Category Archives: Diaconate

Holy Orders in the Church – by Deacon Marty McIndoe

OrdinationZoomHR098My ordination by Bishop John R. McGann on October 4, 1980 in Sacred Heart Chapel in Brentwood, NY.  I am kneeling and my wife is standing behind me.

Most Dioceses have their ordinations in the month of June, so I thought this would be a good time to look at Holy Orders in the Church.  The word ORDER comes from the ancient Roman language and means an established civil body, or governing body.  All organizations need some form of hierarchy, and the Church is no exception.  However, the Church is not like any other organization, it is supernatural in nature, established by Jesus himself.  When the Spirit came upon the apostles at Pentecost it made a significant change in them.  It empowered them to spread the good news and to develop the church.  Our modern design of Holy Orders (Bishop, Priest and Deacon) dates back to the very beginnings of the Church.  Since the Apostles were all good Jews, as Jesus himself was, and since God was at work from the very beginnings with the Jewish nation, it is not surprising that our Holy Orders closely resemble the Jewish priesthood.

In the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament), the chosen people were constituted by God as “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.”  He even chose one of the twelve tribes, Levi, and set it apart for liturgical service.  The priests were “appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins.”  Our present day liturgy reflects that close relationship to the Jewish priesthood of Aaron and the Levites.  Here is a sample from the Church’s liturgy:

The Church prays in the consecratory preface of the ordination of bishops:

God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, . . .
by your gracious word
you have established the plan of your Church.

From the beginning,
you chose the descendants of Abraham to be your holy nation.
You established rulers and priests
and did not leave your sanctuary without ministers to serve you. . . .

At the ordination of priests, the Church prays:

Lord, holy Father, . . .
when you had appointed high priests to rule your people,
you chose other men next to them in rank and dignity
to be with them and to help them in their task. . . .

you extended the spirit of Moses to seventy wise men. . . .
You shared among the sons of Aaron
the fullness of their father’s power.

In the consecratory prayer for ordination of deacons, the Church confesses:

Almighty God . . .,
You make the Church, Christ’s body,
grow to its full stature as a new and greater temple.
You enrich it with every kind of grace
and perfect it with a diversity of members
to serve the whole body in a wonderful pattern of unity.

You established a threefold ministry of worship and service,
for the glory of your name.
As ministers of your tabernacle you chose the sons of Levi
and gave them your blessing as their everlasting inheritance.

 

The Church today has, just as the early Church had, three main offices of ordination.  The first, and highest, is the Bishop.  The second, and closely related, is the Priest.  The third is the Deacon.  The Bishop and Priest are together seen as Sacerdotal (priestly) while the deacon is seen as helpers to the Bishops first, and Priests second.  Usually the Bishop is seen as a Pastor of a diocese and is often needed as a teacher.  The Priest offers the mass in local churches and the Deacon is called to serve where He is directed to by the Bishop.  All three are ordained.  You can see how early this structure was by looking at a quote by St. Ignatius of Antioch, who was born only 17 years after Jesus died.  He said, “Let everyone revere the deacons as Jesus Christ, the bishop as the image of the Father, and the presbyters (priests) as the senate of God and the assembly of the apostles. For without them one cannot speak of the Church.”

The Ordination of Bishops, Priests and Deacons are done only by Bishops who are in the line of apostolic succession.  That means that when Bishop John R. McGann ordained me, back in 1980, I know that he was ordained by a Bishop who was ordained by a Bishop who was ordained by a Bishop…..going back all the way to the Apostles.  This is called Apostolic Succession.  The Church keeps records to ascertain that this occurs.  The power of ordination has thus been passed down by the Apostles to all of us who are validly ordained.  So what is this power?  Quite simply, it is the power of the Holy Spirit.  This is a permanent grace given to allow the ordained minister to carry out his mission within the Church that Jesus himself formed.

We know that no Bishop or Priest or Deacon is perfect, indeed they are human, but the grace of the Holy Spirit still works through them for the building up of the Church.   It is Jesus, and His Spirit that ultimately works through the ordained minister.  The unworthiness of the minister does not keep Jesus from working through him.  St. Augustine states this quite strongly when he says, “As for the proud minister, he is to be ranked with the devil. Christ’s gift is not thereby profaned: what flows through him keeps its purity, and what passes through him remains dear and reaches the fertile earth. . . . The spiritual power of the sacrament is indeed comparable to light: those to be enlightened receive it in its purity, and if it should pass through defiled beings, it is not itself defiled.”

