-> Church Etiquette

Who's Who? in Church Services

Introduction to Byzantine Church Life
A Guide to Divine Liturgy
A Guide to Great Vespers
Who's Who? in Church Services
Coming into Church
"Greetings and Salutations"
Greeting a Priest
The Sign of the Cross

Confused? All these guys walking around in funny hats... "Deacon", "Archimandrite", "Hegumen"...Who can keep it straight?

Here is a simple guide as to Who's Who in Church.

There are 3 major Orders of Clergy: Bishops, Priests, and Deacons

And there are 3 minor Orders of Clergy: Subdeacons, Readers, and Candlebearers.

(There are minor variations on the theme, but let's not worry about it for now.)

Each Order of Clergy may be distinguished by their particular Vestments (Robes). These very Robes are symbols that proclaim the Gospel and reveal God's Wisdom and Love for us.

A Deacon

Deacon: the person you will see most often at Divine Liturgy.

He is distinguished by his " Orar ", a long piece of cloth hooked on to his left shoulder.

(If he is a "Protodeacon" or "Archdeacon", the Orar is doubled in length and is looped under his right arm before hanging down from his left shoulder. And he is awarded a Purple Kamilavka. {"Proto-" and "Arch-" are honorifics bestowed upon married and monastic deacons respectively.})

The Deacon acts as the master of ceremonies for all Divine Services, facilitating and directing the order of Service and the worship of the Congregation.

His Presence is a clue as to where the "action" is during the Service. So if he is behind the Iconostas, then the focus of the Liturgy is within the Altar. Whereas if he is out in the Sanctuary, then the liturgical "happening place" is out where he is - in the Sanctuary in the midst of the congregation.

A Priest

Priest: the person ordained and delegated by the Bishop to administers the Holy Mysteries and lead the Divine Services for the Faithful.

He is distinguished by the:

- "Epitrakhil" (a piece of cloth that hangs down from his neck to his feet, sewn together in front) and

- the "Phelon" (a large cape like garment cast upon his shoulders). It symbolizes the Christ's Seamless Garment.

A Priest normally wears a Pectoral Cross (in the Slavic Byzantine Tradition). Archpriest and such wear fancy Pectoral Crosses often decorated with inlaid stone.
While in Latin Churches, a pectoral cross is the mark of a Bishop, in Byzantine Churches it is the mark of a priest. Our Bishops wear a "Panagia", small icon around their necks (cf. infra). ]

Thus, outside of Divine Services, if you see guys wearing black "Pidryasnyks" (Cassocks / "black robes") without a Cross or Icon are probably Deacons or Subdeacons.

While those in black robes plus pectoral crosses or Panagias are Priests and Bishops respectively and meeting them, you get to ask them for a Blessing! (cf. Greeting a Priest Link)

Those "Pidryasnyks", i.e. black robes [called in the Latin Church "Cassocks"] in the Orthodox Tradition, do not necessarily have to be black - unless they are monastics. Married clergy will often wear Pidryasnyks that are blue or even grey.

A Subdeacon

Subdeacon: the person who assists the Deacon and Priest in the Divine Services.

Amongst the many duties of the subdeacon are handling the "Ripidia" (liturgical fans) and opening and closing the Holy Doors.

At Hierarchical Liturgies, he has care of the Trikeri and Dikeri (the Triple and Double Candles of the Bishop)

He is distinguished by his "Subdeacon Orar" which is a cloth looped around BOTH SHOULDERS forming a cross in front and back. (This is referred to as the "angelic fashion" as it is reminiscent of the 6 wings of the Seraphim - {cf. Isaiah 6:2}).

A Bishop (Hierarch, Eparch)

If you come to some of our SPECIAL celebrations: e.g. Praznyk (the annual Patronal Feast of the Parish [St. Elias Feastday], or a big anniversary of the Parish, or an Ordination, you will probably see the Bishop celebrating the Divine Services.:

The Bishop is the Chief Pastor (Hierarch) of the Church. The Bishops are the successor to the Apostles and exercise the Priesthood of Christ, the Great High Priest.

The Bishop delegates his ministry and power to the Priests (i.e. "Presbyters" properly speaking) and Deacons are the Bishop's assistants. And when he is unable to be present (e.g. at Divine Liturgy), they are authorized to act on his behalf - each in their appropriate jurisdictions of responsibility.

Originally, in the early Church, the Christian Community was so small that the Bishop presided at all Divine Services. And the structure of Divine Services still reveal this underlying dynamic.

A Bishop may be distinguished by the:

1. "Omophor" a wide cloth that is draped over the shoulders and hangs down both front and back, (it is symbolic of the Christ the Good Shepherd who goes in search of the lost sheep and carries it back gently on his shoulders {Matt. 18:12-14});

2. "Sakkos", a wide sleeved garment fastened by bells. The garment takes it theological origins from the garments of the Priests of Israel, specifically the "Ephod" (Exodus 28:31-35). It likewise is reminiscent of the seamless garment of Christ, whose priesthood the bishop is a Successor of the Apostles (Matt. 27:27-29).

3. "Zhezl", a pastoral staff, with a Serpent swallowing 2 Serpents surmounted by a Cross. This symbolizing the Divine Authority of Moses and Power of the Staff of Aaron (Exodus 7:8-12).

4. "Panagia", an icon of the Christ with his Mother the Theotokos, worn like a medallion around his neck. "Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up." (Deuteronomy 11:18-19)

5. Blessing the Faithful with the Trikeri & Dikeri (the Triple & Double Candlesticks) or with BOTH hands. The Triple Candle (Trikeri) symbolizes the 1 God in 3 Persons. The Dikeri (Double Candle) symbolizes the 2 Natures of the 1 Person of Christ Jesus.

"...My soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels."

(Isaiah 61:10)

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Fr. Roman Galadza