WHAT IS A DEACON AND HIS ROLE!Deacon is a role in the Christian Church which is generally associated with service, but which varies among theological and denominational traditions. In many traditions, the diaconate is a clerical office; in others, it is for laity.The word deacon is derived from the Greek word diakonos (διάκονος), which literally means 'through the dust' and is often translated servant or waiter. It is generally believed that the office of deacon originated in the selection of seven men, among them Stephen, to assist with the charitable work of the early church as recorded in Acts 6.
A biblical description of the qualities required of a deacon, and of his household, can be found in 1 Timothy 3:8-13.Among the more prominent deacons in history are Saint Stephen, the first Christian martyr; Philip the Evangelist, whose baptism of the Ethiopian eunuch is recounted in Acts 8:26-40; Saint Lawrence, an early Roman martyr; and Saint Romanos the Melodist, a prominent early The diaconate is one of the three ordained offices in the Roman Catholic, Anglican, Eastern Orthodox, and Oriental Orthodox churches. The other two offices are those of priest and of bishop.While the permanent diaconate was maintained from earliest Apostolic times to the present in the Eastern churches (Orthodox and Catholic), it gradually disappeared in the Western church (with a few notable exceptions) during the first millennium. The diaconate continued in a vestigial form as a temporary, final step along the course to ordination to the priesthood. In the 20th Century, the permanent diaconate was restored in many Western churches, most notably in Roman Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion.In Roman Catholic, Orthodox, and Anglican churches, deacons assist priests in their pastoral and administrative duties, but report directly to the bishop. They have a distinctive role in the liturgy, their main tasks being to proclaim the Gospel, preach and assist in the administration of the Eucharist.In the years just prior to the Second Vatican Council, the only men ordained as deacons were seminarians, who received the order several months before priestly ordination. Following the recommendations of the council (in Lumen Gentium 29), in 1967 Pope Paul VI issued the motu proprio Sacrum Diaconatus Ordinem, restoring the ancient practice of ordaining to the diaconate men who were not candidates for priestly ordination. These men are known as permanent deacons; those ordained to the diaconate who intend to proceed to, or are in the process of seminary studies leading to, priestly ordination are called transitional deacons. The permanent diaconate is particularly popular in the United States. Details about the permanent diaconate are outlined in a 2005 document of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, "National Directory for the Formation, Ministry and Life of Permanent Deacons in the United States."The ministry of the deacon in the Roman Catholic Church is described as one of service in three areas: the Word, the Liturgy and Charity. The deacon's ministry of the Word includes proclaiming the Gospel at the Eucharist, preaching and teaching. His ministry at the Altar includes various parts of the Mass proper to the deacon, including being the proper minister of the cup. The ministry of charity involves service to the poor and marginalized and working with parishioners to help them become more involved in such ministry.Deacons can administer the sacrament of Baptism and serve as the church's witness at the sacrament of Holy Matrimony, which the bride and groom administer to each other. Deacons may preside at funerals, the Liturgy of the Hours, various services such as Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament and they may give blessings. They cannot give absolution, anoint the sick, or say Mass. In the liturgy, it is proper for the deacon to proclaim the Gospel (in fact, a priest, bishop, or even the Pope may not proclaim the Gospel if a deacon is present) and distribute Holy Communion. Transitional and permanent deacons both have the faculty to preach the homily by right of their ordination unless the priest presider retains that ministry to himself in any particular liturgy.The vestment most particularly associated with the Roman Catholic deacon is the dalmatic. Deacons, like priests and bishops, wear the stole; however, deacons place the stole over their left shoulder and it hangs across to their right side, while priests and bishops wear it around the neck.Permanent deacons often serve in parish or other ministry as their time permits, since they typically have other full time employment. They may also act as parish administrators. With the passage of time, more and more deacons are serving in full-time ministries in parishes, hospitals, prisons, and in diocesan positions. Deacons often work directly in ministry to the marginalized inside and outside the church: the poor, the sick, the hungry, the imprisoned.Married individuals may be ordained as permanent deacons; however, marriage after ordination is not permitted unless approved by the local Bishop. Under some circumstances, however, permanent deacons who have been widowed can receive permission to remarry. The wife of a permanent deacon often is considered a partner in his ordained ministry, leading to the popular concept of "deacon couples." In many dioceses, the wife of the deacon candidate undertakes the same education and training her husband does.A permanent deacon is not styled "Father" as a priest would be, but as "Deacon," abbreviated variously as "Dn." or "Dcn." Although some dioceses use the title "Rev. Mr." for all deacons, this title is more properly applied to those in the transitional diaconate. The decision as to whether deacons wear the Roman collar as street attire is left to the discretion of each diocesan bishop for his own diocese. Increasingly, dioceses throughout the world are opting for clerical dress to distinguish deacons, who are clerics, from lay ministers.
In the Roman Catholic Church, women are not ordained to the diaconate as women cannot receive Holy Orders.
Orthodoxy and Eastern CatholicismGreek Orthodox deacon in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, wearing an orarion over his sticharion. On his head he wears the clerical kamilavkaIn addition to reading the Gospel and assisting in the administration of Holy Communion, the deacon censes the icons and people, calls the people to prayer, leads the litanies, and has a role in the dialogue of the Anaphora. In keeping with Eastern tradition he is not permitted to perform any Sacred Mysteries (sacraments) on his own, except for Baptism in extremis (in danger of death), conditions under which anyone, including the laity, may baptize. When assisting at a normal baptism, it is often the deacon who goes down into the water with the one being baptized (Acts 8:38).Prior to his ordination, a deacon must be either married or a tonsured monk. Deacons may not marry after being ordained, though some bishops do allow dispensation from this rule as economia. According to the canons of the Orthodox Church, a married deacon must be in his first marriage and his wife must be Orthodox.Diaconal vestments are the sticharion (dalmatic), the orarion (deacon's stole), and the epimanikia (cuffs). The last are worn under his sticharion, not over it as does a priest or bishop. In the Greek practice, a deacon from the time of his ordination wears the "doubled-orarion", meaning it is passed over the left shoulder, under the right arm, and then crossed over the left shoulder (see photograph, right). In the Slavic practice, the deacon wears a simple orarion which is only draped over the left shoulder. In the Greek practice, he wears the clerical kamilavka (cylindrical head covering) with a rim at the top. In Slavic practice, a hierodeacon (monastic deacon) wears the simple black kamilavka of a monk (without the rim), but he removes the monastic veil (see klobuk) when he is vested; a married deacon would not wear a kamilavka unless it is given to him by the bishop as an honorary award; the honorary kamilavka is purple in color, and may be awarded to either married or monastic clergy.As far as street clothing is concerned, immediately following his ordination the deacon receives a blessing to wear the Exorasson (Arabic: Jib'be, Slavonic: Riassa), an outer cassock with wide sleeves, in addition to the Anterion (Slavonic: Podraznik), the inner cassock worn by all orders of clergy. In the Slavic practice, married clergy will often wear grey, while monastic clergy wear black. In North America and Western Europe, a Roman collar is often worn, although more traditional churches tend to shun it.A protodeacon (Greek: πρωτοδιάκονος: protodiakonos, "first deacon") is a distinction of honor awarded to senior deacons, usually serving on the staff of the diocesan bishop. An archdeacon is similar, but is among the monastic clergy. Protodeacons and archdeacons use a double-length orarion even if it is not the local tradition for all deacons to use it. In the Slavic tradition a deacon may be awarded the doubled-orarion even if he is not a protodeacon or archdeacon.Depending on local tradition, deacons are styled as either "Father Deacon," "Deacon Father," or often simply "Deacon" or "Father."