The man who is ordained must go through a substantial training and preparation program.  At the heart of it has to be his own conversion to Jesus and His Church.  St. Gregory of Nazianzus says it so beautifully, “We must begin by purifying ourselves before purifying others; we must be instructed to be able to instruct, become light to illuminate, draw close to God to bring him close to others, be sanctified to sanctify, lead by the hand and counsel prudently. I know whose ministers we are, where we find ourselves and to where we strive. I know God’s greatness and man’s weakness, but also his potential. [Who then is the priest? He is] the defender of truth, who stands with angels, gives glory with archangels, causes sacrifices to rise to the altar on high, shares Christ’s priesthood, refashions creation, restores it in God’s image, recreates it for the world on high and, even greater, is divinized (make divine) and divinizes.”  And the Cure of Ars says, “The priest continues the work of redemption on earth. . . . If we really understood the priest on earth, we would die not of fright but of love. . . . The Priesthood is the love of the heart of Jesus.”

Being a Bishop or a Priest or a Deacon is not an easy thing.  However, it is a great thing.  I thank God for calling me and giving me the strength and power to minister as a Deacon.  God knew what he was doing when he set up the Church.  The call to ordained ministry is an important call.  We should all do what we can to encourage men to look in to the ordained ministry.  We should also say a “thank you” to those who serve us now.  God is good.

 

St. Ephrem of Syria, Deacon, Doctor of the Church, HARP OF THE SPIRIT – by Deacon Marty McIndoe

Ephrem_icon

June 9th we celebrate the feast of St. Ephrem.  He was born in Nisibis, Mesopotamia (now Turkey/Syrian border) in the year 306.  He was a prolific writer and helped fight the Arianism heresy that was so prevalent at his time.  He wrote over 400 hymns (we still have the lyrics) and is credited with making music a very large part of the liturgy.   Many of his songs were instructional as well as inspirational.   He was a great teacher and after moving to Edessa, helped to make the School of Edessa the heart of the Syrian speaking world.  He was a biblical scholar who wrote many commentaries on the scriptures.   He fought hard to make the teachings of the Bible and the Council of Nicea stand within the Church.

St. Ephrem was a very simple and humble man.  He spent a good deal of time living in a cave.  He accepted ordination as a deacon but refused to be ordained a priest.  When pressure was put on him to be named Bishop, he feigned mental illness.  His writings really show his holiness.  At the bottom of this post, I have included several quotes of his.  Besides writing scripture commentaries and hymns, he wrote poems.  It is said that his poetic account of the Last Judgment inspired Dante.  St. Ephrem died of the plague on June 9, 373.  He had been caring for plague victims.  In 1920, Pope Benedict XV proclaimed Ephrem to be a Doctor of the Church.  He is the only Syrian to hold that distinction.

I really believe that we can learn about Ephrem from his writings.  His quotes are quite inspirational and can help us today.  The first quotes are on various topics.  I ended with a quote that he wrote for his own funeral.  God bless.

QUOTES:

The boldness of our love is pleasing to you, O Lord, just as it pleased you that we should steal from your bounty.

Remember me, ye heirs of God, ye brethren of Christ; supplicate the Savior earnestly for me, that I may be freed through Christ from him that fights against me day by day.

You (Jesus) alone and your Mother are more beautiful than any others, for there is no blemish in you nor any stains upon your Mother. Who of my children can compare in beauty to these?

Let books be your dining table, And you shall be full of delights.  Let them be your mattress, And you shall sleep restful nights.

Virtues are formed by prayer. Prayer preserves temperance. Prayer suppresses anger. Prayer prevents emotions of pride and envy. Prayer draws into the soul the Holy Spirit, and raises man to Heaven.

The word of God is a tree of life that offers us blessed fruit from each of its branches. It is like that rock which was struck open in the wilderness, from which all were offered spiritual drink. Be glad then that you are overwhelmed, and do not be saddened because he has overcome you. A thirsty person is happy when drinking, and not depressed, because the spring is inexhaustible. You can satisfy your thirst without exhausting the spring; then when you thirst again, you can drink from it once more.

O Lord and Master of my life, take from me the spirit of sloth, meddling, lust of power, and idle talk. But give rather the spirit of chastity, humility, patience and love to Thy servant. Yea, O Lord and King, grant me to see my own sins and not to judge my brother; for Thou art blessed unto ages of ages. Amen.

Scripture brought me to the Gate of Paradise, and the mind stood in wonder as it entered.

When you begin to read or listen to the Holy Scriptures, pray to God thus: “Lord Jesus Christ, open the ears and eyes of my heart so that I may hear Thy words and understand them, and may fulfill Thy will.” Always pray to God like this, that He might illumine your mind and open to you the power of His words. Many, having trusted in their own reason, have turned away into deception.

