Re: On Antioch, Persia and Arch deacon
- Dear Sir,
This is regarding the position of Archdeacon. In the Church of the East we see one significant difference from other Eastern and Oriental Churches.
This position was at various times known both in the Latin, Eastern, Oriental and the Nestorian Church.
In the West Syriac/ Byzantine church the Archdeacon is of the ranks of the Deaconate.
In the East Syrian Church the Archdeacon was selected from the ranks of the Priests and ranked second to the Bishop.
Yet the duties executed by the Archdeacons in both the traditions are roughly the same.
The Archdeacons of the East Syriac Church acted as lower ranked prelates; the Deans of the college of Presbyters and assistants to the Bishops, roughly we can see them as equivalent to the Protosyncellus /Vicar Generals of today's Latin or the Protopresbyter of the Slavic Orthodox tradition.
A Corepisqupa was called a CorEpiscopa in the both the traditions, but in the East Syriac Church the Archdeacon who ranked above the Cor Episcopa was still called Archdeacon; this attests to the fact that at some point the East Syrian Church invested the duties of the Archdeacon to a ranking priest and made him assistant and auxiliary to the Bishop.
In the Church of Constantinople there were Patriarchal Vicar deacons who wielded immense authority and power even over the bishops of the provinces. Situations came to a head and there exists a canon which regulates the rights of the Patriarchal Vicar Deacon vis-a-vis that of the priests and Bishops
We often take the word Vicar to mean priest, however vicars can be bishops , priests or deacons. The term vicar refers to the function executed.
Further information regarding the position of Archdeacon in various traditions can be seen below
In my understanding even in the East Syriac Church the Archdeaconate did not have a specific sacramental character exclusive to itself. It was primarily a position awarded to ranking priests in response to administrative requirements. The Archdeacon was still a priest.
The same point is made by the link below in the second last paragraph
The Catholicos/ Patriarch is the head of a local church and the first primate amongst all the Bishops and Metropolitans of a Province yet he is still an Episcopa. Christian ministry has only three basic divisions, the deaconate, the priesthood and the Episcopate.
In our current rubrics for the consecration of Bishops, the Koruztho is to be done by the Archdeacon; today a ranking priest does it (in the last consecration it was done by Fr Johns Konatt in his position was Clergy trustee , I presume). If the Archdeaconate were to have a specific sacramental character, we would have to ordain an Arch-deacon for the purpose; the very fact that the duties were assigned to a priest who is an elected representative of the college of the clerics just shows the intent of what is demanded by the Rubrics.
Then what was the reason for the East Syriac Churches to ordain bishop-elects to the Archdeaconate before ordination as Bishops?
In the Eastern Catholic and Latin church, bishop elects are invested with some episcopal insignia even before ordination. They are handed over the ring, the right to wear purple trimmings etc immediately after their selection to become Bishops.
This was just to emphasize their position as bishop elects and these privileges perhaps gave them some authority over diocesan priests and allowed them to start the work of administering the diocese as co-coadjutors of the Episcopa.
The elevation of Bishop elects as Archdeacons prior to ordination as Bishops in the East Syriac Church flows from a similar logic.
Suraj Iype, Alibag
- Further to my earlier post, I want to post some more information regarding the Archdeaconate as understood in the East Syrian Church vis-a-vis the Syrian and other Orthodox Churches.
In 2006, a Cathecism was printed by the Assyrian Church of the East
( or the Kaldaya Suriani Sabha of Trichur ) written by Fr CH Klutz and Fr George Toma and was printed by the Department of Religious Education of the Church of the East.
From Chapter 20 which deals with Holy Orders
1. How many levels or degrees are there in Holy Orders?
There are three levels in the conveying of Holy Orders to the qualified and elected candidate. The first is that of Bishop, the second is that of Priest, and the third is that of the Deacon. This division is like unto that of our Lord's description of the ranks of the Angelic Hosts in Heaven, namely, that of Archangels, Angels, and Principalities.
2.Are there differences between each level of Holy Orders?
Yes! The Bishop has the power of the Holy Spirit to impart to others by the laying-on-of Apostolic hands, the grace to hallow the life giving Sacraments; whereas, the Priest's role is to hallow the Holy Gifts in dependence upon the Bishop of the Church; and the role of the Deacon, is to serve at the Holy Altar with his priest.
The Bishop's powers are noted within the pages of the Sacred Scriptures in St Paul's letter to Titus, the Bishop in Crete, these words of instruction, " . . . for this cause I left you in Crete, that you should set in order they that are wanting and ordain qashishe (elders/priests) in every city where there is a need, as I have commanded to you . . ." (Titus 1:5) It is written by the same Apostle Paul to the young Bishop Timothy: " . . . do not lay hands hastily upon any man, neither be a partaker of other men's sin, keep yourself pure . . ." (I Tim 5:22)
3.How many ranks are in the Apostolic Priesthood?
Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself divided the priesthood ranks/orders, as the three ranks of Angels in Heaven.
4. What are the three ranks of the Episcopacy?
The Three ranks of the Episcopacy are; 1-) The Catholicos Patriarch (The Universal Father), 2-) Metropolitan/Archbishop, and 3-) Bishop Ordinary. These three ranks of the Episcopacy are equal with the first three ranks of the Holy Angels in Heaven; namely Cherubim, Seraphim, and Thrones.
5. What are the three ranks of the Priesthood?
The three ranks of the second group of the Priesthood are; The Archdeacon, The Chorbishop, and the Simple Priest. These three ranks are equal to the three ranks of the second group of angelic hosts, which are powers, rulers, and lords. These ranks are lower than the first group in power and authority.
6.What are the three ranks of the Diaconate?
The three ranks are the full Deacon, sub-Deacon and the Reader; these three ranks within the diaconate are equal to the three ranks of the angelic hosts; Arcos, Arch-angels and Angels. These three are lower than the previous in spiritual power and authority
7. What are the duties and responsibilities of an Archdeacon?
The duties of an Archdeacon is to organize the ecclesial services of worship within the Cathedral Church of his bishop; for each bishop is to have an Archdeacon to organize the services of worship within the/his Cathedral Church, in line with the directives of the Bishop of the Diocese. The word "archdeacon" is a Greek word which means, the head (arch), and the servants (diaconos). The Archdeacon will also be privileged to fulfill the ecclesial services of the Priesthood and/or the Diaconate; he is not permitted to ordain.
From the Chaldean Catholic Church (which is the Catholic uniate derived from the Persian Nestorian Church) we can see that the Vicar General is the Archdeacon.
Suraj Iype, Alibag