by Archbishop Joseph E. Tawil, D.D.
Eparch Emeritus of Newton


"In their own special way, ministers of lesser rank also share in the mission and grace of the Supreme Priest. First among these are the Deacons." Since they are the servants of the mysteries of Christ and the Church," (St. Ignatius of Antioch), they should keep themselves free from every fault, be pleasing to God and be a source of all goodness in the sight of men" (Vatican II: The Church, Par. 5, No. 41).





Chapter 1: The Church: the Common Priesthood of the Baptized

Chapter 2: Diakonia, Koinonia and Presbyterate in the New Testament. Diakonia in the Liturgy

Chapter 3: Diakonia in the Post-Apostolic Age

Chapter 4: The Diaconate and the Council

Chapter 5: Diaconal Chirotonia

Chapter 6: The Character and Proper Role of the Deacon in the Church

Chapter 7: Diakonia in Christ's Image

Readings: Great Deacons of History

Appendix 1: General Criteria for Diaconal Vocations

Appendix 2: Formation in Diaconal Ministry

Appendix 3: The Role of the Parish Priest






The DIAKONIA of the "Seven" in the ACTS OF THE APOSTLES largely encompasses service at table. St. Stephen evangelized the Jews of Jerusalem and was put to death because of his preaching concerning Christ. St. Philip evangelized the Ethiopian and baptized him. In his epistles, St. Paul mentions the deacons immediately after the bishops. In the course of history, the ministry of deacons acquired such importance that some of them left an imprint in the history of the Church, such as St. Romanus the Melodist, deacon in Homs, Beirut and Constantinople, whose poetic compositions constitute the greatest Byzantine creation. St. Ephrem the Syrian was the first to introduce hymnography into the Church's prayers in order to combat the Gnostic Bardesanes. In the West, St. Gregory the Great was sent as a deacon to Constantinople as the apochrysarius of the Pope and from which he returned to be proclaimed Bishop of Rome later.

Diaconal functions were reduced in the Western Church as well as in some Eastern Catholic Churches, and became merely a step to the priesthood. To enjoy a fruitful ministry, today's deacon must make himself available, particularly in the domains of service and charity, to be accepted by the parish and welcomed by the pastor. He must have at heart to proclaim the Gospel of the Lord both in the church and outside it: to children through catechesis, to the poor, the sick, the aged, the disabled, the destitute, etc. It is through his love of the Lord and the Church that he will extend his ministry to all those who, like Lazarus, are left behind and are completely forgotten.

St. Ignatius of Antioch, on his way to martyrdom in Rome, referred to himself very seldom as a bishop but, rather, as a "disciple of Jesus Christ." The vocation to holiness is the same for all Christians - men, women, and ordained ministers. The diaconal ordination confers on its recipient the grace to be a perfect disciple of Christ. It is in this ministry that he shall be judged on the Last Day; being the perfect image of Christ who "did not come to be served, but to serve and give His life for many."

The revival of Patristic studies makes it imperative for us to constantly refer to those privileged witnesses of the faith, known as the Fathers of the Church, for whom Christianity was not a dry corpus of doctrine but the true message of salvation. We quote from them at length in order to be imbued with the spirit in which they lived their faith and conquered the world for Christ.

PRESBYTERATE, DIAKONIA, KOINONIA and LITURGY are interrelated, for it is for KOINONIA (communion) that the presbyterate and diaconate were instituted. The Church is the divine milieu in which the Holy Spirit is given to us. It is through the sacraments administered by the ordained ministers in the Liturgy that the local community becomes open to the Coming of the Spirit.

"Maran Atha! Come, Lord Jesus!"






In his very first Epistle, St. Peter wrote, "But you are a chosen generation, a kingly priesthood, a holy nation, a purchased people: that you may declare his virtues, who has called you out of darkness into his marvelous light: Who in time past were not a people: but are now the people of God." (I Pet. 2:8-9). St. Paul considered Christians to be a priestly people and invited them to "present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, pleasing unto God, your reasonable service." (Rom. 2: 1). Alone among men, Christians know the true God who is the Blessed Trinity, offering Him, in the name of all creation, the tribute of praise which is fitting and are the mediators between Him and men. In this sense, they constitute a people of "priests." The Apocalypse also says of Christ, "who has loved us and washed us from our sins in His own Blood and has made us a kingdom and priests to God and His Father" (1: 5-6).

"The sacred and organic character of the priestly community," says Vatican II, "having entered in action by the Sacraments and the Virtues. . . provided with salutary means of such abundance and such grandeur, all those who believe in Christ, whatever their condition and state of life, are called by God, each one in his way, to sanctity, whose perfection is the same as that of the Father." (LUMEN GENTIUM, X: 11). The People of God in the Church are invested with the three CHARISMATA of Priest, Prophet and King: Priest by the common priesthood of all the baptized, Prophet by the proclamation of the Good News and the putting into practice of the evangelical ideal in their lives, taking inspiration from faith, hope and charity; King, as members of the heavenly Kingdom, gathered in Christ the Savior.


The spiritual community of those who have been baptized, the Church, is also a visible society, governed by Pastors, who are the Apostles and their successors, the Bishops. The latter form the hierarchy, whose role is thus defined by the Council: "In order to direct the People of God and to ceaselessly increase, CHRIST JESUS instituted in His Church certain ministries which work for the good of the whole Body. These ministers endowed with a sacred power are in the service of their brethren, so that all those who form part of the People of God may obtain salvation." (LUMEN GENTIUM XVIII). These ministers are signs under the names of EPISKOPOI (bishops) or OVERSEERS; presbyters (priests) or ELDERS and deacons or servers. For Protestants there is no priestly order . . . even the pastor who fills a spiritual function and an administrative post is the delegate of the community.

In Orthodoxy and Catholicism, the pastors are the successors of the Apostles. The authority with which they are invested comes to them from the Sacrament of Holy Orders, which makes them capable of administering the Sacraments of the Church, particularly the forgiveness of sins and the Eucharist. The Hierarch is the sign or "sacrament" of Christ's efficacious Presence, the Head of the Church which is His Body, through the Power of the Holy Spirit, who makes of it a Perpetual Pentecost. The Pastors or Bishops are the Ministers of Christ, the Head of this Body.

"Hierarchy" is a Greek word meaning "sacred government." The heads of the Church by the Grace of Holy Orders are the ministers par excellence in the service of the People of God. Although the word HIERARCH(Y) is not found in the New Testament, the three degrees of government instituted by Christ, have supernatural content and origins.

"Holy Orders" has the same meaning as "hierarchy." The latter refers to the three degrees (bishop, priest, deacon), while Holy Orders indicates rather the powers which the Sacrament itself transmits to them through the imposition of hands.

"Minister" and "Ministry" mean "service" or "function." The heads of the Church, by the grace of Holy Orders, are the ministers par excellence of the People of God.

"Pastors" is a name given to the Apostles and their successors, the Bishops, and which is given to Christ Himself. It refers to the function which devolved upon the Bishops to watch over the flock of the Chosen People. (Latin for "shepherds").

"Clergy" and "Cleric" come from the Greek word CLEROS, meaning heritage. Cleric is used as the opposite of laic.

"Priesthood": the Priesthood of the baptized is for all Eternity and is conferred upon them by Baptism and makes them adopted children of the Father. The Ministerial Priesthood, on the other hand, consists in a share in the Ministry of Christ and is by nature sacramental. By virtue of this Priesthood, priests offer the Eucharist and proclaim the Good News of the Gospel, adding to the common Priesthood of all those who have been baptized, the ministerial Priesthood, which is the exercise of properly priestly functions, for the building up of the Body of Christ which is the Church. To this function of sanctification is added that of governing the Church and Evangelization - a royal and prophetic function which makes whole and undivided the pastoral ministry, which is the service of JESUS CHRIST and of the ecclesial community.







DIAKONIA is a Greek word meaning "service," and, particularly, service at table. We shall consider it in the New Testament, first, in the Synoptic Gospels; second, in the Fourth Gospel; third, in the Book of Acts and, finally, in the Epistles. In the second part, we shall see what the post-apostolic Fathers have to say about it.


A. THE SYNOPTIC GOSPELS. DIAKONOS means "servant" and DIAKONIA means "service." We shall see the many meanings of this concept:

When Jesus fasted for forty days, "then the devil left Him and, behold, the angels came and MINISTERED to Him." (Matthew 4: 11).

After Jesus healed Peter's mother-in-law, "she began to WAIT ON (DIAKONEI) them." (Mark 1: 31).

Martha complained about her sister who left her "SERVING alone." (Luke 10: 38). At Bethany, Martha was SERVING while Lazarus was one of those reclining at table

But the nobility of service is manifested in all its splendor in Jesus, "the Son of Man (Who) did not come to be SERVED but to SERVE and to give His life as ransom for many." (Mark 10: 45) and He showed this at the Last Supper when He washed the feet of His apostles.

DIAKONOS or "servant" is not always related to the service at table:

At the last Judgment, the "King will say to those on his left hand, 'Depart from me, accursed ones, into everlasting fire.' . . . then they will also answer, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger, or naked, or sick or in prison and did not MINISTER to You?'"

Helping those in need is the same as helping the Lord Himself. (Matthew 25:45).

Finally, when Jesus wanted His disciples to understand the meaning of the authority He invested them with, He told them, "Whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your SERVANT." (Matthew 20: 27).

B. THE FOURTH GOSPEL. In St. John's Gospel, the word DIAKONOS is applied to the servants at the Marriage Feast of Cana in Galilee. (chapter 11: 1 to 13). It is thanks to this sign that Christ had manifested Himself in His Glory and that His disciples believed in Him. (John 1: 29-37). Is there an allegorical sign to which this episode refers? Let us examine it in the proper perspective:

"They that have no wine" (John 17:19) refers to the words of Isaias, "The new wine mourneth, the wine languisheth, all the merry-hearted sigh. They shall not drink wine with a song; strong drink shall be bitter to them that drink it." (Isaias 24: 7). Christ said,: My hour has not yet come." (John 2: 5), which means the hour of glorification, which is that of His Passion. (John 13: 1, 17: 12 & 20, 23, and 8: 20). And from the heart of woman sprang forth this cry, "Whatever He tells you to do, do it." (John 2: 5).

1. THE ROLE OF THE WOMAN FULL OF GRACE: The wine of the Old Covenant was succeeded by that of the New, a figure of the shedding of Christ's Blood. Mary, "the woman full of grace," represents the Church at the messianic wedding and to give it the glory in the baptismal font, by opposition to the empty jars and the inefficacious ablutions of the Jews. There is another pledge of this entry into that glory which is the Wine of the Spirit, to be given in the Eucharist and represented by the wine of Cana, by which Christ communicates the Sanctifying Spirit on the Cross. It behooved the Woman full of grace who said to the Angel, "Behold the HANDMAID (servant) of the Lord, be it done unto me according to your word," (Luke 3: 8), to weave the humanity of Christ in her womb, in order for Him to redeem fallen humanity. It pertained to the woman full of grace to appear "as the loom of the Divinity upon which the Word wove the robe of His Flesh by divinizing my nature when he Clothed Himself with It." (Orthros, Tone 6). It is He who presided over the ministry of the servants (deacons), telling them, "Do whatever He tells you." It pertained to her to present the matter of sacrifice to Christ the High Priest to be consecrated before being distributed to the guests.

C. THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES. 1. Peter invites the Apostles to elect one of them to replace Judas and take over his MINISTRY (DIAKONIA) (Acts 1: 25). As is obvious, DIAKONIA does not mean being a "deacon" here, but rather "ministry" and "apostolic Ministry." There is a distinction between DIAKONIA and serving at table.

2. After the persecutions, there were elders (presbyters) in charge of receiving the gifts and distributing them to the needy and it was to them that Paul and Barnabas brought the relief of the communities to be distributed to the brethren in Judea. (Acts 11: 29).

3. The Ministry of the Seven: In proposing the election of seven men, the twelve Apostles said, "It is not desirable that we would forsake the Word of God and SERVE AT TABLE. Therefore, brethren, select from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and wisdom that we may put them in charge of this work. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the MINISTRY (diakonia) of the Word of God." (Acts 6: 3). It seems that the ministry of the Seven was not restricted to the service of tables. St. Stephen preached and proclaimed the Name of the Lord before the Sanhedrin. (Acts 6: 1). St. Philip exercised his ministry in Samaria (8: 4) and the Twelve, upon hearing of his work, sent Peter and John so that they might receive the Holy Spirit. Later on, we find Philip evangelizing the eunuch of Ethiopia (8: 1-39). It seems that the Seven were not "deacons," who would appear later, but a kind of college of overseers in charge of the administration of the group of Hellenists, under the supervision of the Apostles. It was to them that the Apostles transmitted all their ministry, since the Church was well established in Jerusalem with James as president. This ministry would later become diversified in the PRESBYTERS, properly speaking and the DEACONS. "If in the West, they insist on MINISTRY (diakonia), in the East the Council in Trullo (Quini-Sext), quoting St. John Chrysostom, formally denied that there were neither deacons nor presbyters in the Church of Jerusalem at the time of the establishment of the Seven, but only Apostles." <1>

4. It is probable that, among the Seven who were chosen, there were "priests" and "Levites" and that Stephen himself was either a priest or Levite. For, after the establishment of the Seven, many priests obeyed the Faith. "I do not count my life more precious than myself if I may only accomplish my course and the MINISTRY (diakonia) that I have received from the Lord Jesus, to bear witness to the Gospel of the Grace of God." (Acts 20: 24). On his last visit to Jerusalem, St. Paul "related" in detail what God had done among the gentiles through his MINISTRY (diakonia). (Acts 21: 17).

D. THE EPISTLES. Diakonia in the Epistles means every ministry aiming to obtain salvation. "As long indeed as I am an apostle of the gentiles, I will honor my MINISTRY (diakonia)." (Romans 11: 13). "All this has been done by God . . . the MINISTRY (diakonia) of reconciliation." (2 Corinthians 5: 18). "Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of MINISTRIES (diakonia) you have received in the Lord." (Colossians 4: 17).

Paul paralleled the DIAKONIA of the Old Law with his own DIAKONIA and said, "If the ministration (diakonia) of death, which was engraved in letters upon stones was inaugurated in such glory that the children of Israel could not look steadfastly upon the face of Moses on account of the transient glory that shone upon it, shall not the MINISTRATION of the Spirit be still more glorious? For if there is glory in the MINISTRATION that condemned, much more does the MINISTRATION that justifies abound in glory." (2 Cor. 3: 7-9).

Paul writes to Timothy, "Be watchful in all thins, bear with tribulations patiently, work as a preacher of the gospel, fulfill thy MINISTRY." (2 Tim. 4: 5).

To the Corinthians who say, "I am for Paul or I am for Apollo," Paul writes, "What then is Apollo? What indeed is Paul? They are SERVANTS (diakonoi) of him whom you have believed -- servants according as God has given to each to SERVE. I have planted, Apollo watered, but God has given the growth. . ." (1 Cor. 3: 5-9). "Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. It is no great thing, then, if his ministers disguise themselves as MINISTERS (diakonoi) of justice." (1 Cor. 11: 5-9).

As for Paul, he was made MINISTER (diakonos) "by the gift of God's grace which was given to me in accordance with the working of his power." (Eph. 3: 7). He the "MINISTER of His Body which is the Church." (Col. 1: 25). For Peter, "If anyone MINISTERS (diakonos), let it be as from the strength that God furnishes." (1 Peter 4: 11).


1. One of the reasons for the disassociation of the presbyterate from the episcopate was, without doubt, the breaking of the bead, mentioned in ACTS (2:42). This rite of the bread broken in the Eucharist derives from a Jewish rite in which the one presiding at table had to give thanks (eucharistein) by breaking bread and distributing it to the guests and, at the end, to again give thanks and pass around a cup of wine to be drunk by the guests.

2. This rite was accomplished by Christ at the Last Supper, to which he added a new meaning: "This is My Body" (the bread) and "This is My Blood of the New Testament, which shall be shed for you," He said for the Cup. Paul did the same when he presented this rite to the Corinthians as being the "proclamation of the death of the Lord until He come again" (1 Cor. 11: 26).

3. Since this sacrificial death was the lot of the priest, the sacrifice of Communion was attributed to the President, who was acting as a priest.

4. Very soon the DIAKONIA of the tables became completely dissociated from the eucharistic offering, which was reserved to the presbyters and overseers (episkopoi) when the collection for the poor, which was taken up during the eucharistic celebration and was reserved to the deacons. The preaching of Christ crucified or risen from the dead is a proclamation to the gentiles which gives to the apostolic ministry its priestly character, and which is more particularly done during the Eucharistic Banquet in which the Death and Resurrection of Christ are proclaimed through the Eucharist. This preaching aims at constituting "the holy nation," able to offer an agreeable and sanctifying offering" (Rom. 13: 16). For the Christians, the best way to exercise their priestly ministry, as being baptized, is to "offer their persons as living victims, holy and agreeable to God" (1 Cor. 8 :4). "Now as you abound in everything in faith, in utterance, in knowledge, in all zeal, and in your love for us, may you excel in this gracious work also." (1 Cor. 6:7). "This is the practical way of imitating the liberality of Christ who, being rich, became poor for your sakes, that by His poverty you might become rich." (1 Cor. 8: 9).

Tradition is not unanimous concerning the link between the ministry of deacons and the Seven. Before the establishment of the Seven, the "service at table" was assured by the Apostles themselves (Acts 6).

What is the place of the Seven in the Eucharistic Assembly? This question is connected with the establishment of presbyters. There were presbyters in all the churches (Acts 14: 23). When were they instituted? No indication can be found in the New Testament. Saint Ignatius, however, gives information of capital importance when he says, "All of you, follow the bishop as Jesus Christ follows His Father and the presbyterium like the apostles. As for the deacons, respect them as the Law of God. Take it to heart to do everything in divine concord, under the presidency of the bishop who holds the place of God, the presbyters who hold the place of the Senate of the Apostles and the deacons who are so dear to me, to whom the service of Jesus Christ has been entrusted. Let everyone revere the deacons as Jesus Christ, as also the bishop who is the image of the Father and the presbyters as the Senate of God and as the Assembly of the Apostles." (Smyrn. 8: 1).

This text is a capital view that the Church of Antioch was the closest to that of Jerusalem, whose organization it imitated. Ignatius is describing here a Eucharistic Assembly copied after that of the Last Supper, at which the deacons assume the DIAKONIA: the presbyters hold the place of the Apostles (the Senate) since at one point in history, the Apostles' place was taken by the presbyters. It should be a question, in this text, of the ministry of the Seven who received all the ministry from the Apostles at the moment in which the latter definitively left Jerusalem, following the persecution. (cf. L'EGLISE DU SAINT-ESPRIT by Nicolas Afanassief, pp. 255-268).


1. DIAKONIA was a service of charity to the poor of Jerusalem. Thanks to community of goods, the Christians who issued from the Gentiles manifested that they were one community with that of Jerusalem. "I do not mean that the relief of others become your burden but that there should be equality that at the present time your abundance may supply their want and that their abundance may, in turn, make up what you lack, thus establishing an equality as it is written: 'He who had much had nothing over, and he who had little had no less.'" (1 Cor. 8: 13).

2. This KOINONIA of material goods is manifest in the deeper KOINONIA of spirit and heart. And the KOINONIA of spiritual goods calls for the sharing of temporal goods. (Acts 2:42 & Gal. 6:6). "For if the gentiles have shared in their spiritual blessings, they should also minister to them in material things." (Rom. 15: 26).

3. This KOINONIA is for the propagation of the Gospel (Phil. 4: 14-26) and for the "knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord," (Phil. 3: 8) in order to share with His suffering and in His Resurrection: "I have counted it loss, nay more, I count everything as loss because of the excelling knowledge of Jesus Christ, my Lord. For His sake, I have suffered the loss of all things and I count them as dung that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having justice of my own, which is from the Law, but that which is from faith in Christ, the justice from God based upon faith, so that I may know Him and the power of His Resurrection and the FELLOWSHIP (koinonia) of His suffering: become like Him in death, in the hope that somehow, I may attain the resurrection from the dead." (Phil. 3: 8-11).

4. The KOINONIA with Christ is sealed by the rite of KOINONIA in His Blood: "The cup of blessings that we bless is it not the sharing in the Blood of Christ? and the bread we break is it not the partaking of the Body of the Lord? Because the bread is one, we, though many, are one body, all of us who partake of one bread. Behold Israel, according to the flesh, are not they who eat of the sacrifices, partakers of the altars? What then, do I say? That which is sacrificed to idols is anything? No, but I say that what the gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, not to God. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of devils; you cannot be partakers of the table of the Lord and the table of devils." (1 Cor. 10: 16-20).

The totality of the churches coming from Judaism and the gentiles constitutes one single KOINONIA (community), the KOINONIA of the Holy Spirit, whose fruit is the offering of the faithful. The deacons were in charge of these collections: "Just now I am leaving for Jerusalem to bring assistance to the saints. Macedonia and Achaia have kindly decided to make a contribution for those in need among the saints in Jerusalem." (Rom. 15: 25-26).

