Sunday, April 14, 2013

Institution of the Diaconate

We are now a full week past the close of the Octave of Easter, and this means Pentecost is already rapidly approaching. Traditionally, this was a time of ordinations in the Church, on Ember Saturday, the Saturday of the (now-suppressed...........) Octave of Pentecost).

The following passage from Acts 6 is beautiful. It outlines the institution of the diaconate. I'm not skilled enough to argue whether the diaconate is of apostolic origin or whether Christ established it as He did the priesthood. I also can't argue whether or not it leaves an indelible mark. But, I can tell you this much: it is indeed a sacrament, administered no differently from priestly ordination in the sense that hands are imposed and the Holy Spirit is received by the candidate. It also demonstrates its differences from the priesthood, and this is good food for thought for those of us examining the role of the permanent diaconate within the Church. The deacon, in my view, should be responsible for the official ministries involving the corporal works of mercy. His liturgical function brings this full circle, as now it can be seen as directly serving the person of Christ Himself, as his ministry to the wider community is ministry to Christ present through others. In no way shape or form are they junior-grade priests, and we should stop using them as a stopgap for the shortage of priests.
6 Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, the Hellenists[a] murmured against the Hebrews because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution. 2 And the twelve summoned the body of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. 3 Therefore, brethren, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may appoint to this duty. 4 But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” 5 And what they said pleased the whole multitude, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, and Proch′orus, and Nica′nor, and Timon, and Par′menas, and Nicola′us, a proselyte of Antioch. 6 These they set before the apostles, and they prayed and laid their hands upon them.
7 And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith.

1 comment:

  1. Good post. It definitely does leave an indelible mark as it is the sacrament of Holy Orders. Also, as such, it was instituted by Christ. You are most certainly right about not being a junior grade priest. The diaconate, if you look at the history, actually pre-dates the development of the priestly rank as we know it today. There is evidence in Ignatius of Anthioch's writings that the episcopate and diaconate were the main orders of the 1st/2nd century with the presbyterate acting more as a council to the bishops.