A reader sent this my way, and it’s a fascinating glimpse at the theology of the diaconate, in the Orthodox Church, from a talk by Father Deacon Photios Touloumes:
During the liturgy, the deacon stands in the midst of the faithful as master of ceremonies, directing them in the proper posture and movements of the service. Let us bow our head unto the Lord and (Lock) the doors, the doors are examples of this. It was part of the deacon’s service to see that each of the assembled faithful—penitents, kneelers, children, chanters, hearers, servers, widows, virgins and catechumens – performed their proper function and participated in the Liturgy according to that function. The deacons also led the people in prayer, standing in their midst, asking for the peace of the world, for the union of all and for whatever other petitions or needs the faithful requested. In our liturgy today, the litanies (ektenias) have become standardized but are still called the deacon’s litany/ektenia. …The deacon is entirely responsible during the liturgy for the people’s actions and his function is to lead them by word and gesture, by prayer and petition to the altar in oneness of mind. His usual place, therefore, is in the midst of the faithful, to lead out those who are not to receive Holy Communion and then bar the doors so none else could enter who was not eligible to receive Holy Communion. The deacon also reads the Holy Gospel and, being responsible for instructing the catechumens in their perparation for baptism, he conducts them in and out of the church at the proper time. Because of the deacon’s eucharistic service, his work among the people and his close realationship with the bishop (or priest)–from whom he derives his authority to act–he stands as a vital link between the clergy and laity. In the diaconate, the charismatic and institutional ministry of the Church is integrally allied to manifest the fullness of the Church. Through this ministry, the idea of function is clearly expreseed as is the principle of hierarchy and the unity of clergy and laity as the royal priesthood of the Kingdom of God. It is the diaconate, moveover, which as ministry for the people of God expresses the incarnate charity and love of the Church; and by this charity reminds the Church of her eschatological dimension. The deacon’s function also brings together the social and economic activities of man in the Church so as to transform them and offer them to the glory of God. Finally, the diaconate expresses both the spontaneity and fluidity of the Church’s forms as She reaches into the world, drawing from the never-ending riches of Her storehouse of tradition, and sanctified by the Holy Spirit provides the constantly renewing and personal forms necessary to fulfill Her ministry as the Body of Christ.
There is much more. Read it all. It has much to teach us about who we are—and what we need to be.
Also, check out this beautiful prayer for the diaconate, which comes fromOrthodoxDeacons.org:
O Father in Heaven, Holy Trinity regenerative and sustaining, we humbly rejoice, praise, and thank You for the ineffable gift of your Holy Spirit who, throughout the history of your Holy Church, bestows the “Divine Grace which always heals that which is infirm and completes that which is lacking . . .” Who brought forth a host of faithful servants, enabled, ordained, and sanctified through your transfigurative and life-giving mercy, to serve on Your behalf in many ways, including Your faithful deacons who, likewise, also followed the footsteps of our Lord, Jesus Christ, in his ultimate diakonia. Together, we petition through the intercessions of the Deacon Saints: Saint Stephen the Great Proto-martyr, Saint Phoebe of Cenchrea, Saint Ephraim of Syria, Saint Olympias of Constantinople, Saint Romanos the Melodist, and Saint Irene Chrysovalantou. We beseech you, Father: Hear our petitions to the Saintly Deacons, and embrace our living Church in continuing history. Lord, You know what Your Church and creation need in order to be led back to You, the eternal Source of the “all in all,” so we may become one in you. Lord, as “the laborers are few and the harvest is ripe,” Your Church and creation in numerous places need additional laborers and servants to assist clergy and laity alike, for the building up of your Church in a world starving for your hope, forgiveness, love and life. Thus, we call on the Saintly Deacons to present our prayers for a full restoration of the ministry of ordained deacons, male and female, wherever needed–ministers who have been made ready by you for your service, as your unfailing love desires, for the sake of your Kingdom. Grant these, your servants, your love, humility, wisdom, discernment, sobriety, strength, assistance and your very Self to fulfill your holy will. As it pleases you, O Christ, we ask that Your diaconate grow in strength and numbers in those many places where your presence as Servant is required—as throughout the life of the Church, indeed, deacons have been “needed and necessary” for “many things” pleasing to you. We pray for those whom you desire to help this happen. Open their hearts and minds, and incline their ear to hear Your Will, so they may be enabled to discern wisely the numerous places this expression of ministry may be necessary. Grant them discernment, compassion, strength, and aid needed to help bring this to fruition. Enliven their hearts, fortify their love with Your love, enlighten their minds so they may clearly know Your Will and guidance. Direct their steps, protect them from the temptations of the evil one, and shower them with your tender, rich mercy, filling them with your grace so that your holy and life-giving will is fulfilled. For you are a merciful God, All-mighty and eternal Father, who loves humanity, together with your Only-Begotten Son and with your All-Holy and Gracious and Life-Giving Spirit, now and forever and unto ages of ages. Amen.