The essential place of the union among the members of a group is the KOINONIA. The Christian meal is such in a two-fold way: to the extent that it comprises within it two practices (Jewish) known in the first century, namely, group meals and mutual assistance. The link between the two practices is reflected in the double archetypical account of the Christian meal. The first type of meal, the group one, reflects its original image in the account of the Last Supper; the second type of the distribution of food finds its archetype in that of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes. Now it is necessary to add that the account of the Last Supper and that of the multiplication of the loaves are linked by the ANAMNESIS of the same act of Jesus, who presided over the meal, blessed, broke the bread and distributed it (Mark 6: 41 and 8: 6). It is better understood how in the New Testament, the Greek word KOINONIA designates both the communion at table and mutual service. The same is true for the Greek word DIAKONIA, meaning the service of tables and the collection for mutual assistance. Hence, the Christian meal considers means the KOINONIA, the communion "of the Body of Christ" by the distributed bread, while the KOINONIA of the meal of mutual assistance manifests fraternal union by the gathered bread. The Christian meal is the place PAR EXCELLENCE of Christian unity and charity at which the Lord continues to mete out that which the collection gathers. The multiplication of the loaves is continued. The KOINONIA is built up around the same bread which is distributed, around the same person who continues to give it. The place of KOINONIA among brethren is of the Body and Blood, the meal is also the place of Jesus' word. By comparing the practice of the synagogue with the Christian one, "in the first place, the homilist and the scribe of the synagogue start with scriptural revelation in order to better explain it. Then the Christian prophet and teacher first wishes to say 'Jesus' by utilizing the case beyond the dictionary of Sacred Scripture." In the second place, the primary right of the event in the synagogue: "The proclamation of the word and the event of Jesus by the apostle and the prophet brings it into the Christian assembly. Finally, it is a point of convergence: Jews and Christians wish to have the word understood in its living actuality; for the Christians, it is a question, evidently, of actualizing, I dare say, the word of Jesus . . . The Christian meal is always the Supper of the Risen One, that is to say, the meal at which Christ makes Himself seen in today's faith and not only the one at which Jesus makes Himself seen in the past. The Gospel is also the sacrament of the Presence of Christ in its privileged place, which is the Body of Christ" (ESPRIT ET VIE, March 12, 1981, analyzing the work of Charles Perrot, JESUS AND HISTORY, pages 156 & 157).


The word "liturgy" is a combination of two Greek words: LEITOS (people) and ERGOS (work), i.e., the "work of the people."

The Church is the epiphany of the Kingdom of God and its Sacraments. The liturgy is synergetic and marked out by God and man and makes of revelation thy living mystery of the Church. If theology aims at the formulation of the truth, liturgy expresses it in a poetical manner, suitable for meditation.

The EKONOMIA of the Incarnation and the liturgical celebration are both PNEUMATOLOGICAL and the fruit of the Spirit. Spirituality is both Christological and Pneumatological and aims to develop in us the Christian or Divine Life, the very Life of the Trinity. DIAKONIA is intimately linked to liturgy and is itself liturgy which, etymologically, means the public work of the people. The DIAKONIA organized by Paul is sacred, as well as liturgical, action (2 Cor. 9: 12). This ministry cannot be dissociated from the Eucharist because it is its fruit. And since KOINONIA is sealed by the breaking of bread, the DIAKONIA of the Liturgy is sacred and consists in the baptized person offering "spiritual sacrifices agreeable to God." (2 Pet. 2: 5). DIAKONIA has always been connected with the Eucharist. According to THE DIDACHE, before the ANAPHORA, there is the collection for the poor. But the liturgy is the mystery of the worship of God. DIAKONIA is the *transcendentalaction of the liturgy . From what precedes we can conclude the many meanings of DIAKONIA, as follows:

1. DIAKONIA as ministry to the poor.

2. The ministry of public worship (liturgy) which cannot be accomplished except in the church. Liturgy cannot be learned from textbooks, but in church, in the Christian assembly.

3. The Church is mystery and, therefore, to minister to the Church's worship is to share in the mystery.

4. "The deacon's proper role in liturgy is to be the angel calling to prayer by the litanies and the proclamation of the Gospel and the word of God." (Diodorus of Tarsus). The liturgy is the source of the spiritual life of the faithful.






HIS LIFE: All that we know about it is that he was a Christian of Jewish origin, identified by St. Irenaeus as the third bishop of Rome. He had a perfect knowledge of the Old Testament and "after the Apostles, he is the most important personage of Christian antiquity. In him was personified the idea of apostolic succession and ecclesiastical government and legislation," according to Duchesne. He is of great importance from this viewpoint. <2>

THE TEXT: "The Apostles received the Gospel for us from the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus the Christ was sent from God. Thus Christ is from God and the Apostles from Christ. In both instances, the orderly procedure depends on God's will. And so, the Apostles, after receiving their orders and being fully convinced by the Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ and assured by God's word, went out in the confidence of the Holy Spirit to preach the Good News that God's Kingdom is about to come. They preached in country and in city and appointed their first converts after testing them by the Spirit, to be the BISHOPS and DEACONS of future believers. Now this was not any novelty, for Scripture had mentioned bishops and deacons long before. For this is what Scripture says somewhere, 'I will appoint their bishops in righteousness and their deacons in faith.'" (1 Cor. 4: 2). "The high priest is given his particular duties: the PRIESTS are assigned their special place while, on the LEVITES, particular tasks are imposed. The layman is bound by the laymen's code." (40: 5). Each of the brothers, "in his own rank," must win God's approval and have a clear conscience. We must not transgress the rules laid down for our ministry, but must perform it reverently" (Cor. 42) <3>.

ANALYSIS OF THE TEXT: The quotation mentioned in 42, 5 is from Isaiah 60: 17, which reads as follows in the Septuagint: "I will appoint your ARCHONTES in peace and your EPISCOPES in righteousness." Clement substituted deacons for ARCHONTES. The translation in the Hebrew is different. Let us take note of the following:

a. The function of the EPISCOPES and deacons is anterior to the community of believers, which they aim to constitute.

b. The function of the LEVITES is qualified as DIAKONIA. It seems that the PRESBYTERATE has been differentiated in two functions, viz., EPISCOPES in charge of offering oblations and deacons, analogous to the Levites of the Old Testament. This distinction existed in the Jewish community.


HIS LIFE: According to legend, Ignatius was the child indicated by Our Lord when He said to His disciples, "Unless you become like this little child, you cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven." Arrested and condemned in Antioch, he was taken to Rome to be thrown to wild beasts. Along the way, he was greeted by the leaders of churches. Hence, his epistles to the Romans, Ephesians, Magnesians, Philadelphians, Smyrnans, Trallians and Polycarp. They are known as the "gems of Christian antiquity." The term "Catholic Church" first appeared in one of his works.

THE TEXTS: "Everyone must show the deacons respect. They represent Jesus Christ, just as the bishop has the role of the Father and the presbytes are like God's council and apostolic band. You cannot have a church without these. I am sure that you agree with me in this." (Trall. 3).

"Be on your guard, then, against such people. This you will do by not being puffed up and by keeping very close to our God, Jesus Christ, and the bishop and the Apostles' precepts. Inside the sanctuary, a man is pure. Outside, he is impure. This means that whoever does anything without the bishop, presbyterate and deacons, does not have a clear conscience." (Trall. 3: 17).

"Be careful, then, to observe a single Eucharist. For there is one Flesh of Our Lord Jesus Christ and one cup of His Blood that makes us one and one altar, just as there is one bishop along with the presbyterate and the deacons, my fellow slaves." (Phil. 4: 1).

"The bishop has the role of the Father" (Trall. 3: 1) and "Presides in God's place" (Magnes.10) and "must be followed as Jesus Christ did the Father." (Smyrn. 8: 1).

"The deacons (my special favorites) are entrusted with the ministry (DIAKONIA) of Jesus Christ who was with the Father from all eternity and appeared at the end of the world." (Magn. 6: 1).

"Nobody must do anything that has to do with the church without the bishop's approval. You should regard that Eucharist as valid which is celebrated either by the bishop or by someone he authorizes. Where the bishop is present, there let the congregation gather, just as where Jesus Christ is, there is the CATHOLIC CHURCH. Without the bishop's supervision, no baptisms or love feasts are permitted. On the other hand, whatever he approves pleases God, as well. He who pays honor to the bishop, has been honored by God. But he who acts without the bishop's knowledge is in the devil's service." (Smyrn. 2: 9).

ANALYSIS: In what does DIAKONIA consist in St. Ignatius? He himself explains it: "Those, too, who are deacons of Jesus Christ's mysteries must give complete satisfaction to everyone for they do not serve mere food and drink, but minister to God's Church." (Trall. 2: 3).

We can draw the following conclusions from the above texts:

1. The bishop, presbyterate and deacons are the three functions of the ministry of the Eucharist. Deacons are not mere servants of food and drink, but they are deacons of the mysteries of Christ. They assist the bishop in the eucharistic celebration and in receiving the collections from the people, they must administer afterwards.

2. In the beginning, there were only two functions: THE EPISCOPACY AND THE DIACONATE. There gradually appeared from the presbyterium, EPISCOPES fulfilling the role of presidents and who reserved for themselves the title of EPISCOPUS. He presided in the episcopacy over the presbyters and the deacons.

3. Characteristic of Ignatius' epistles: It is obvious that he wanted to imitate the "Passion of my God," to become a real Christian. His first concern was the unity of the Church and he tried to unmask heretical movements, e.g., Docetism, and he stressed the Divinity of Christ and His true Humanity.

4. Ignatius' letters introduce the deacons as one of the three essential functions of a church: EPISCOPE, presbyterate and diaconate.


LIFE: A disciple of St. John the Theologian, he died a martyr's death in 155. Ignatius of Antioch visited him EN ROUTE to Rome and wrote to him a letter. Polycarp journeyed to Rome as a representative of the Churches of Asia Minor and dealt with Pope Anicetus (155-166) about the date of the celebration of Easter. During his stay in Rome, he met many heretics and came face to face with Marcion and called him "the first-born of Satan." Summoned to deny Christ, he answered, "Eighty-six years have I served Him and He never did me any wrong. How can I blaspheme my King who saved me?" He was put to death in the arena in Smyrna in 155.

TEXT: "Likewise, the deacons should be blameless, as servants of God and Christ and not of men; not slanderers or double-tongued, not lovers of money, temperate in all matters, compassionate, careful, living according to the truth of the Lord who became "a servant of all," to whom if we are pleasing in the present age, we shall also obtain the age to come, inasmuch as He promised to raise us from the dead." (Pol. & Phil. 5: 2).

ANALYSIS: Let us note after the enumeration of the virtues of the deacons, the mention of the widows who live on the offerings of the faithful which are administered by the deacons.


DESCRIPTION: A very important document of the second century, found in the Greek Patriarchate of Jerusalem after a manuscript dated 1056, three years after the separation of the (two) Churches. It is divided into two parts, one ethical and moral and the other liturgical and disciplinary. The moral part is presented in parables of a sort: the two ways, one leading to life and the other to death. It deals with the essential precepts and the chief sins. The disciplinary part deals with baptism, fasting, eucharist, DIDASCALIA, bishops, deacons. The whole work closes with an exhortation on vigilance because of the PAROUSIA. Its place of origin is either Syria or Egypt.

TEXT: "You must, then, elect for yourselves bishops and deacons who are a credit to the Lord, men who are gentle, generous, faithful and well-tried. For their MINISTRY (DIAKONIA) to you is identical to that of the prophets and teachers." (15: 1).

"On every Lord's Day - His special Day - come together and break bread and give thanks, first confessing your sins so that your sacrifice may be pure. . ." (15: 1).

