Saturday, October 31, 2009

Liturgical Vestments V: the Deacon

The next clerical Order I'd like to dwell on is that of the Deacon, whose ministry is a symbol of the ministering angels. The OrthoWiki Web site has a basic article explaining the role of the deacon.

Eastern Rite

The deacon will vest during the Liturgy of Preparation with the priest after the Entrance Prayers. However, the deacon may not don his vestments without first receiving the blessing of the bishop or priest under whom he serves. The priest and deacon together face toward the east, with their sticharia in hand, and make three metanias while praying each time, "O God, cleanse me a sinner." Then the deacon approaches the priest for his blessing to vest, standing with the vestments in his right hand and says, "Master, bless the Sticharion and Orarion." The priest says, "Blessed is our God now and always and unto ages of ages." The deacons says, "Amen," kisses the priest's right hand, and withdraws to the diaconicon to vest (i.e. to the place where vestments, books, and other related items for use in the Divine Liturgy are kept).

The deacon's vestments are:
  1. Sticharion - Kissing the cross on the sticharion he says: My soul shall rejoice in the Lord, for He has clothed me with a robe of salvation and covered me with a tunic of happiness; He has crowned me as a bridegroom and adorned me with jewels as a bride (Isaiah 61:10).

  2. Orarion - The deacon says nothing while donning the Orarion.

  3. Epimanikia - This vestment points to the fact that the hands serve in the Liturgy are actually Christ's hands, who alone is the Servant of God who suffered for our salvation. The deacon wears the epimanikia under his sticharion, while the priest wears his over the sticharion. When donning the cuffs, on the right hand, the deacon prays, Your right hand, + Lord, is made glorious in might; your right hand, Lord, has crushed the enemies; and in the fullness of your glory, You have routed the adversary (Ex. 15:6-7). The left hand, Your hands + have made me and fashioned me: give me understanding and I shall learn your commandments (Ps. 118/119:73).

When the deacon finishes vesting he goes to the Prothesis and prepares the sacred vessels by placing the diskos (paten) on the left, the chalice on the right, and the other implements also.

When both have finished vesting they wash their hands saying, "I will wash my hands in innocency; so will I compass Thine altar, O Lord, That I may make the voice of thanksgiving to be heard, and tell of all Thy wondrous works. Lord, I love the habitation of Thy house, and the place where Thy glory dwelleth. Gather not my soul with sinners, nor my life with men of blood; In whose hands is craftiness, and their right hand is full of bribes. But as for me, I will walk in mine integrity; redeem me, and be gracious unto me. My foot standeth in an even place; in the congregations will I bless the Lord (Ps. 26:6-12)."

Western Rite

The deacon will vest with the priest and any assistants as outlined for the Western Rite priest. The prayers that he says are nearly identical to that of the priests:
  1. Amice - "Place upon me, O Lord, the helmet of salvation, that I may withstand the assaults of the devil."

  2. Alb - "Purify me, O Lord, and cleanse my heart, that being made white in the Blood of the Lamb I may come to eternal joy."

  3. Cincture - "Gird me, O Lord, with the girdle of purity, and quench in my loins the fire of lust, that with the virtues of continence and chastity I may abide in Thee."

  4. Stole - "Restore unto me, O Lord, the state of immortality, which was lost through the sin of my first parents; and although I am unworthy to approach Thy sacred mysteries, nevertheless grant unto me eternal joy."

  5. Maniple - This is a band of cloth, of the same style and width as the stole. It is worn over the left arm. The link provided is to a Wikipedia article, which mainly treats it under Roman Catholic use, but a picture or two is found there. The deacon prays as he vests with it, "May I deserve, O Lord, to bear the maniple of weeping and sorrow, in order that I may joyfully reap the reward of my labors."

  6. Dalmatic - "Lord, endow me with the garment of salvation, the vestment of joy, and with the dalmatic of justice ever encompass me. Amen."

The deacon's stole, as with that of the priest, is not worn outside of service in the Mass or receiving the Eucharist.

For me the role of the deacon in the Church is somewhat a minor fascination. Coming from an American Lutheran background there was no place for actual deacons. Historically among Lutherans they were seen as pastors who took a secondary role in a church. Among the Lutherans of the LCMS a deacon was either a layman-elder in the congregation, or he was someone licensed to carry out pastoral duties (preaching or consecrating the Lord's Supper) apart from ordination.

Now that I'm converting to Holy Orthodoxy it is interesting to consider and observe the natural place of deacons in the Catholic Church. Suffice to say that it is very well-pleasing to me. God is glorious in His Church.

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