The 7 Steps of Ordination Part III
In the first two parts of this series, we have seen how the Church disposes her seminarians for the grace of the holy priesthood through the reception of four minor orders: that is, the orders of porter, lector, exorcist, and acolyte. Now we will turn our attention to the major or sacred orders.
In the ordination of acolytes, there is already a foretaste of the major orders, since the acolyte, by his function, is designated to assist the sacred ministers in the liturgical functions of the holy sacrifice of the Mass. However, the sub-deacon is given an even greater role. As his name suggests, he is the servant of the deacon at the altar. This aspect of the sub-diaconate is represented by the manner in which the sub-deacon presents the chalice and the cruets at the offertory. The deacon pours the wine into the chalice and the sub-deacon pours the water. Also, while the deacon chants the holy Gospel, it is the sub-deacon who holds the book for him. Furthermore, during the Mass the sub-deacon never sits nor covers his head while the deacon fulfills his liturgical functions.
The sub-deacon chants the books of the prophets and the epistles, which are preparations for the highest doctrine of the Gospel. This is one reason why the sub-deacon holds the paten with the humeral veil before his face during the Canon. He represents the Old Testament, in which the fullness of Christ’s glory was still veiled and no one could look upon the face of God and live (e.g. Exodus 33:12-22).
The sub-deacon is thus the servant of the servants of God (the word deacon in Greek means “servant”). In this, he ought to imitate the humility of Our Lord Jesus Christ, who said to his apostles: “I am in the midst of you as one who serves” (St Luke 22:27).
The Church calls upon the sub-deacon to unite the virtue of humility to a perfect chastity. Before his ordination, the Bishop warns him that, whereas before he had been free to leave the clerical state, now he will make a permanent commitment to clerical celibacy. He also takes on the obligation of reciting the entire office. The prayer of the office both glorifies God and gives the sub-deacon the graces necessary to fulfill his sacred duties.
Here at St. Margaret Mary’s Church, we have our own sub-deacon, Abbé Kevin, who fulfills beautifully this role of servant of the servants of God. Let’s keep him in our prayers and thank God for the grace of his vocation among us!
Abbe Ryan Post, 4th Year Seminarian for the ICRSS