ANALYSIS: 1. THE DIDACHE recommends the election of bishops and deacons who fill the role of teachers and prophets and in view of the Eucharistic celebration.

2. It mentions the two functions: the bishops to offer eucharistic celebrations and the deacons to organize this offering of the people and present it to the bishop for consecration.


LIFE: A brother of Pope St. Pius I (140-155), he was a Christian of the second century, a slave in Rome, later set free, married and suffered persecution.

WORK: An apocalyptic text, it is divided into three sections: five visions, twelve mandates and ten similitudes or parables.

TEXT: (The lady, who is the Church, addresses herself to Hermas and says:) "Listen now concerning the stones which go into the building. The stones which are square and white and which fit neatly in place, these are the Apostles and bishops and teachers and deacons who walked according to the majesty of God and who ministered to the elect of God in holiness and reverence in the work of overseeing and teaching and in giving service. Some of them have fallen asleep and some are still alive. They always agreed among themselves and had peace among themselves and listened to one another and that is why in the building of the tower they fit neatly in place." (Vis. 3, 5, 1).


LIFE: Born in Nablus (Flavia Neapolis) in Palestine about 110, he attached himself to stoicism, Pythagorism and Platonism, before converting to Christianity. He taught in Rome and had among his students the famous Syrian, Tatian. He was martyred in Rome between 163 and 167. He wrote two apologies and the DIALOGUE WITH TRYPHO THE JEW.

TEXT: "When the prayers and thanksgiving are completed, all the people present call out their assent saying, 'Amen,' meaning 'So be it' in the Hebrew language. After the president has given thanks and the people have shouted their assent, those whom we call DEACONS give each one present the Eucharistic bread and wine and water and to those who are absent they carry away a portion."

"After communion there comes immediately the collection for the poor and needy. Afterwards, we continually remind each other of these things. And those who have possessions come to the aid of those who are poor and we are always at one with each other." (67: 6).VII. ST. HIPPOLYTUS OF ROME (+ 220).

LIFE: Probably of Alexandrine origin, he was the first anti-pope to be canonized, having been martyred in Sardinia at the same time as Pope Pontianus under Emperor Maximus Thrax. His literary output was prodigious, embracing exegesis, controversies against the gnostics, apologetics, dogmatic exposition, computation and chronography. He was the last representative of Greek literature in Rome. The most important of his works is THE APOSTOLIC TRADITION which provides extremely valuable information concerning the Liturgy and the hierarchical organization of the Church. (cf. THE FAITH OF THE EARLY FATHERS by William Jurgens, page 166).

TEXT: "When a deacon is to be ordained, he is chosen after the fashion of those things said above, the bishop alone in like manner imposing his hands upon him as we have prescribed. In the ordaining of a deacon, at this is the reason why the bishop alone is to impose his hands upon him; he is not ordained to the priesthood, but to serve the bishop and to fulfill the bishop's command. He has no part in the council of the clergy, but is to attend to his own duties and is to acquaint the bishop with such matters as are needful. He does not receive that Spirit which the presbytery possesses and in which the presbyters share. He receives only what is entrusted to him under the authority of the bishop.

"For this reason, then, the bishop alone shall ordain a deacon. On a presbyter, however, let the presbyters impose their hands because of the common and like Spirit of the clergy. Even so, the presbyter has only the power to receive, and has not the power to give. That is why a presbyter does not ordain the clergy; for at the ordaining of a presbyter, he but seals while the bishop ordains.

"Over a deacon, then, let the bishop speak thus: 'O God, who have created all things and have set them in order through Your Word, Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ, whom You sent to minister to Your will and to make clear to us Your desires, grant the Holy Spirit of grace and care and diligence to this Your servant, whom You have chosen to serve the Church and to bring forward into Your holy places the gifts which are offered to You by Your chosen high priests, so that he may serve with a pure heart and without blame, and that, ever giving praise to You, he may be accounted by Your good will as worthy of this high office: through Your Son Jesus Christ, through whom be glory and honor to You, to the Father and the Son with the Holy Spirit, in Your Holy Church, both now and through the ages of ages. Amen."


"At dawn, a prayer shall be offered over the water. Where there is no scarcity of water the stream shall flow through the baptismal font or pour into it from above; but if water is scarce, whether as a constant condition or on occasion, then use whatever water is available."

"Let them remove their clothing. Baptize first the children; and if they can speak for themselves, let them do so. Otherwise, let their parents or other relatives speak for them. Next, baptize the men, and last of all, the women. The latter must first let down their hair and put aside any gold or silver ornaments they may be wearing. Let no one take any foreign object into the water with him."

"When it is time for the Baptism the bishop shall give thanks over THE OIL, WHICH HE PUTS INTO A VESSEL. This is called the OIL OF THANKSGIVING. Then he shall take other oil and exorcise it. This is called the OIL OF EXORCISM. A deacon shall hold the oil of exorcism and shall stand to the left of a presbyter. Another deacon shall hold the oil of thanksgiving and shall stand to the right of the presbyter. The presbyter then takes hold of each of those to be baptized and commands him, saying, 'I renounce you, satan, and all your servants and all your works.' When he has renounced all these, the presbyter shall anoint him with the oil of exorcism, saying, 'Let all spirits flee far away from you.' After all these things have been done, let him be given over to the bishop or presbyter who will baptize. Let them stand naked in the water, a deacon going down with them likewise. When the one being baptized goes down into the water, the one baptizing him shall put his hand on him and speak thus, 'Do you believe in God the Father Almighty?' And he that is being baptized shall say, 'I believe.' Then, with his hand imposed upon the head of the one to be baptized, he shall baptize him once. And then he shall say, 'Do you believe in Christ Jesus, the Son of God, who was born of the Holy Spirit, of t he Virgin Mary, and was crucified under Pontius Pilate and died and was buried, and rose again on the third day, alive from the dead, and ascended into heaven, and sat at the right of the Father, about to come to judge the living and the dead?' And when he says, 'I believe,' he is baptized again. And again he shall say, 'Do you believe in the Holy Spirit and the Holy Catholic Church and the resurrection of the flesh?' The one being baptized then says, 'I believe.' And so he is baptized a third time. And afterwards, when he has come out, h e is anointed with the consecrated oil and the presbyter says, 'I anoint you with the holy oil in the Name of Jesus Christ.' And so each one then dries himself and immediately they put on their clothes. Then they come into the church. The bishop, imposing his hand on them, shall make an invocation, saying, 'O Lord God, who made them worthy of the remission of sins through the Holy Spirit's washing and unto rebirth, send into them Your grace so that they may serve You according to Your will: for there is glory to You, to the Father and the Son with the Holy Spirit, in the Holy Church, both now and through the ages of ages. Amen.' Then, pouring the consecrated oil into his hand and imposing it on the head of the baptized, he shall say, 'I anoint you with holy oil in the Lord, the Father Almighty and Christ Jesus and the Holy Spirit.' And signing them on the forehead he shall kiss them and say, 'The Lord be with you.' And he that has been signed shall say, 'And with your spirit.' Thus shall he do with each. And immediately afterwards they shall pray with the faithful. And when they have finished praying, they shall give the kiss of peace."

"And then the deacons immediately bring the oblation to the bishop and he eucharists the bread into the anti-type of the Body of Christ and the cup of mixed wine, for an anti-type of the Blood, which was shed for all who believe in Him and mild and honey mixed together for the fulfillment of the promise made to the fathers, which spoke of a land flowing with milk and honey, that is, the very Flesh of Christ which He gave and by which they who believe are nourished like little children, since He makes sweet the bitter things of the heart by the gentleness of His word and water also, for an offering as signifying the washing, so that the inner part of the man, which is of the soul, may receive the same as the body. Indeed, the bishop shall explain the reason for all these things to those who partake. Breaking the Bread into individual particles which he then distributes, he shall say, 'Heavenly Bread in Christ Jesus!' And he that receives shall answer, 'Amen!' And the presbyters, or if they are not enough, the deacons, too, shall hold the cups and shall stand by in reverence and modesty: first, he that holds the water; second, the milk; third, the Wine. They who receive shall taste three times of each, while he that gives the cup says, 'In God the Father Almighty.' And the one receiving says, 'Amen.' 'And in the Lord Jesus Christ.' 'And in the Holy Spirit and in the Holy Church.' And he shall say, 'Amen.'"

Hippolytus first shows the anxiety to keep deacons in their place which becomes conspicuous in the next century -- perhaps because his running fight with Callistus began when they were, respectively, presbyter and deacon. The distinctions he makes became permanent; deacons are not ordained to the priesthood, but to serve the bishop -- hence they do not join in the council of the clergy with the presbyters, and are ordained by the bishop alone without the laying-on of the hands of the presbyter. Hippolytus, indeed, allows them to administer the eucharistic cup only if there are not enough presbyters present; on the other hand, their clerical status does allow them to bless the bread at the agape.


DESCRIPTION: *Adescription, in thirty chapters, of the Christian moral and ecclesiastical discipline, written under a form of a report of a meeting in which the Apostles talk to one after the other about the regulations which must be observed at the election of bishops, priests, deacons and widows and explain why the women must be excluded from the liturgical ministry. (cf. ANCIENNES LITTERATURES CHRETIENNES, I LITTERATURE GRECQUE, by Battifol, page 71). It most probably originated in Syria or Palestine.

TEXT: He identifies Levites with deacons: "Instead of first fruits, tithes, oblations and gifts are now the offering offered to the Lord by the bishops who are your prince-priests. The priests and Levites are now the presbytes, the deacons, the widows and the orphans." (36-37).

The deacons are the intermediaries between the bishop and he faithful. Aaron for us is the deacon and Moses is the bishop. "Moses has been called god by the Lord, the bishop also will be honored by you as God and the deacon as a prophet."

"Let the deacon be the ear of the bishop, his mouth, his heart, his soul, for you are two with one single will and in your unanimity you will find peace."

Here we have the place of each: "In your assemblies, in the Holy Church, reserve a place for the presbyters on the east side of the house. Let the throne of the bishop be set in the middle and let the presbyters sit with him. With regard to the deacons, let one stand always close to the gifts (Eucharist) and the other close to the door and look to those who are coming. If a man is not in his right place, the deacon inside will advise him, will leave him at will and let him sit in a convenient place. The deacon will watch that each one who is coming, goes to his place and does not sit elsewhere. The deacon must also watch that no one speaks, sleeps, laughs or makes signs. If someone comes from another assembly, let the deacon question her to know if she is a married woman or a faithful widow or a daughter of the church, or if she does not belong to a heretical sect, then let him lead her to the appropriate place." (56).


"Even here in the Church the gradations of bishops, presbyters and deacons happen to be imitations, in my opinion, of the angelic glory and of that arrangement which, the Scriptures say, awaits those who have followed in the footsteps of the Apostles, and who have lived in perfect righteousness according to the Gospel." (STROMATEIS, 6).


