Diocese of Los Angeles, Southern California and Hawaii
Ranks, Responsibilities, and Ordination Guidelines for the Diaconate
This pamphlet is concerned with the order and liturgical function of the diaconate, including chanters, readers, sub-deacons, deacons, and archdeacons. This is part of a deep desire and need to return to the Early Church and Her liturgical worship, in which the diaconate held a prominent role and the altar was revered with the utmost sanctity.
GENERAL DEFINITIONS AND GUIDELINES FOR ALL ORDERS
- “Deacon.” Deacon is the English word for diakonis in Greek, which means servant; while the Arabic word shammās is the literal translation of the term. It is also related to the Coptic (sh-m-sh), and the Syriac equivalent. This term “deacons” are the primary designation in medieval Coptic-Arabic literature and in the earliest printed liturgical and ecclesiastical books published by the Coptic Church. When not specified the deacon here refers to the “full” deacon, who is ordained and fully consecrated for the altar of God. This is the first rank of the priesthood, and as such all the canons apply to him.
- Diaconate: includes all the ranks of chanters, readers, subdeacons, deacons, and archdeacons.
- Chanter(s): singer(s), psaltos (psaltis), murattil, (al-murattilūn) ibṣalmidus. This rank is attested in much of ancient literature.
- Readers (anagnostos):
- Sub-Deacon (Ar. ibidyāqun, ὑποδιάκονος) is the head of the Minor Orders, who primarily assists the deacon in organizing the Church, as indicated by his name.
- “Minor” Orders: all the ranks of the diaconate which are considered non-priestly, in the sense that they do not include laying on of hands, or “calling.” These include chanters, readers, and sub-deacons.
- Should be recommended by the priest and congregation, without any objection, for his good deeds and virtuous life (1 Tim. 3:13).
- Should reflect the spiritual virtues such as humility (not being proud of his voice or service), obedience to the priest and elders, and purity of life.
- Should be consistent in confession, Holy Communion, and attending the Church services.
- Should be faithful in practicing his spiritual exercises with guidance from his father of confession (prayers, fasting, metanoias, etc.).
- Should observe all the fasting periods of the Church (including, the Great Fast, Wednesdays and Fridays, etc.), or they would be deprived of the service.
- Should attend the hymn meeting(s) in local parish, as arranged by the priest.
- Should lead the congregation by example in their discipline, attire and appearance.
- Should fulfill the requirements of each rank and do the duties of each rank, except in special circumstances. For example, only readers should read the Lectionary readings, only deacons shall be permitted to serve in the altar.
- Since there is a lack of deacons in the churches, the diocese will allow sub-deacons to serve in the altar until more deacons are ordained.
- Any chanter, reader, Sub-Deacon, deacon, or archdeacon that has any open case of the clerical council (regardless of who initiated it), involved in any civil divorce or has filed any issue against his wife, cannot serve as deacon until the matter is resolved in his favor, since the deacon is called to be of good reputation and in good standing with his family (cf. 1 Tim. 3:8-13).
- Absolutely no one should be nominated for any deaconate rank as a concession or honorary title, to do so would be unbefitting of the Church of God.
- Should stand in his place during the prayers and not move without permission.
Entering and Exiting the Church
- Upon awakening, he prays the Lord’s Prayer and his personal prayers according to the spiritual rule given by his father of confession.
- On the way to church he prays the following psalms
- Psalm 122 in its entirety: “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go into the house of the LORD.’...”
- Psalm 27:4-5: “One thing I have desired of the LORD, that will I seek: That I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, To behold the beauty of the LORD, and to inquire in His temple. For in the time of trouble He shall hide me in His pavilion; In the secret place of His tabernacle He shall hide me; He shall set me high upon a rock.”
- Psalm 65:4 “Blessed is the man You choose, and cause to approach You, That he may dwell in Your courts We shall be satisfied with the goodness of Your house, of Your holy temple.”
- Outside the entrance of the Church, he crosses himself.
- He feels that he is entering heaven, walking quietly and slowly towards the sanctuary while saying, “But as for me, I will come into Your house in the multitude of Your mercy; In fear of You I will worship toward Your holy temple” (Psalm 5:7).
- That he bows before the sanctuary three (3) times while saying, “I worship You O Christ, with Your Good Father, and the Holy Spirit for You have come/risen and saved us.”
- He receives the blessing from the priest and goes to stand in his place.
- He should also leave the church, walking backwards and signing himself with the Cross, and exit with his right foot last.
- All ranks must use the Diocesan Liturgy Book. (Coptic, Arabic, and English).
- The tunia should be were white, and not colored.
- Tunics should be washed, ironed, folded, and kept in good condition.
- During the Evening and Morning Offering of Incense, at least the Deacon(s) serving in the sanctuary must wear their tunics.
- After vesting, all deacons should participate in the prayers of the Psalms.
- No liturgical vestments, altar linens or eprospherins should depict people, but rather only the Cross. Therefore any tunia depicting our Lord Jesus Christ, St. Mary or any of the saints or angels do not adhere to this decree and should not be used.
Blessing of the Vestments
- Deacons should not wear the tunia unless blessed by the bishop or priest.
- Deacons should present the tunia in the left hand, with the cross on the front.
- When the priest blesses the tunia, the deacon should not cross himself, since the priest is the only one who blesses.
- After blessing the tunia, the deacon should say, “Absolve me, I have sinned,” then kiss the cross and the hand of the priest.
- While putting on his vestments he should be quiet while reciting Psalm 29 (“I will exalt You...”) and Psalm 92 (“The Lord has reigned....”).
- After putting on the vestments he should exit, bow down before the sanctuary and take his place.
- Clergy should wear liturgical vestments in a room in the church entrance before they enter the Sanctuary.
- There are four acceptable times to bless the tunic:
- Before the Morning Raising of Incense.
- Before the prayers of the Third and Sixth Hours
- After the prayers of the Third and Sixth Hours, before the priest washes his hands to start the Offering.
- Before the Absolution of the Ministers. A deacon should not be blessed after the Absolution of the Ministers unless he attended the Absolution Prayer.
- Deacons should take off their tunias at the end of the Liturgy, after the Benediction, and not before (unless they have express permission from the priest).
- Should take communion in order of rank: archdeacon(s), deacon(s), sub-deacon(s), reader(s) and chanter(s).
- Should approach communion with a corporal (lefafa) in the right hand, but should not use the stole for this purpose.
- Should be prepared to receive the Holy Mysteries without any distractions.
- Should NOT cross himself while receiving the Holy Mysteries.
- It is preferable to gather all those who will receive communion outside, in the first row of the Church Pews. This will ensure a smooth process of administering Holy Communion with full respect.
- Should not bow before or after partaking of the Holy Mysteries.