By: Protodeacon David Kennedy
In Divine Services celebrated by a priest with the assistance of a deacon:
- Light the lamps and candles.
- Extinguish the lamps and candles.
- Prepare and tend the censer. They may place incense on the coal.
- Hand the censer to the deacon or priest when needed.
- Carry candles or torches in the processions (Little Entrance, Gospel, Great Entrance).
- Carry ripdia in the processions.
- Open and close the deacons’ doors.
- Open and close the altar curtain.
- Open and close the holy/royal doors but only if there are two subdeacons doing this together so that neither stands between the holy doors and the holy table. If this cannot be done without standing between the holy doors and the holy table, the deacon opens and closes the holy doors.
- Prepare and set out the vestments for the priest and deacon.
- After the service return the vestments to their place of storage.
- Cut up the bread to be used for antidoron and hold this bread on the tray when the priest distributes it.
- Bring up the prosophora offerings and assist the priest with the booklets or chits of paper that have the names of the living and the dead.
- Return the prosphora offerings following the Divine Liturgy.
- Light the standing candle and place it before the holy doors on the solea during the communion of the priest and deacon.
- Prepare and bring the boiling water (zeon/teplota) to the deacon.
- They may touch the holy table if directed by the deacon or priest. For example if the altar coverings need to be changed, they would assist the deacon or priest.
- They may prepare the table of oblation: chalice, diskos, etc.
- If necessary hold the service book for the priest. Usually at Divine Liturgy, the service book rests on an anologion to the left of the priest at the north-west corner of the holy table. At baptisms, crownings/marriage, funerals, or other services when the priest is standing in the narthex or in the centre of the nave and has no anologion, the subdeacon holds and pages the service book (usually the Trebnyk).
- Hold the communion cloth (lention) under the chin of the communicant.
- Hold the holy water vessel and brush.
- Hold the blessed bread for distribution at the Vigil.
- Hold the blessed oil and brush for anointing at the Vigil.
Blessed altar servers and readers/cantors may do the above but they may not:
- Open and close the holy/royal doors.
- Prepare the table of oblation.
- Touch the holy table.
At Pontifical Services:
- Act as staff-bearer.
- Act as train-bearer when the bishop wears the episcopal mandyas.
- Bear and tend to the trikerion and dikerion.
- Place the orletsi or eagle rugs in the proper places when needed. Note the subdeacon is not to stand before the holy table when doing this but to place the eagle rug in place while standing to the north or south side of the holy table.
- Vest and divest the bishop.
- Wash the bishop’s hands.
Instruction for Applying the Liturgical Prescriptions of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches. Congregation for the Eastern Churches. 6 January 1996.
The above instruction which is canonically binding makes a number of important points in regards to the subdiaconate:
- Whoever is enrolled in a minor Order is no longer a lay person but a member of the clergy. § 73
- Subdeacons are enrolled in the eparchy for whose serve they are ordained unless previously enrolled, e.g as a reader. § 73
- The ancient practice of minor Orders is to be maintained. § 74
- The reforms of the particular laws of the different Churches should rather restore them [minor orders] to greater significance and vitality. This is also recommended for reasons of ecumenical nature: if the Eastern Catholic Churches have a special duty of fostering unity among all the Eastern Churches, among other ways, through religious fidelity to the ancient traditions, it would not seem helpful to introduce a differentiation of usage with respect to the Orthodox Churches, all participating in the same common origin. § 74
- The minor Orders and the diaconate are not mere formalities in preparation for presbyterial ordination. They provide a specific service in the Church, and as such are to be effectively exercised in a definitive way by those who do not intend to enter the presbyterate, and in a sufficiently ample way by those who are to be ordained presbyters. This is especially valid for the diaconate. In this sense, misgivings should not be had toward conferring minor Orders and even the diaconate on those who comport themselves well, are suitable and appropriately prepared for the responsibility they assume, and declare themselves available for the service of the Church, even if they must continue to live with their families and practice their own trades. Thus, the ministers necessary for a dignified and fitting celebration of the liturgy are obtained, avoiding the practice, different also in this case from the Latin Church in which it is no longer in use, of having ministers of a higher range perform the liturgical functions that should be reserved to those of a lower range (the most frequent case is that of presbyters functioning as deacons), or of permanently appointing to the laity liturgical tasks expected of a minister: practices to be eliminated. §75
- [It should be noted that the liturgical functions of the subdeacon are so necessary that when subdeacons are not available their functions for the most part are assumed by lay altar servers. Section 75 clearly prioritizes the subdeacon before the lay altar server.]
Who should distribute the Eucharist? §58
- Can. 709 § 1 of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches establishes that it is the responsibility of the priest to distribute the Eucharist, or also the deacon if the particular law of the Church sui iuris so disposes. The subsequent paragraph grants the right to the Synod of Bishops of the patriarchal Church, or to the Council of Hierarch, to establish norms by which other Christians faithful can also distribute the Eucharist. § 58
- Therefore, assigning to the deacon or even to other faithful the task of distributing the Divine Eucharist depends on the instructions of the particular law. § 58
- Therefore, it is appropriate that the faculty of distributing the Eucharist by those other than the Bishop or the presbyter, or the deacon if so disposed by the particular law of each Church sui iuris, be exercised only in the case of true emergency. § 58
- The Canons of the Particular Law of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church states in Can. 91 (CCEO) c. 709 § 1 The Divine Eucharist is distributed by the priest, and if necessary, also by the deacon.
- [Only the Synod of Bishops in the UGCC has the authority to grant a faculty to subdeacons, readers, or the laity to distribute the Divine Eucharist. (This is unlike the Latin Church where the local ordinary and in certain circumstances the priest celebrant has the authority to grant such a faculty.) The Synod of Bishops in the UGCC has not granted such a faculty to subdeacons and therefore, it is illicit and a liturgical abuse for subdeacons to distribute the Divine Eucharist in the UGCC.]
May subdeacons substitute for deacons?
- The Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches Can. 699 §2. Deacons have their part in the celebration of the Divine Liturgy with bishops and presbyters according to the prescriptions of the liturgical books.
- Sacrosanctum Concilium, 4 December, 1963 [The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Vatican II] states in § 28 In liturgical celebrations each person, minister, or layman who has an office to perform, should carry out all and only those parts which pertain to his office by the nature of the rite and the norms of the liturgy.
- Ordo Celebrationis § 26. It is unlawful for clerics who have not been ordained to the diaconate to function in the office of a deacon.
- Ordo Celebrationis § 24 No one is allowed to wear a sacred vestment proper to an Order superior to his own. [Subdeacons wear the sticharion and the orarion crossed back and front in the form of a cross saltier (the cross of St. Andrew). Deacons wear the sticharion, the orarion on the left shoulder, and the epimanikia /cuffs. Ordo Celebrationis § 103 and § 104. Readers/taper-bearers/altar servers wear only the sticharion.]
- These norms and principles make it clear that subdeacons do not substitute for deacons but have their own functions to perform. No one make take the liturgical role of another unless the liturgical books prescribe it. For example the Ruthenian rite Liturgicon states: “It is to be noted that, when a priest celebrates without a deacon, he is not to recite the deacon’s words during the Preparation of the Gifts or during the Liturgy before the Gospel, such as: Master, give the blessing, or Master, pierce it, or It is time to act. However, he is to say the ektenes and to perform the preparatory ritual”.