"This guardian of the gospel, then, did not know that there must be one bishop in the Catholic Church. Yet he was not unaware -- how could he be? -- that in it there are forty-six presbyters, seven deacons, seven subdeacons, forty-two acolytes, fifty-two exorcists, lectors and porters together and over fifteen hundred widows and persons in need, all of whom are supported by the grace and kindness of the Master." (LETTER TO FABIUS OF ANTIOCH, A.D. 251).


"Inasmuch as I find that there is not yet an opportunity of coming to you, and the summer has already begun -- a season disturbed by continual and grave illnesses -- I think that we must deal with our brethren. Therefore, those who have received certificates from the martyrs and are able to be assisted by their privileged position before God, if they should be seized by some misfortune or dangerous illness at a time when my return is not expected, then, before whatever presbyter is present, or if a presbyter is not found and death begins to be imminent, even before a deacon, they are permitted to make their confession of sin, so that a hand may be imposed upon them in penance and they may come to the Lord with the peace which the martyrs, as indicated in letters sent to us, desired to be given them." (LETTER TO HIS CLERGY, A.D. 250, 18, 1).


"Then the deacon cries out: 'Take note one of another and bid one another welcome!' Do not suppose that this kiss is like those given by mutual friends in the marketplace. Such a kiss this is not. This kiss blends souls one with another, and woos for them forgetfulness of every injury. This kiss, then, is a sign of the intermingling of souls and of the banishment of every remembrance of injury. It was in this regard that Christ said: 'If you are offering your gift at the altar, and while there you remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift at the altar and go out first and be reconciled to your brother: and then come up and offer your gift.' The kiss, therefore, is reconciliation, and because of this it is holy. Just so, where the blessed Paul cried out, saying: 'Bid one another welcome in a holy kiss,' and Peter, 'In a kiss of charity.'" (MYSTAGOGICA, 5,3).







"Whoever holds a high office is not to take his place before a presbyter, unless he is acting as a representative of his patriarch or metropolitan" (canon 7). The proper age for ordination to the diaconate is fixed at 25 and the general custom of having as many as needed is defended against that of limiting the number to seven. The Fathers of the Council agreed with John Chrysostom, as do many modern scholars, that the "Seven" of ACTS 6 were not deacons in the later sense of the term (canons 14, 16). Rome still preserved the other tradition, which had the support of one of the fourth-century Eastern councils. (Canon 15).


The first mention of the diaconate is to correct an abuse of the early Church, that of deacons giving Holy Communion to priests: "It has come to the attention of the Holy and Great Council that, in some localities and cities, deacons give the Eucharist to presbyters, although neither the canon nor the custom permits those who do not offer sacrifice to give the Body of Christ to those who do offer the sacrifice. This, too, has become known: that some deacons are now receiving the Eucharist even before the bishops. All this is to be discontinued and the deacons are to keep within their own proper bounds, knowing that they are the servants of the bishops and that they are less than presbyters. They are to receive the Eucharist, in accord with their rank, after the presbyters, either a bishop or a presbyter giving it to them. And neither are the deacons permitted to sit among the presbyters, for this is contrary to rule and order. If anyone, after these directives, still does not tender his obedience, he is to be deposed from the diaconate."


The canons of the so-called Quinisext Council, which met in Constantinople from 691 to 692, to supplement the fifth and sixth Ecumenical Councils with a canonical code, record the rules governing the diaconate in the Eastern Church as they have since remained. Deacons might not marry after ordination as subdeacons but, if already married, could continue to live with their wives, in contrast with the rule of the Roman Church which already demanded celibacy, or, at least, continence. But the rule "Husband of one wife" was interpreted to exclude those who had married widows, as well as those married twice after baptism (canons 3, 6, 13). Even a deacon had to obey this.


The Council Fathers echo the teaching of the early Church. However, the duties of deacons do not come from their own but exist through the extent that they are authorized by competent authority: "At the lower level of the hierarchy are deacons, upon whom hands are imposed, not unto the priesthood, but unto a ministry of service." (CONSTITUTIONES ECCLESIAE AEGYPTICAE).

"They serve the People of God in the ministry of the liturgy, of the word, and of charity. It is the duty of the deacon, to the extent that he has been authorized by competent authority, to administer baptism solemnly, to be custodian and dispenser of the Eucharist, to assist at and bless marriages in the name of the Church, to bring Viaticum to the dying, to read the sacred Scriptures to the faithful, to instruct and exhort the people, to preside at the worship and prayer of the faithful, to administer sacramentals, and to officiate at funeral and burial services. Dedicated to duties of charity and of administration, let deacons be mindful of the admonition of Blessed Polycarp: 'Be mindful, diligent, walking according to the truth of the Lord, who became the servant of All.'" (Ad Phil.) (Constitution on the Church).

"Where Episcopal Conferences deem it opportune, the order of the diaconate should be restored as a permanent state of life, according to the norms of the Constitution on the Church (see above). For there are men who are actually carrying out the functions of the deacon's office, either by preaching the word of God as catechists, or by presiding over scattered Christian communities in the name of the pastor and the bishop, or by practicing charity in social or relief work. It will be helpful to strengthen them by that imposition of hands which has come down from the apostles, and to bind them more closely to the altar. Thus they can carry out their ministry more effectively because of the sacramental grace of the diaconate." (Decree on Missionary activity, # 16).

Deacons are necessary for the evangelization of the world: "Now, if the Church is to be planted and the Christian community grow, various ministries are needed. These are raised by divine vocation from the midst of the faithful, and are to be carefully fostered and cultivated by all. Among these are the offices of priests, deacons, and catechists, as well as Catholic action. By their prayers and by their active labors, religious men and women play an indispensable role too in rooting and strengthening the kingdom of Christ in souls, and in causing it to expand." (op. cit. # 15).

If the ministry of diaconate has ceased to function to the Eastern Catholic church it is to be restored: "In order that the ancient discipline of the sacrament of orders may flourish again in the Eastern Churches, this sacred Synod ardently desires that where it has fallen into disuse the office of the permanent diaconate be restored." (Eastern Churches, # 17).





The Diaconal Chirotonia (ordination) takes place during the Divine Liturgy, after the EPICLESIS, immediately following "And may the mercies of our Great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, be with you all." The one to be ordained is led by a deacon to the middle of the church. He puts his right hand on the ordinand's neck, holds his left hand and chants the proclamation of the candidate's name. At this time, the bishop is seated, facing the assembly, to the left of the Royal Doors.


The deacon proclaims the candidate's name, that of the church in which he is to minister and that of the ordaining bishop. This proclamation means that the ordinand has followed the training program and has been found suitable for the office of deacon. It is now up to the bishop to call him to the holy order.


Addressing the bishop, the deacon chants, "Kelevson" (order), which he repeats in the plural, "Kelevsate," and then, "Kelevson, Dhespota hagie," (Order, holy master). Each time, the candidate bows his head. The third time, after the bishop's blessing, they enter the sanctuary through the royal doors. The candidate then kisses the hand of the bishop and his OMOPHORION. This presentation of the candidate to the bishop signifies his request for admission into holy orders. Whatever the candidate's aptitudes may be, it is only at the call of the bishop that he may approach without fear to this holy order.


Led by the deacon, the candidate kisses the four corners of the holy table and the bishop's hand and OMOPHORION, going around three times. During the third time, the choir sings hymns to "Christ, glory of the martyrs" and celebrates the "birth of Emmanuel." After the third circulation, the candidate kneels on one knee before the holy table, his head resting against it. Then the bishop rises, removes his crown, places the end of his OMOPHORION on the ordinand' head, signs him three times with the cross and places his hands on his head, saying the prayers of ordination. The holy table is Christ and the candidate kisses Him when he kisses the four corners, marking his commitment to serve Christ from thenceforth and the deacon's office is to serve his brethren. He has already accepted the yoke of Christ, symbolized by the hand of the sponsoring deacon on his neck while he holds his left hand, signifying that the deacon no longer belongs to himself, but to Christ.


The laying-on of hands is an act aimed at the "effusion of divine grace," a gesture coming down from the Apostles. When the Seven had been designated, "they presented them to the Apostles, who first prayed over them and then imposed hands upon them." (Acts 6: 6). Likewise, before sending Paul and Barnabas to the work assigned by the Holy Spirit, "after they had fasted and prayed, they imposed hands on them and sent them." (Acts 13: 3). This laying-on of hands is a sign of the Holy Spirit being received or of the *conferral of a special mission. <4> "Do not neglect the gift you received when, as a result of prophecy, the presbyters laid their hands on you." (1 Tim. 4: 13). "The hand of a man is extended, but God works all and it is His Hand which touches the head of the ordinand." <5> St. John Chrysostom says, regarding the recommendation of Paul to Timothy cited above, "Ardor is needful in order to revive the charism of God. Just as fire needs wood, so grace needs our ardor in order to be always aflame. The grace of the Spirit which you have received for the service of the Church, for miracles, for all of worship, finds in us the capacity of extending and reanimating it, for it is extinguished by negligence and is reanimated, on the other hand, by temperance and vigilance."


DEACON: Let us be attentive!

BISHOP: Divine Grace, which always heals infirmities and supplies for defects, elevates the devout subdeacon NN. to be a deacon. Let us pray for him that the Grace of the Holy Spirit may come upon him.

CLERGY: Lord, have mercy. (3 times).

PEOPLE: Lord, have mercy. (3 times).

BISHOP: O Lord Our God, in Your Wisdom and by Your Inscrutable Power You pour forth the fullness of Your Holy Spirit upon those whom You set apart for Your service to assist at Your Spotless Mysteries. O Lord, preserve in every virtue him whom You have been pleased to raise through me to the office of deacon, that he may preserve the Mystery of Faith in a pure conscience. Give him the grace which You granted the Proto-martyr Stephen, the first to be called by You to the work of this ministry. Grant that he fulfill this office given to him in Your goodness according to Your good pleasure; and make Your servant perfect, for those who use this office well will obtain for themselves a good reward. For Yours is the Kingdom and the Power and the Glory, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, now and always and forever and ever. Amen.

BISHOP: O God our Savior, as it is written in the Holy Gospel, "If any of you desire to be the first, let him be your servant," You appointed by Your Everlasting Word the Order of Deacons to Your Apostles and called Your Proto-martyr Stephen to be the first to fulfill the Office of Deacon. O Lord, grant to this Your servant whom You have been please to appoint to this ministry, the aid of Your Holy and Life-giving Spirit. Fill him with faith and charity, with virtue and holiness; for it is not by the imposition of my hands but by the abundance of Your Mercy that Grace is given to those who are worthy of You. Grant, therefore, that, freed from all sin, he may stand blamelessly before You and obtain the promised reward. For You are our God and to You we render glory, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, now and always and forever and ever. Amen.


The first prayer recalls human weakness and asks for healing. "Divine Grace renders the minister apt to exercise the ministry for which he has been called." <6>

The second prayer, recalling the inscrutable Wisdom of God, stresses the fact that the minister "is set apart by the free choice of God." This is the mystery of the love of God for him and the pure gratuity of His Bounty without any merit on our part. Why me? The love of God calls for our love and dedication.

