October 29, 2018


Guidelines for the Reader | Servant Certification Modules

The Reader was a necessary order in the early church; it is typically enumerated as the first of the Minor Orders proper.[1]


  1. The Reader had to read and comprehend the Scriptures.[2]
  2. The duties of the Reader also included chanting.
  3. The Reader also had a teaching As mentioned in the instruction to the Reader during the Ordination prayer: "You should learn the books of the Holy Bible, one by one, so that you may be able to teach the congregation.” He practices teaching and preaching with the request of the bishop or priest.
  4. May also have had a role in reading the names of the patriarchs after the commemoration (“Let those who read recite the names…”)


Candidates to be ordained as a reader should meet these minimum requirements:

  • Should have a good reading proficiency and deep understanding of the Holy Scriptures, always increasing in the knowledge of God (Col. 1:10).
  • Should have consistent reading and regular studying of the Bible to be able to teach and read to the congregation.[3]
  • should have basic knowledge of the Bible, the liturgical life (including basic hymns), and the fathers.

To test the basic knowledge of the Reader, two different exams are established in the Diocese.

  1. Those interested to serve in Sunday School program, English Youth meetings, and other youth services are required to pass the Servants’ Certification exam. This will allow them, upon the recommendation of their parish priest, to be consecrated as readers.
  2. For those serving in Arabic Youth Meetings or are not assigned to any non-liturgical service, may take the Readers Exam in Arabic. This will be based on the book ****.


After every reading, the reader shall bow down before the sanctuary, and enter the sanctuary from the right door of the altar, to receive the blessing of the priest, entering with his right foot, and exiting with the left.

  1. Consecration Prayers and Vestments
  • The Reader is blessed and appointed by the bishop.[4]
  • The Reader is a consecration, not an ordination.[5]
  • Because there is no laying on of hands,[6] the canons of the priesthood and the deacon related to marriage do not apply to him.[7]
  • As part of the ordination prayers, the bishop cuts five crosses into the hair of the Reader.[8]
  • In addition to the tunic of the chanter, the Reader wears the stole.[9] This is worn in the form of a cross on his back, with it wrapped around the front as a belt, and with both ends hanging from over his shoulders. It is in the form of the Cross, because he carries the cross of Christ, since says: "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me" (Matt 16:24).

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[1] St. Justin Martyr seems to be the first one in the second century to mention the role of “reader” (First Apology, 67.4), but unfortunately does not give precise descriptions of any office. In the third century, Cornelius of Rome (251) writes letter listing the offices in the city: one bishop, 46 presbyters, 7 deacons, 7 Sub-Deacons, 42 acolytes, 52 exorcists, plus readers and doorkeepers (Eusebius, Hist. Eccl., 6.43.11). St. Cyprian (d. 258) frequently mentions readers in his letters, but doesn’t speak of the ritual. Tertullian criticized Gnostics who moved between deacon and reader, but doesn’t mention in detail what that role entailed (De praescriptione haereticorum, 41). By the fourth century things are much clearer for us. St. Athanasius in his Letter to Dracontius (10), mentions Maximus the Reader.

[2] Jawharah, 45. This was no easy task. In the pre-modern world, literacy was quite low in general and texts were written in scriptio continua, or in a continuous text without any spacing between words or sentences, and, for the most part, it lacked capitalization and punctuation marks. Thus, beyond possessing basic literacy, a Reader was skilled in reading this type of writing out loud in a comprehensible matter.

[3] Readers are to be as those mentioned in Nehemiah 8:8, who “read distinctly from the book, in the Law of God; and they gave the sense, and helped them to understand the reading.”

[4] Apostolic Church Order, 19; Apostolic Tradition, 12; Apostolic Constitutions 8.22; Fourth Council of Carthage, Canon 8; Musbah, II.11-17; Jawharah, 75. Unfortunately, the liturgical texts give no specific indication of when the Reader was given the tunic. While canon 23 of the Council of Laodicea didn’t permit readers to wear the orarion, there is some evidence that the Church of Alexandria had more of a willingness to allow so in order to distinguish him from the chanter. In addition to the tunic of the chanter, the Reader wears the stole.

[5] Some church orders like Apostolic Constitutions insisted that the readers are not ordained, or considered as part of the priesthood. Thus, some prayers like St. Serapion of Thmuis’ Euchologion do not include any ordination prayers for readers or Sub-Deacons. See Paul F. Bradshaw, Rites of Ordination: Their History and Theology (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2013), 81. This is why by the 5th century readers could even be chosen among the catechumen (Socrates, Hist. Eccl., 5.22).

[6] Apostolic Constitutions, 35.

[7]  Apostolic Constitutions, 26.

[8] al-Tartīb al-ṭaqsī, pgs. 224-25.

[9] ὀράριον, orarion, , الب ريه, badrashayn or baṭrashayl. This is the narrow form of the priestly stole (στολή, ἐπιτραχήλιον, Arabic, ṣadriyyah, in Latin sudarium).


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