Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Subdiaconal Ordination at the Russicum

This past Sunday, the Pontifical Russian College celebrated the ordination of one of its seminarians, Mr. Andrew Summerson, to the minor orders and subdiaconate at the hands of his bishop, His Excellency John Kudrick of Parma, Ohio. The Ruthenian metropolitan of the United States, His Excellency William Skurla of the Archeparchy of Pittsburgh, and His Excellency Gerald Dino of the Eparchy of Phoenix were also present. The Divine Liturgy was sung by the choir of the Pontifical Ukrainian College, joined by a group of seminarians from the Pontifical North American College.
The ceremony began with the formal vesting of the bishop, one of the most beautiful features of the Pontifical Divine Liturgy. Before donning each garment, the bishop reads a verse or two from one of the Passion narratives, a vivid sign of the fact that he is preparing himself to offer the mystical Sacrifice of Calvary. The garments are presented to the bishop by the ordinand.
The bishop presents the ordinand with a candle, and says the following prayer. "Lord, you have enlightened all creation with the light of your wonders. You know all human designs and intentions before they are formed, and strengthen those who desire to serve you. Adorn your servant, who has chosen to carry a candle before your holy mysteries, with your pure and spotless garment, that shining with light, he may greet you in the age to come, and receive the incorruptible crown of life, rejoicing with the elect in eternal happiness." The acolyte then turns to altar and recites a number of prayers.
He is then tonsured, with the hair cut in the form of a cross, as is also the case in the traditional Western rite of tonsure.
After praying over him again, the bishop consigns the book of Apostolic Readings (the epistulary) to the reader, who sings in the customary manner the account of the institution of the diaconate from the Acts of the Apostles, chapter 6, 1-7. The choice of reading derives from the fact that the subdiaconate and minor orders were instituted by the Church to provide assistance to the deacons, as the diaconate was instituted by the Apostles to assist the priests and bishops. (Bishop Athanasius Schneider spoke about this at the Summorum Pontificum conference held last year in Rome.)  
The bishop then places upon the reader the orarion, which is worn crossed over the back by subdeacons in the Byzantine tradition.
The bishop then lays a towel on the shoulders of the ordinand, who pours water over his hands, as "Elisha poured water over the hands of Elijah."

The bishop then lays the towel over the head of the ordinand, who is lead by one of the priests to stand outside the iconostasis until the bishop enters the sanctuary.
At the appropriate time, the newly ordained subdeacon sings the Epistle of the Divine Liturgy. (A similar custom is followed in the Latin Rite of ordination of both subdeacons and deacons.)  
He also performs the washing of the bishop's hands during the Divine Liturgy.
Although the ordination rite itself was done almost entirely in English for the benefit of the many non-Byzantine guests who were present, the Divine Liturgy that followed was mostly in Old Church Slavonic, with several parts in the vernacular. I was able to make two less-than-perfect video recordings of the seminarians of the North American College singing some of the ordinary parts of the Liturgy in English; the first is the end of the Creed (from "I believe in the Holy Spirit...") and the second is the Lord's Prayer. I would dare say that Catholics of the Latin Rite could learn much from our Byzantine brethren about how to incorporated the vernacular into a very ancient form of the Liturgy without compromising its tradition and its sacred character. - Congratulations to Andrew, and my heartfelt thanks to Bishop Kudrick and all those who sang and served for one of the most beautiful ordination liturgies I have every seen.
 Ἄξιος!  Ἄξιος! Ἄξιος!


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