"Preserve him in every virtue, that he may preserve the mystery of faith." St. Paul reminds us that "the deacon must be serious, straightforward and truthful and must hold fast to the divinely revealed faith with a clear conscience." (1 Tim. 3: 8). The mystery of faith, as St. Paul says, is "wonderful indeed, as we say in professing it: He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated in the Spirit, seen by the angels, preached among the gentiles, believed throughout the world, taken up into glory." (1 Tim. 3: 16). This mystery of faith must be the object of every Christians constant meditation and particularly that of a deacon. A mystery upon which one should meditate is the darkness of faith while awaiting God's revelation of Himself to us in the light of His Kingdom. A mystery which requires, in return, a response of love from us and an apostleship among our brethren so that this love may be known and glorified. The deacon can find no better nourishment for his ministry than in the Prayer of the Church, in meditation and the assiduous reading of the Scriptures. He shall love the Church's liturgical prayer and attend Liturgy daily, if possible, centering all his devotion on the Eucharist. Finally, he shall not fail to recite a part of the Divine Office, not to mention frequent confession and an annual spiritual retreat. His great model of prayer is St. Stephen, "the first to be called to this ministry, a man filled with faith, power and the Holy Spirit." (Acts 6: 5).

In the image of the Son of Man who came not to be served but to serve and to give His Life for many, the deacon must always bear in mind that he is the servant of Christ in his brethren, ministering either to the bishop, the priest or the people. St. Stephen is the model of the deacon who is totally dedicated and filled with the Holy Spirit.

The bishop asks that the deacon be filled with faith and charity, with virtue and holiness, in order to fulfill his office according to God's will. The bishop is but the human instrument whom God uses to pour out the grace of the Holy Spirit, as He wills. Finally, it ends by recalling the eternal reward which Christ promised to His faithful and good servant.


After the prayer of EPICLESIS, the bishop raises the new deacon and presents him with his STICHARION, after which he places the ORARION over his left shoulder, chanting, "Axios!" (He is worthy!), which is repeated by the clergy and the people. He does likewise with the cuffs (EPIMANIKIA), placing them around his wrists and proclaiming, "Axios!" again repeated by clergy and laity. The bishop then hands him the RHIPIDION (HEXAPTERIGON) with another threefold "Axios!"

The ORARION: The deacon represents a certain image of the office of the Heavenly Powers. All of us who have been chosen for this ministry most sacred are called "deacons" or "ministers of Christ," as St. Paul says. But this appellation belongs properly only to those who carry out the office of deacon and who are called deacon by everyone because they have been ordained to carry out this ministry and they fulfill the resemblance with the office of spiritual messengers. They have a garb which is suited to their function and one which is more ample than secular clothing because this raiment is appropriate for those who serve. On the left shoulder they wear the ORARION, <7> hanging down on both sides, front and back, to signify that they are carrying out an office not of servitude but of freedom <8>.

Simeon of Thessalonica says, "The newly-ordained deacon is given the ORARION because he has just received something like the dignity of the angels. The ORARION, in fact, symbolizes the spiritual beings. Worn on the shoulder, it represents wings and it even has on it the words of the angels' hymn (the TRISAGION). The bishop places it on the left shoulder of the newly-ordained because he receives a lesser order. His only ministry is to serve at the liturgy. When he shall be ordained priest, he shall receive the ORARION over his right shoulder, as well, since he shall have been given the power of serving and carrying out the sacred rites."

The RHIPIDION (HEXAPTERYGON): The stylized RHIPIDION is made in the form of the head of a cherub, symbolic of the angels, because the deacon is like a spiritual messenger sent for ministry.

KISS OF PEACE: Then, as after a birth, the bishop gives the kiss to the new minister that he has just begotten to the Church.

THE DEACON'S COMMUNION: The newly-ordained deacon receives Holy Communion first. "When you come to the holy altar," says St. Cyril of Jerusalem, "do not come up with your fists clenched or your fingers separated from each other, but make of your left hand a throne for your right, which is going to receive the Divine King and, while slightly depressing the palm, receive the Body of Christ while answering Amen. Then, after you have hallowed your eyes by the touch of the Holy Body in a prudent manner, carefully consume it without letting anything fall. . ."





While, in the early Church, the deacon was invested with many duties, his ministry today could be summed up in the threefold diaconia of the Liturgy, of the Word and Catechesis and of Charity.


The deacon is "the angel of prayer." The service of the deacon at the Liturgy is very important. He conducts and leads the prayer of the assembly, recites the litanies and proclaims the gospel from the ambo. He does most of the incensations and when the bishop incenses, he walks before him with a candle. He carries the gospel book at the Little Entrance and the holy diskos at the Great Entrance. After the words of institution, he elevates the holy gifts with crossed hands, making with them the sign of the cross. He assists the priest or bishop in distributing holy communion, and so forth. Further, the deacon "watches over the people so that discipline and silence be assured during services." (TESTAMENTUM DOMINI). He assists the bishop or priest at the holy table. The Liturgy constitutes the principal source of his spiritual life. The deacon will not fail to assist the pastor, especially at Christmas, during Great Lent, Pascha and the Major Feasts. He shall also take charge of the servers and choir; in a word, of all that concerns divine worship, sharing the duties of the priest and lending him a hand.

In the litanies, the deacons are mentioned after the hierarchs and priests and, at their ordination, the entire assembly is asked to pray for the servant of God "now raised to be a deacon and for his salvation, that the Lord may grant him a pure and blameless ministry," with the assembly answering, "Kyrie, eleison."

In the TESTAMENTUM DOMINI, we find the following prayer: "Let us pray for the deacons, that the Lord may grant them to accomplish a perfect course, performing all the works of holiness and that He may remember their labor and charity."


The deacon proclaims the Gospel of the Good News at the Divine Liturgy: He shall proclaim it outside of the Liturgy in his daily life and work.

CATECHESIS is one of the most important tasks he carries out with the priest with zeal and enthusiasm. He shares in a very special way in the mandate given by Christ to His Apostles, "Go and teach all nations." (Matt. 28: 19). He partakes of their mission. He is also sent into the world. He has been set apart and has been chosen by Christ to do the work entrusted to him. "You have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you." (Jn. 15: 16). Catechesis is communion, KOINONIA, the deacon having been ordained for the community, "devoting himself to the apostles' instructions." Catechesis is indispensable. We cannot remain silent with the world on the verge of apostasy. We must render testimony to Christ. How shameful it is to see Satan's supporters working unceasingly to destroy the Kingdom of God in hearts while we show only indifference and passivity! What would have happened if the Apostles had not carried the KERYGMA to the heart of the Roman Empire without fear of persecution, suffering and death? The enemy of the Cross of Jesus is ease and comfort and establishment in false security. The catechesis of adults, according to Pope Paul VI, is the central problem <9>.

St. Philip the Deacon converted the eunuch of Candace of Ethiopia. St. Stephen preached to the Jews in their synagogues and became the first martyr.

Together with the pastor, the deacon shall organize the program for the religious education of youth and adults. He shall instruct engaged couples, animate family circles and lead them in scriptural studies and prayer. If he is married, he can speak with experience since, more than the priest, he is engaged in the world and knows how to speak its language, which makes him able to move hearts.

From his ability to convey the message of the Good News to all the people stems his vocation to the diaconate. The love for the Liturgy is not enough. It is absolutely necessary for the deacon to carry out the task of catechesis with the pastor, since it is so important in today's world. From this, one can discern his ability to preach in church, if so authorized by the bishop. This requires much meditation on the Holy Scriptures and the teachings of the Father, to be applied to contemporary situations.


All of the deacon's activities must be animated by charity, which is his distinctive mark. Service in the altar and service in the world are interrelated. A church lacking works of charity is contrary to the Gospel. It is from the Eucharist that the deacon draws the strength necessary to perform the service of charity to the needy. The service of the poor is at the origin of the establishment of the "Seven," as recounted in the ACTS OF THE APOSTLES, chapter six. One need only read about the various collections initiated by St. Paul for the poor in Jerusalem to realize the importance of this service: "Just now, I am leaving for Jerusalem to bring assistance to the saints. Macedonia and Achaia have kindly decided to make contributions to those in need in Jerusalem. They did so on their own accord, yet they are also under obligation." (Rom. 15: 25-27). This inter-ecclesial DIAKONIA manifests the KOINONIA of all the churches with the Mother Church of Jerusalem.

No matter where the deacon may live, he should inquire about the moral and physical miseries of the community and manifest his compassion and help. For he is the extension of the Church among the deprived and destitute. He can lend his assistance to orphanages, homes for the aged, to the sick and strangers in the local church, and to all those who have recourse to him for special assistance. A good deacon cannot be fulfilled in his ministry except through charitable activity.


The deacon is an organ of liaison between the hierarchys and the people. He is enrolled in the court of the world and contributes to augment the priest's lines of communication. Furthermore, the church will, through him, be more present in the world. He will be the link between priest and people, reporting to the former on the needs of the latter.

For the deacon, secular life and the sanctuary are not dissociated as they quite often are in the lives of some Christians. Worship and life are tied together and there is no divorce between them. The Church has too often been absent from the social world. The deacon will be the contact man of the frontiers of the threshold.

To sum it up, the deacon signifies greater fidelity to Christian traditions, the presence of the Church in all social milieux and a close inclusion of worship into life and the Gospel into the world. In order to carry out his sacred duties, the deacon must recite part of the Office daily and perform certain religious spiritual exercises, such as retreats and daily prayers like any other baptized person and all the more, because of his total commitment and dedication.

The bishop is defined in terms of President of the local community and the priest is his lieutenant or vicar. But neither the one nor the other can exercise his functions in the presence of an aide or assistant. The deacon will be the right arm of the pastor, palliating thus the multiple inconveniences of seeing the same man exercising multiple tasks . Tradition calls the deacon the cooperator of the bishop and the priest. The three orders are service of Christ, each in his own rank. The diaconal ministry is submitted to the direction of the two superior degrees, a dependence which must be understood in the evangelical sense and not in terms of subjection. The priest and deacon will be the sign of love and fruitful cooperation, in perfect accord and harmony, which must inspire all Christian people.


St. Paul mentions in his Epistle to the Romans "Phoebe, who is the deaconess of the Church of Cenchrae and ask the saints to welcome her in the Lord. . . for she herself has been of help to many, including me." (16: 1). The Fathers of the Post-apostolic Age: SS. Ignatius of Antioch and Polycarp of Smyrna, mention the existence of deaconesses. Tertullian reacted against the *affrontery of a woman who had already usurped the right of teaching: "Will she also arrogate to herself the right to baptize?" he cried. Hippolytus of Rome says that the widow should be instituted but not ordained. Ordination is only for the clergy, while widows are instituted by prayers common to all. The DIDASCALIA of the Apostles, in use in Syria in the fifth century, states there are women who help at the baptism of women. But it seems that, according to the APOSTOLIC CONSTITUTIONS, deaconesses were part of the clergy and received a CHIROTONIA through the imposition of hands.

