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Bishop Kallistos Ware
Orthodox Church

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  • Part II: Faith and Worship
    • Orthodox Worship: The Sacraments
      • Holy Orders
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Holy Orders

There are threeMajor Orders’ in the Orthodox Church, Bishop, Priest, and Deacon; and

twoMinor Orders,’ Subdeacon and Reader (once there were other Minor Orders, but at present

all except these two have fallen largely into disuse). Ordinations to the Major Orders always oc-


cur during the course of the Liturgy, and must always be done individually (the Byzantine rite,

unlike the Roman, lays down that no more than one deacon, one priest, and one bishop can be

ordained at any single Liturgy). Only a bishop has power to ordain (In cases of necessity an Archimandrite

or Archpriest, acting as the bishop’s delegate, can ordain a Reader), and the consecration of a new

bishop must be performed by three or at least two bishops, never by one alone: since the episcopate

is ‘collegial’ in character, an episcopal consecration is carried out by a ‘college’ of bishops.

An ordination, while performed by the bishop, also requires the consent of the whole people of

God; and so at a particular point in the service the assembled congregation acclaim the ordination

by shoutingAxios!’ (‘He is worthy!’) (What happens if they shout Anaxios!’ (‘He is unworthy!’)?

This is not very clear. On several occasions in Constantinople or Greece during the present century the congregation

has in fact expressed its disapproval in this way, although without effect. But some would claim that, at any rate in

theory, if the laity expresses its dissent, the ordination or consecration cannot take place).

Orthodox priests are divided into two distinct groups, the ‘white’ or married clergy, and the

black’ or monastic. Ordinands must make up their mind before ordination to which group they

wish to belong, for it is a strict rule that no one can marry after he has been ordained to a Major

Order. Those who wish to marry must therefore do so before they are made deacon. Those who

do not wish to marry are normally expected to become monks prior to their ordination; but in the

Orthodox Church today there are now a number of celibate clergy who have not taken formal

monastic vows. These celibate priests, however, cannot afterwards change their minds and decide

to get married. If a priest’s wife dies, he cannot marry again.

As a rule the parochial clergy of the Orthodox Church are married, and a monk is only appointed

to have charge of a parish for exceptional reasons (In fact at the present day, particularly in the

diaspora, monks are frequently put in charge of parishes. Many Orthodox regret this departure from the traditional

practice). Bishops are drawn exclusively from the monastic clergy (This has been the rule since at least

the sixth century; but in primitive times there are many instances of married bishops — for example, Saint Peter

himself), although a widower can be made a bishop if he takes monastic vows. Such is the state of

monasticism in many parts of the Orthodox Church today that it is not always easy to find suitable

candidates for the episcopate, and a few Orthodox have even begun to argue that the limitation

of bishops to the monastic clergy is no longer desirable under modern conditions. Yet surely

the true solution is not to change the present rule that bishops must be monks, but to reinvigorate

the monastic life itself

In the early Church the bishop was elected by the people of the diocese, clergy and laity together.

In Orthodoxy today it is usually the Governing Synod in each autocephalous Church

which appoints bishops to vacant sees; but in some ChurchesAntioch, for example, and Cyprus

— a modified system of election still exists. The Moscow Council of 1917-18 laid down

that henceforward bishops in the Russian Church should be elected by the clergy and laity; this

ruling is followed by the Paris group of Russians and the OCA, but conditions have made its application

impossible within the Soviet Union itself.

The order of deacons is far more prominent in the Orthodox Church than in western communions.

In Roman Catholicism prior to Vatican 2 the diaconate had become simply a preliminary

stage on the way to the priesthood, but in Orthodoxy it has remained a permanent office,

and many deacons have no intention of ever becoming priests. In the west today the deacon’s

part at High Mass is usually carried out by a priest, but in the Orthodox Liturgy none but a real

deacon can perform the diaconal functions.

Canon Law lays down that no one may become a priest before the age of thirty nor a deacon

before the age of twenty-five, but in practice this ruling is relaxed.


A Note on Ecclesiastical Titles

Patriarch. The title borne by the heads of certain autocephalous Churches. The heads of

other Churches are called Archbishop or Metropolitan.

Metropolitan, Archbishop. Originally a Metropolitan was the bishop of the capital of a

province, while Archbishop was a more general title of honour, given to bishops of special eminence.

The Russians still use the titles more or less in the original way; but the Greeks (except at

Jerusalem) now give the name Metropolitan to every diocesan bishop, and call by the title Archbishop

those who in ancient times would have been styled Metropolitan. Thus among the Greeks

an Archbishop now ranks above a Metropolitan, but among the Russians the Metropolitan is the

higher position.

Archimandrite. Originally a monk charged with the spiritual supervision of several monasteries,

or the superior of a monastery of special importance. Now used simply as a title of honour

for priest-monks of distinction.

Higumenos. Among the Greeks, the Abbot of a monastery. Among the Russians, a title of

honour for priest-monks (not necessarily Abbots). A Russian Higumenos ranks below an Archimandrite.

Archpriest or Protopope. A title of honour given to non-monastic priests; equivalent to


Hieromonk. A priest-monk.

Hierodeacon. A monk who is a deacon.

Archdeacon. A title of honour given to monastic deacons. (In the west the Archdeacon is

now a priest, but in the Orthodox Church he is still, as in primitive times, a deacon).

Protodeacon. A title of honour given to deacons who are not monks.

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