You victorious martyrs who endured torments gladly for the sake of God and Savior, you who have boldness of speech toward the Lord Himself, you saints, intercede for us who are timid and sinful men, full of sloth, that the grace of Christ may come upon us, and enlighten the hearts of all of us so that we may love Him.

Who is far from love is a bad state, and to be pitied. He passes his days in a delirious dream, far from God, deprived of light, and he lives in darkness … Whoever does not have the love of Christ is an enemy of Christ. He walks in darkness and is easily led into any sin.

It is blasphemy if you pray before God while you are full of anger.

Blessed the one who has become a good spiritual net and caught many for the good Lord, such a one will greatly praised by the Lord.

Blessed the one who, exalted by love, has become a city founded upon a mountain, from which the enemy, when he saw it, withdrew in fear, trembling at its security in the Lord.
 

Funeral Quote:
Lay me not with sweet spices,
For this honor avails me not,
Nor yet use incense and perfumes,
For the honor befits me not.
Burn yet the incense in the holy place;
As for me, escort me only with your prayers,
Give ye your incense to God,
And over me send up hymns.
Instead of perfumes and spices,
Be mindful of me in your intercessions.
(From The Testament of St. Ephrem)

 

 

The Lazy Priest by Dan Gonzalez

deaconGospel

Throughout my childhood, I never attended a Mass that was assisted by a deacon. I grew up assuming that it was the role of the priest to read the Gospel.

A closer parish eventually opened which was blessed to have a deacon. I noticed that it was he who read the Gospel week after week. My thought was “Man, that priest is LAZY! He has his helper doing all the work!” Little did I know that it is the deacon who is supposed to read the Gospel—this is what the Church envisions.

The Deacon and the Gospel

In the proclamation of the Gospel, Jesus is speaking to us—Christ himself is addressing his bride, the Church. For that reason, only a deacon, priest or bishop may read the Gospel at Mass—but the Church is quite clear that the preference is for the Gospel to be proclaimed by the deacon:

“The function of proclaiming the readings is by tradition not presidential but ministerial. Therefore the readings are to be read by a reader, but the Gospel by the Deacon or, in his absence, by another Priest. If, however, a Deacon or another Priest is not present, the Priest Celebrant himself should read the Gospel, and moreover, if no other suitable reader is present, the Priest Celebrant should also proclaim the other readings as well.” —The General Instruction of the Roman Missal #59

At least by the 600s, it was the function of the deacon to read the Gospel in the liturgy:

“To the deacons it belongs to assist the priests and to serve in all that is done in the Sacraments of Christ, in baptism, to wit, in the holy chrism, in the paten and chalice, to bring the oblation to the altar and to arrange them…to carry the cross, to declaim the Gospel and Epistle, for as the charge is given to lectors to declaim the Old Testament, so it is given to deacons to declaim the New. To him also pertains the office of prayers and the recital of the names. It is he who gives warning to open our ears to the Lord, it is he who exhorts with his cry, it is he also who announces peace.” —Letter of St. Isidore of Seville to Leudefredus

The ordination of a deacon underscores his ministerial function to proclaim the Gospel. During the ceremony, a newly ordained deacon kneels before the bishop, who places in his hands the Book of the Gospels and says:

“Receive the Gospel of Christ, whose herald you now are. Believe what you read, teach what you believe, and practice what you teach.” —Ordination of a Deacon

However, one must also keep in mind that all priests are deacons—a man cannot receive the Order of Priest without having first received the Order of Deacon. In addition, his priestly ordination does not invalidate or supplant his diaconate.

When celebrating the Eucharist, the priest is performing the function of his ministry. That is why it is preferred, in the absence of a deacon, that a concelebrating priest read the Gospel. But, if the celebrating priest does proclaim the Gospel, he does so by virtue of his deaconate, not as a function of his priesthood.

Instruct the Faithful

The deacon has also been set apart by the Church to instruct the faithful throughout the Mass—it is he who will direct the actions of the people:

  • Let us kneel.
  • Let us stand.
  • Let us offer each other the sign of peace.
  • Bow your heads and pray for God’s blessing.
  • Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life.

The voice that guides the assembly is also the one that proclaims the Gospel—a subtle reminder that the Gospel message is indeed a call to action.

What about you? Who proclaims that Gospel at your Mass? Did your childhood parish have a deacon? Share and let’s learn together!

Check out Dan’s webpage at http://www.massexplained.com/