While visiting Holy Trinity Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Trenton, NJ for the Centennial Celebration of pastoral ministry, His Eminence Archbishop Daniel tonsured and set aside two Subdeacons – students of Saint Sophia Ukrainian Orthodox Theological Seminary of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA.
With the blessing of His Eminence Metropolitan Antony, Primate of the UOC of the USA, seminarians Yaroslav Bilohan and Myroslav Mykytyuk were called to serve the Christ’s Church as Readers and Subdeacons.
Prior to the beginning of the Divine Liturgy, Archbishop Daniel presented the candidates for the ordination to the entire parish family of the capital of New Jersey. Addressing the candidates, Vladyka Daniel instructed them about the importance of furthering their studies of the Sacred Scriptures as they begin the most sacred ministry of serving about the sacred space of the Altar.
Throughout the entire prayer service the newly tonsured and set aside subdeacons assisted the hierarchs in the celebration of the Liturgy.
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Those who serve as subdeacons traditionally serve the altar with precision and excellence.
The earliest mention of subdeacons is around 215 a.d. in the Apostolic Tradition of St. Hippolytus of Rome, who includes in his writings the prayers of blessing said over a subdeacon at his ordination.
The ordination to the subdiaconate is performed outside of the altar and in a context other than the Divine Liturgy, as it is a minor order. During the Sixth Hour, after Psalm 90, the reader who is to be ordained subdeacon is presented to the bishop by two other subdeacons, who first lead him to the nave. There he faces east and makes a prostration before turning to make three prostrations towards the bishop, moving further west after each one. He is then led to stand immediately before the bishop. The subdeacons present the orarion to the bishop, who blesses it. The ordained then kisses the orarion and the bishop’s hand, and the subdeacons vest the ordained in the orarion.
The bishop blesses the ordained three times with the sign of the Cross upon his head, then lays his right hand upon the ordinand’s head and prays the prayer of ordination. The new subdeacon kisses the bishop’s right hand and makes a prostration before the bishop, after which the more senior subdeacons drape a towel over his shoulders and present him with a ewer and basin, with which he washes the bishop’s hands after the usual manner. The bishop dries his hands and the three subdeacons receive the bishop’s blessing and kiss his hands.
The senior subdeacons return to the altar while the new subdeacon, still holding the ewer and basin, stands on the solea, facing the icon of the Mother of God and saying particular prayers quietly. The Sixth Hour is completed and the Divine Liturgy continues as usual. The subdeacon remains on the solea until the Cherubikon, when he and two senior subdeacons wash the bishop’s hands as usual.
At the Great Entrance, the new subdeacon joins on the very end of the procession, carrying the ewer and basin and, after the commemorations, takes the blessed water to the people so that they may bless themselves with it. He returns to his place on the solea until the end of the Anaphora, when he re-enters the altar, lays the ewer and basin aside, and joins the other subdeacons.
On the day that a subdeacon is ordained, he may be required to serve at the Liturgy (particularly if there is a shortage of altar servers). In this case, the taking of the blessed water to the people may be omitted, and he may be asked not to stay on the solea but rather to assist with serving duties in the altar and at the entrances. This will depend on jurisdictional preferences.
All degrees of clergy wear the sticharion. The sticharion is a long-sleeved tunic that reaches all the way to the ground. It reminds the wearer that the grace of the Holy Spirit covers him as with a garment of salvation and joy. In addition to this, a subdeacon will also wear an orarion, representing the grace of the Holy Spirit. The orarion will be tied around his waist, up over his shoulders (forming an X-shaped cross in back), and with the ends hanging down in front, tucked under the section around the waist in an X-shaped cross. In jurisdictions where acolytes are able to wear orarions, they are distinct from subdeacons in that an acolytes orarion hangs straight down in front.