Monday, September 27, 2010


I was surprised by his Grace, the Rt Rev Bishop MARK of Toledo and the Midwest to be tonsured a Reader and elevated as a Subdeacon this past Sunday. I am not worthy, and I am thankful that God makes His servants worthy to stand before Him and serve Him.

I say "surprised" because there was not advanced notification. (This has been hard for some people to understand.) It seemed good to his Grace at the time he spoke with me to do this, which happened to be the evening before the tonsuring and elevation. Glory to God for His mercy toward sinners!

Below is the prayer of chirothesis (ordination to minor orders) used to make a Reader (first) and then a Subdeacon (second) in the Antiochian Archdiocese of North America:

The Reader:

Bishop: O Lord who enlightenest all created beings with the light of thy wonders, and knowest the intent of every man before it is formed, and strengthenest those who are desirous of serving thee: Do thou, the same Lord, array in thy fair and spotless vesture this thy servant (NAME), who desireth to become a Reader before thy holy mysteries, that he may be illuminated, and that attaining unto the age to come he may receive the incorruptible crown of life, and rejoice with Thine elect in bliss everlasting. For blessed is thy name and glorified is thy Kingdom of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and unto ages of ages, Amen.

The Subdeacon:
Bishop: O Lord our God, who, through one and the same Holy Spirit distributing gifts of grace to each one of those whom thou hast chosen, hast given to thy Church diverse Orders; who, through Thine inscrutable providence hast appointed degrees of ministry therein, for the service of thy holy and immaculate mysteries; and who, through Thine ineffable foreknowledge, hast ordained this thy servant (NAME) to be worthy to serve in thy Holy Church: Do thou, the same Lord, preserve him uncondemned in all things. And grant that he may love the beauty of thy house, stand before the doors of thy Holy Temple and kindle the lamps in the Tabernacle of thy glory. And make him thy perfect servant in the time of thy Second Coming, that he may receive the recompense of those who are well-pleasing in thy sight. For Thine is the Kingdom and the power and the glory, of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and unto ages of ages, Amen.

The full rite for each can be found at the Antiochian Archdiocese Web site. Each is linked above.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Not Idolatry, but Ark-eology

Not too long ago I ran across a comment on a random blog complaining about the Orthodox and idolatry. They featured a picture of an iconostasis with a platytera behind it. The platytera is the icon of Our Lady of the Sign. In the particular picture featured the portion of the icon featuring Christ on the Virgin's lap was obscured, which led the commentators to think the Orthodox were worshiping the Virgin Mary.

I note this here, because when I was a Lutheran I thought just the same thing: idolatry. I saw an Orthodox Church that had only the Virgin featured - lacking the Christ Child in her lap. This is non-canonical. However, the Theotokos' placement behind the altar, whether in the canonical fashion or the non-canonical, makes a particular confession of faith. Lutheran onlookers (like myself those years ago) shudder and wonder how a huge icon of the Theotokos directly behind the altar, center-stage, could be anything but a confusion of who we are there to worship.

Yet the Orthodox Church places the platytera there to emphasize a particular theological truth - one that I learned from one of my seminary professors as a Lutheran. The Virgin Mary is the fulfillment of the Ark of the Covenant. In seminary it was even pointed out that her movements following the Annunciation follow the likeness of the Ark of the Covenant's movements in the Old Testament.

The Ark of the Covenant was covered with the mercy seat, the Throne of God flanked by cherubs. It was kept in the Most Holy Place in the tabernacle. Upon this mercy seat the blood of atonement was sprinkled once a year by the High Priest for the forgiveness of sins for the people of Israel. The Ark of the Covenant contained within it Aaron's staff which had budded, the jar of manna that came down from heaven, and the tablets of the Ten Commandments.

The Virgin Mary fulfills this Ark. She is the one in whom the Word of God dwelt, in whom the True Manna came down from heaven and remained. She is the one who, though a Virgin, was made to bud with Life Himself, fulfilling Aaron's staff. She is the one upon whose lap the Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob sat enthroned for our salvation.

Thus the Orthodox Church rightly confesses her to be Theotokos, and rightly places her holy icon at the center behind the iconostasis. She is the True Ark of the Covenant with its mercy seat, upon whose lap and from whose womb we find the Lord Jesus seated as True Man for our salvation. So the placement of her icon - canonically or uncanonically - confesses the same truth: that God has appeared in the Flesh, and has fulfilled the Old Testament's shadow with the Light of His coming. We enjoy the reality of that coming now, gathered around the Eucharist, around our Lord Jesus who unites all in Himself, with His Father and the Holy Spirit ever reigning. Amen.