Olympia was a deaconess who collaborated with St. John Chrysostom, along with Procula and Pentada, Marthana of Celeucia, a friend of Etheria the Pilgrim and Macrina, the sister of St. Basil the Great, one of the most prodigious women of the first century. The function of the deaconesses was to help at adult female baptisms, to take care of the sick and the poor but they could not act without the order of a deacon. They were forbidden to baptize, preach or serve in the altar. They stood on the women's side in church and received Holy Communion after all the ministers and before the widows. With the increase of infant baptisms, their role began to decline in the West earlier than in the East, where they disappeared after the eleventh century.





Spirituality is the life of faith. Viewed under this aspect, the spirituality of the deacon is the same as that of every Christian. However, it will be centered on service, as we see it unfolded by Christ and His Apostles and in the example of the Saints.

That service which is translated by charity is not optional, since it is that by which we shall be judged on the Last Day. The Christian is aware that, by serving others, he is not serving a mere man, but Christ Himself, who has given us a supreme commandment to love one another as He has loved us. For this reason, the slightest act of charity takes on an exceptional value, since it is done to Christ Himself. The entire spiritual life of the deacon shall take its inspiration from service or "diakonia."

Creation and the Incarnation are works of Love in which service was only one of many expressions. It was revealed to a supreme degree in the Life of Christ and in His Teachings. We must draw upon this Source if we wish to be His faithful disciples.

Is it not noteworthy that Holy Scripture refers to Christ by the title of Servant -- He who is the true Savior of men? One has only to read the Psalms, in which He is referred to by this title. (L, LII, XLIX, III, VI, I LIII, IV, LXI). (Isaiah 42: 1-4; 49: 17; 50:4-11; 52: 13-53: 12).

Christ answered the mother of the two Sons of Zebedee when she asked for certain privileges for her offspring, "You know that the princes of the Gentiles lord it over them; and they that are the greater, exercise power upon them. It shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be the greater among you, let him be your minister: And he that will be first among you, shall be your servant. Even as the Son of Man is not come to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a redemption for many." (Matt. 20: 25-28).

In comparing Himself to a waiter at table, Christ says, "For which is greater, he that sitteth at table, or he that serveth? Is not he that sitteth at table? But I am in the midst of you, as he that serveth." (Luke 22: 27).

It should be noted that the Blessed Virgin called herself the handmaid of the Lord when the Archangel came to announce to her the Birth of the Son of God.

From His infancy, Christ affirms, "Sacrifice and oblation thou wouldest not: but a body thou has fitted to me: Holocausts for sin did not please thee. Then said I: Behold I come: in the head of the book it is written of me: that I should do thy will, O God." (Heb. 10: 5-7).

The Beloved Son comes to serve and obey the will of His Father. From his infancy He affirms that He must attend to His Father's business (Luke 2: 49). During His entire life He was to say, "It is necessary," which signifies His dependence on the Will of His Father. Obedience to His Father's Will is the expression of the supreme Love Christ has for His Father, "But that the world may know, that I love the Father: and as the Father hath given me commandment, so do I." (John 14: 31).

Finally, one must never lose sight of the fact that even the Redemption of the human race is presented by Christ under the form of service (Matt. 20: 25-28), from whence we have the nobility of service in Christianity. One does not serve only to save his soul, but also to aspire to the Likeness of Christ the Servant of the Father and of men.


Christ identifies Himself with the poor; this relates to the Last Judgment when He will judge us on our attitude towards the poor (Matt. 25: 44-45). The Church of apostolic times took these words seriously and started the organization of the service of the poor and instituted the diaconate for this purpose. Furthermore, Christ multiplied the loaves and fishes to satisfy the multitudes and the Apostles waited on them (DIAKONIA) and distributed the bread and fish. In acts of corporal and spiritual charity, the Deacon makes the Master's goodness and humility present again. His greatest virtue must be compassion. A hard-hearted Deacon is unthinkable -- it would be against the nature of his ministry.


At the Eucharistic Table, Christ the Deacon gives Himself as Food. All sharing the same bread and drinking from the same Chalice are uniting themselves with the Master and with one another through bonds of brotherhood. The Eucharist and the poor are connected. Christ partook of the Last Supper after He washed His Apostles' feet. Afterwards He told them, "Know you what I have done to you? You call me Master and Lord; and you say well, for so I am. If then I being your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that as I have done to you, so you do also. (John 13: 12-15). In his Eucharistic service, the Deacon will draw the strength necessary to carry out this function worthily.


The Deacon announces the Heavenly Banquet and invites people to it. It is he who, in the Parable of the Feast, is the servant who gives the invitation to the people to enter the banquet hall of the wedding feast. He cleans up the refuse of some and is insulted by others, but he is not disheartened and carries out to the letter the orders of the Master. (Matt. 22). Faithful servants, deacons will obtain the recompense of the Master: "Blessed are those servants, whom the Lord when he cometh, shall find watching. Amen I say to you, that he will gird himself, and make them sit down to meat, and passing will minister unto them." (Luke 12: 37).

Apostolic preaching applied to JESUS the title of Servant in order to proclaim the Mystery of His Death: "You are the children of the prophets, and of the testament which God made to our fathers, saying to Abraham: And in thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed. To you first God, raising up his Son, hath sent him to bless you; that every one may convert himself from his wickedness." (Acts 3: 25-26). JESUS is the Lamb immolated unjustly as the Servant who saved his sheep who had strayed: "He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb without voice before his shearer, so openeth he not his mouth. In humility his judgment was taken away. His generation who shall declare, for his life shall be taken from the earth?" (Acts 8: 32-33). JESUS is the Servant who proclaimed Justice to the Gentiles and whose Name is their hope: "Behold my Servant whom I have chosen, my beloved in whom my soul hath been well pleased. I will put my spirit upon him, and he shall shew judgment to the Gentiles. He shall not contend, nor cry out, neither shall any man hear his voice in the streets. The bruised reed he shall not break: and smoking flax he shall not extinguish: till he send forth judgment unto victory. And in his name the Gentiles shall hope." (Matt. 12: 18-21).

St. Paul, in a flight of extraordinary power writes of the KENOSIS of the Son of God, "For let this mind be in you, which was also in CHRIST JESUS: Who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men, and in habit found as a man. He humbled himself, becoming obedient unto death, even to the death of the cross. For which cause God also hath exalted him, and hath given him a name which is above all names: That in the name of JESUS every knee should bow, of those that are in heaven, on earth, and under the earth: And that every tongue should confess that the Lord JESUS CHRIST is in the glory of God the Father." (Phil. 2: 5-11).

The Name of the Holy Servant of God, JESUS Crucified and Risen, is the only Source of Salvation: "Be it known to you all," said Peter to the Jews, "and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of our Lord JESUS CHRIST of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God hath raised from the dead, even by him this man standeth here before you whole. This is the stone which was rejected by you the builoders, which is become the head of the corner. Neither is there salvation in any other. For there is no other name under heaven given to men, whereby we must be saved." (Acts 4: 10-12). The servants of God are henceforth the servants of Christ. One only need read how St. Paul presents this in his Epistles. These same servants, He made His friends: "I will not now call you servants: for the servant knoweth not what his lord doth. But I have called you friends: because all things whatsoever I have heard of my Father, I have made known to you." (John 15: 15). But as their Master, they must pass through the crucible of suffering and it is through suffering that they will enter into the Glory of the Kingdom. "The servant is not greater than his master. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you: if they have kept my word, they will keep yours also. But all these things they will do to you for my name's sake: because they know not him that sent me." (John 15: 20-21).


If we go back to St. Paul, here is how he views the Deacon: "Deacons in like manner chaste, not double-tongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre: Holding the mystery of faith in a pure conscience. And let these also first be proved: and so let them minister, having no crime. The women in like manner chase, not slanderers, but sober, faithful in all things. Let deacons be the husbands of one wife: who rule well their children, and their own houses. For they that have ministered well, shall purchase to themselves a good degree, and much confidence in the faith which is in CHRIST JESUS." (1 Tim. 3: 8-13).

Deacons should be worthy men, HONEST WITH AN INNATE HONESTY, INTEGREAL men, WITHOUT SERIOUS REPROACH. No virtue can substitute for honesty. It would be impossible without it. The scarcity of clerical vocations must in no way open the way to easy recruitment of candidates for the Priesthood and the Diaconate. The Deacon, working in a secular occupation or profession, will gain esteem by his ability, professional competence, and disinterestedness. DIGNITY is, indeed, the opposite of vanity; it is centered in humility. He will be loyal without sham or calumny. He can hear secrets like the priest and must know how to keep them. He is temperate in the use of wine and avoiding dishonest profits.

The Deacon must be the faithful servant of the Gospel and not like the one who says in his heart, "My lord is long a-coming; and shall begin to strike the menservants and maidservants, and to eat and to drink and be drunk: The lord of that servant will come in the day that he hopeth not, and at the hour that he knoweth not, and shall separate him." (Luke 12: 45-46).

The Deacon must know how to govern his life by virtues of temperance and moderation in the use of everything necessary. He shall also give good example in our materialistic world by sharing, through hospitality and renunciation of what is superfluous, in favor of the poor.

Deacons, as husbands of one wife, should direct their children well, and also their households. Chaste and sober wives of worthy husbands. The Deacon's life puts him in contact with all kinds of miseries, both physical and moral. He must keep himself chase and recall that St. John the Golden-Mouthed asked married men to live like monks, that is to say, their matrimonial obligations having been fulfilled, they had the obligations of every Christian. Discretion and sobriety are virtues the deacon should practice, together with his wife. Their home is a little Church in which the two Sacraments of Holy Orders and Matrimony come together. Prayer and charity must constitute the spiritual climate therein.







Very little is known of his life. He was born in Emesa (modern Homs), Syria, probably of Jewish parents, although this is not certain. He was the greatest of all the Byzantine hymnographers. From Homs he went to Beryte (modern Beirut), where he was deacon in the Church of the Resurrection. He later went to Constantinople, where he received the gift of poetry in the church of the Theotokos (Kyros). According to the legend, influenced by the story of Ezechiel, the Virgin appeared to him one night in a dream, gave him a book and bade him swallow it. After doing so, he went up to the ambo and, it being Christmas, he gave thanks to God and began to sing, "Today the Virgin gives birth to the One who surpasses all essences, and the earth offers a cave to God, the Inaccessible One. Angels sing His glory together with the shepherds: for unto us is born a Child, God in all eternity!" This became the KONTAKION of that feast. He never lost this miraculous gift and went on to compose many more KONTAKIA for the MENAION. Over one thousand of them are still extant. He died in the New Rome and was buried in the church of Kyros.

Romanus introduced hymnography into the Byzantine Liturgy, which was of Syro-Palestinian origin and is known as the KONTAKION, a sort of catechetical homily in verse. Before him, there were only a few poetical church compositions in Syria, such as, "O Joyful Light," "Glory to God in the Highest," and "Eulogitos ei Kyrie."


