The Order of Deacon

The Diaconate -- the 2nd of the Major Orders

The diaconate is the lowest order of the divinely established hierarchy, as well as the lowest sacramental order. It is a true sacrament and imprints an indelible mark upon the soul of the recipient. The deacon partakes of the priesthood so far as he is the assistant of the priest and bishop. The election and ordination of the first deacons is related in the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 6, 1-6). In the Old Testament the order of deacons was typified by the Levites. 

Deacons have always held an important place in the Church. Their duties in ancient times were manifold: to assist the priest at the Holy Sacrifice, to distribute Holy Communion, to read the Gospel, to preach and to instruct the people. They also exercised a certain supervision over the faithful, and together with priests assisted the bishop in the ecclesiastical courts; lastly, they had charge of the poor and sick, and administered the revenues of the Church. At the present time the functions of the deacon are mainly to assist the priest at solemn liturgical functions. It is only in rare cases that deacons baptize, preach, or distribute Holy Communion. 


New ceremonial acts which appear in the ordination of deacons are: 
  1. The Postulation -- The archdeacon requests the bishop, in the name of the Church to perform the ordination. The postulation is the public expression of the anxious desire of the Church that worthy ministers of the altar be ordained, so that the public worship of God may be continued and the mission of Christ for the salvation of souls carried on.
  2. The Scrutiny -- The bishop makes inquiry as to the worthiness of the candidates. Many laws have been passed, and many are still in force, whereby the responsibility authorities are required to watch over the candidates for the priesthood and to recommend for ordination only such men as, according to their opinion, will be worthy priests.
  3. The Consultation of the People -- The assembled people are called upon to state openly if they know aught concerning a candidate which would make him undesirable for the service of the Church. This, as well as the preceding act, was of eminently practical value in ancient times, when candidates for the priesthood did not receive a seminary training of many years as in our days. The ceremony clearly shows the importance which holy Church attaches to the selection of worthy candidates for the service of the altar. Indeed, the bishop cannot in conscience ordain anyone concerning whose worthiness he does not have a positive assurance.
  4. The Imposition of the Hands -- This is the essential rite by which the orders of sacrmental character are conferred; it symbolizes the communication of supernatural grace and power through the Holy Spirit.
The diaconate is always conferred after the Epistle. 

Candidates for deaconship present themselves for ordination dressed in alb, cincture, amice, maniple; on their left arm they carry stole and dalmatic, and in their right hand a burning candle. 

The Rite

The Call. The bishop, with his miter on, sits on the faldstool before the middle of the altar. The archdeacon bids the candidates come forward; the notary reads their names:  Each one answers adsum, goes before the altar and kneels, holding the burning candle in his right hand. 

The Postulation. The archdeacon continues: 

If the ordaining bishop is a cardinal, the archdeacon says:  The Scrutiny. The bishop inquires:  The archdeacons answers:  The bishop says:  Consultation of the People. The bishop, with his miter on, now makes to clergy and people the following announcement:  The Instruction. After a short pause the bishop addresses to the ordinands the following instruction:  Prayer. If no subdeacons have been ordained, the prostration takes place here and the Litany of the Saints is said. 

After the litany, the ordinands kneel, and the bishop, sitting on the faldstool, with his miter on, addresses clergy and people as follows: 

The bishop rises, with the miter on and, facing the ordinands, says with a loud voice:  The bishop, without miter and with arms extended, continues:  The Bestowal of the Office. Here the Ordinands rise, go up to the altar and kneel before the bishop, who lays his right hand on each one and says:  Each one returns to his place and kneels. Then the bishop, holding his right hand extended over all, continues:  Investiture with the Insignia of the Office. Here the bishop seats himself and receives the miter; the ordained approach and kneel before him, each holding in his hand a stole which the bishop takes and imposes upon the left shoulder, saying:  The bishop takes the dalmatic from each one and invests him with it, saying:  At last the bishop presents to them the book of gospels; all touch it with the right hand, while the bishop says:  Prayer. The bishop, miter off, turns to the altar and says:  Turning again to the ordained, the bishop continues: 

Upon the direction of the archdeacon, the ordained return to their places. One of the newly ordained deacons reads the Gospel aloud, together with the bishop.