set apart as Reader at all-which only confirms my view (developed in hindsight) that I should have dug my heels in further when originally asked to be made a Reader. The result is one very confused bunny.

Thanks again for taking the time to answer the purile questions of this bear of little brain (sorry Herman). Hopefully see you soon-maybe at the Sourozh conference?

Paul




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