Ephrem was born in Edessa in East Syria in 306. James of Saroug, the bishop of Nisiba, ordained him deacon and entrusted to him the direction of the "School of Nisiba," a kind of seminary or theological academy. According to legend, he attended the Council of Nicea. His only sustenance was "bread, barley and vegetables" and "his dried flesh clung to his bones like a fragment of clay." Desirous of countering the influence of heretics who composed hymnals to propagate their teachings, he composed MEMRE or recitative catechetical poetry which was the origin of the hymnography of the Byzantine Liturgy.

"When St. Ephrem saw the love of the people of Edessa for singing, he established the counterpart of the games and dances of the young. He instituted choirs of monks and nuns, whom he taught hymns divided into strophes with refrains. They were full of delicate thoughts and spiritual instructions on the Nativity, the Passion, the Resurrection and the Ascension, as well as on the confessors, penance and the dead. The virgins came together on Sundays, major feasts and on the commemorations of martyrs and, like a father, Ephrem stood in their midst and accompanied them on the harp. He divided them into two choirs for alternate chanting and taught them various musical airs, in such a way that the whole city gathered around him and their adversaries wee covered with shame and disappeared."

Ephrem exerted a great influence on church hymnography and, among his best-known compositions, is the prayer recited at the end of all Lenten services: "O Lord, Master of my life, grant that I may not be infected with the spirit of slothfulness and inquisitiveness, with the spirit of ambition and vain talking. Grant, instead, to me, your servant, the spirit of purity and humility, the spirit of patience and neighborly love. O Lord and King, bestow upon me the grace of being aware of my sins and of not thinking evil of those of my brethren. For You are blessed forever and ever. Amen."


St. Lawrence the Deacon was martyred in Rome towards the middle of the third century, during the persecution of the Emperor Valerian, four days after the martyrdom of Pope Sixtus II and four other deacons. His feast is celebrated on July 10 by both Western and Eastern Churches and is noted in martyrologies as early as the beginning of the fourth century. His cult spread rapidly all over the Christian world. His intercession is credited with a decisive victory over the Magyars on the Lechfeld in 955 and the victory of St. Quentin in 1557. His icon shows him vested in STICHARION and ORARION and holding a gridiron, the means of his death. According to an ancient legend, he joked with the judge as he was being roasted alive, "I am well done on this side; turn me over."


He attended the Council of Nicea (325) as a deacon and played a great role during the council and in the formulation of the Nicene Creed, before becoming the Archbishop of Alexandria.







The Vocation to both the Priesthood and the Diaconate requires a certain attraction or charism for the service of the Church - an attraction which is not oriented to the Priesthood but to the service in the Diaconate, the first degree of the Hierarchy. The candidate must have an attraction for the Liturgy, a love for prayer in all its forms, the feeling for the poor, in whom Christ hides Himself and, finally, the care for the instruction of their brethren in the message of Salvation in catechesis and preaching, aware that by so doing, he shares in the solicitude and responsibility of the Hierarchy. He must love to serve, for without love nothing good can be accomplished, since in serving we imitate Christ, the Servant of His Father who came to do His Will. The Deacon will thus lead souls to the priest and through him, to the Lord. A candidate who would not experience this attraction is not called to the Diaconate. He can be of use by remaining in the ranks of the ordinary faithful.


Right Intention is the acceptance of Service with all its consequences - the acceptance of the rank of a "subaltern" and not a "leader" of the Community, which devolves on the Pastor, a Shepherd of souls - and the acceptance of a self-effacing role modeled on Christ "Who came not to be served, but to serve."

The candidate to the Diaconate must know, in the first place, that he has not come to serve any human end, but God Himself in his brethren, gathered together into a "Church" and to carry, in the Footsteps of Christ, the opprobrium of the Cross, manifesting his love for Christ and the world which He loved - a sinful and prevaricating world which needs redemption. Whoever seeks honors and glory under any form, should depart from this ministry, since "Our God is a devouring Fire," which does not suffer mediocrity nor any Idols beside Him. Whoever seeks material interest, social promotion, compensation for some setback or a refuge from insecurity in the Diaconate, must be sent away. The same for dissatisfied men, disappointed with family or professional life, for those who are incapable or disappointed by some past attempt to become priests. The Deacon is not a Deacon for himself - he is a Deacon to serve his brethren in the ranks of th Hierarchy. He is neither a priest nor a "super-layman." His vocation is written in the heart of Service and in the hierarchical rank of "subaltern."


The Church, Christ's Body, is also an organized social body. A vocation is not a personal matter. The Deacon is not a Deacon for himself, no more than the Priest or Bishop. He belongs to a local community which must sponsor him and present his candidacy to the Bishop, by means of his Pastor and Parish Council. This is why no candidate can pretend he has a right to ordination. It is up to the Bishop to determine his aptitudes by relying on the judgment of those in charge of the program; just as it is up to him to determine the number of deacons serving in the same parish, according to its size and importance. During the training period and time of studies, the candidate shall deepen the sense of his vocation by means of prayer and meditation and also by consulting men of wisdom and sure judgment, so as to accept the judgment of the Bishop who relies on the authenticity of the Call of God.


Physical: Good health, absence of deformity, since one is not a Deacon for himself, but for the community.

Psychological: Balanced personality, without complexes, neither too timid nor self-assertive; neither seeking to dominate nor impose himself.

Social: Great social virtues; experience in life; knowledge lived in the world; capacity for teamwork, since he must collaborate with the priest.

Intellectual: Right judgment, sufficient formation so as to be able to teach and preach.

Moral and religious: Piety, interior life, love of Liturgical Prayer, apostolic zeal manifested by parish works and, above all, honesty, patience, modesty and great goodness which is the expression of love.

It is for the Bishop to judge the qualities of the candidate and his aptitude for service in the Diaconal Ministry.


"Let deacons be the husbands of one wife: who rule well their children, and their own houses." (1 Tim. 3: 12). The Candidate for the Diaconate must be an exemplary husband and his home Christian. He must have the full consent of his wife since, by his ordination, the daily life of his household, will be perhaps somewhat transformed. Far from limiting his parochial activity, she will encourage him, on the contrary, and cooperate with him as far as possible. It is good for the children to be briefed in the undertaking of their parents and to accept it. For this reason, the Pastor, before sponsoring a candidate, must make a careful investigation of his family life and the conditions in his home and present his report to the Bishop.


Deacons shall be careful to exercise a profession which is common to society, avoiding one which would put them into competition with customers and especially with the disadvantaged. The Holy Synod of Ain-Traz forbade priests to exercise business or medicine. This ban was not after Vatican II, but was to exclude the mentality of gain and love of money which is imposed on priests as well as deacons.

The problem of family stability is of the greatest importance. The ministry must have priority over the secular profession. According to circumstances, in view of the limited number of our parishes, the Deacon shall inform the Bishop in case of change of domicile.






The diaconate being a participation in the Sacrament of Holy Orders, it requires a sufficiently intellectual, moral and religious formation. This shall last for a period of three years, during three summers, each having a session of three weeks at St. Gregory the Theologian Seminary or at any place indicated by the Ordinary.

At the end of his period of formation, the Deacon candidate shall make the people and especially the youth, aware of their rich heritage, seeking to develop their knowledge by an assiduous reading of the Holy Scriptures and other appropriate books, while listening in on the needs of the people, so as to bring them to the attention of the priest in charge. He shall seek to enter into relationship with other Eastern communities, working to unite hearts by the Lord's Charity which animates him, conformably to the exigencies of Ecumenism.

All of the deacons' formation shall be centered around the message of salvation beginning with the Holy Scripture, the Fathers of the Church, the Liturgy, from which the essence of the Mystery of Christ and the spirituality of the deacon will be drawn and which must impregnate his whole life and conduct.

A committee appointed by the bishop shall organize the program of studies and secure competent teachers for it. The studies must comprise the diaconal role in the Church, a theology of the Divine Liturgy and the Divine Office and a theology of the Church's major feasts, pastoral theology, etc. It must include a brief history of our Church, adequate musical and liturgical training. The candidates are encouraged to enroll in diaconal programs of local churches in view of the impossibility of meeting more frequently due to the distance. From such programs, the candidates can obtain training in fields which are invaluable to deacons and which our diocese cannot provide, due to lack of a large faculty.

It is strongly advised that deacon candidates and ordained deacons get acquainted with and join various organizations which provide for retreats in common, steps in diaconal life, training sessions, etc. It is no less helpful for deacons and future deacons to devote themselves to the exercise of charity in the local churches, viz., service to the elderly, orphans, the sick, etc., all of which are activities which cannot but draw down God's blessings on their homes and ministry. The Church is one, whether it be Greek or Latin, and it is necessary to help wherever charity may require.






The parish priest must take charge of the future Deacon at least for one year before presenting him to the Bishop. He shall seek to find out, at close hand, the candidate's reactions, character and conduct. For this purpose he shall familiarize himself with the life of the Church and the progress of the Parish, helping out at the Liturgy, religion classes, parish works and entrusting to him, according to his ability, the choir and Church music - in a word various responsible jobs in the meaning of the diaconal vocation in order to be able to judge his idoneity. Without sufficient knowledge of the candidate, there might be the risk of failure.

When he presents him to the Bishop, the parish priest will give in writing what he thinks of the candidate: his life, character, home, the reputation he enjoys, his intellectual, moral and religious qualities, his capacity for teamwork, his activities in the parish during his trial period and, finally, his acceptance by the community.


No Deacon is ordained unless he is attached to a parish. This is why it is of the greatest importance for the community to sponsor the candidate and present him with the parish priest to the Bishop. It would be a great mistake not to follow this point. The parish priest will be careful to introduce the candidate to the Parish Council and assign him to parish duties, particularly religious education, liturgical services in the Church and works of charity or social help. In action the community will be able to judge the man and his idoneity. The parish priest shall attach the recommendation of the Parish Council to his own, supporting the candidacy of the subject. Without, he cannot be admitted to the program.


No candidate shall be presented to the diaconate program unless he takes an active part in the parish. The petition which he shall present to the Bishop shall be accompanied with the recommendation of the Pastor in order to have value. Those in charge of the program will then send him an application which he will faithfully fill out. After this, he shall be officially notified if his application is accepted or not. The Diocese shall take care of the expenses of the program. The candidate has only to pay the costs of travel. This will be the case for the other workshops for deacons held by the Eparchy during the year.

Since the candidate must support himself by some kind of profession or occupation, no one shall be admitted to the program unless he is supporting himself by his work. It is understood that, after his ordination, he shall receive no financial remuneration for his diaconal functions.










7. The first known representation of the deacon's ORARION is in the mosaic of Sergius, found in the ruins of the Basilica of Soeida, Jebel Druze, Syria, dating from the fifth century. Sergius is depicted holding a torch in his right hand and wearing a tunic or STICHARION, over which a narrow band of material is hanging on the left side, down to the knee. (cf. G. de Jerphanion: LE ROLE DU DIACRE DANS LA LITURGIE ORIENTALE, ed. Salaville and Novack, p. 128).

8. Theodore of Mopsuestia.

9. "Going Teach," commentary in the Apostolic Exhortation CATECHESI TRAGENDAE of Pope John Paul II, St. Pail Editions, 1980.




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