OLDIE ASK FATHER: Eastern Subdeacon for Roman Solemn Mass? A Clerical Bedtime Story.

Just the day, someone sent me a note about this post.  I noted that it’s one year anniversary was about to strike, and so here it is again.  One year later.

From a reader:

I have a friend who is a Eastern Catholic subdeacon, officially installed in his own rite. [installed?] Would it be possible for him to serve a subdeacon during a Latin Extraordinary Form Solemn high Mass? And if so, which vestments would he wear, his own eastern vestments or the Tunicle?

The Latin Church has its Code of Canon Law and the Eastern Churches have their Code.  For this, we have to consult also the Eastern Code.

Can. 701 of the Eastern Code says:

“For a just cause and with the permission of the eparchial bishop, [like the diocesan bishop in the Latin Church] bishops and presbyters of different Churches sui iuris can concelebrate, especially to foster love and to manifest the unity of the Churches. All follow the prescripts of the liturgical books of the principal celebrant, avoiding any liturgical syncretism whatever, and preferably with all wearing the liturgical vestments and insignia of their own Church sui iuris.

This canon does not mention deacons or subdeacons. However, can. 1501 of the Eastern Code (parallel to can. 19 of the Latin Code) says:

“If an express prescript of law is lacking in a certain matter, a case, unless it is penal, must be resolved according to the canons of the synods and the holy fathers, legitimate custom, the general principles of canon law applied with equity, ecclesiastical jurisprudence and the common and constant canonical doctrine,”…

… and can. 1499 (parallel to can. 17) says, in part,

“If the meaning remains doubtful and obscure, they [laws] must be understood according to parallel passages, if there are such, to the purpose and circumstances of the law, and to the mind of the legislator.”

Let’s pull this all together.

An Eastern subdeacon (who is ordained, not just installed – the Eastern Churches continue to ordain men to the subdiaconate – just WE LATINS SHOULD BE DOING!!) can serve as a subdeacon at Latin Rite Mass, as long as his bishop/eparch permits.

Said subdeacon would follow the rubrics of the Roman Missal, but he would ideally wear the vestments proper to his own Church.

So, to illustrate, ….

nce upon a time in the Diocese of Black Duck at St. Fidelia in Tall Tree Circle, Father the Parish Priest, Guido Schmitz, was blessed with a visit by his 2nd cousin Subdeacon Grigori of the Eparchy of St. Theophan the Recluse.  Father 1st Assistant, upon meeting the Subdeacon, quoth, “We have a real subdeacon! Let’s have a Solemn Mass on Sunday!  Sven can be Deacon.”  Reverend Mister Sven Martínez was a not-quite-elderly Permanent Deacon around the place, rare in his permanent diaconal ministry as an expert in all matters liturgic.

Everyone deemed this a winning plan.

And so they gathered around the black bakelite telephone in the pastor’s office and called Subdeacon Gigori’s’s Eparch.

The Eparch, who answered his own phone, was delighted at this opportunity to foster unity between both lungs of the Church.  He, though not a Latin himself, sought every opportunity to underscore that he understood the mens of the Lawgiver in Summorum Pontificum, that the Roman Rite had its great liturgical tradition that rivalled his own.  He knew that Pope Francis had clearly affirmed Benedict’s provisions in TBI™, and that the Supreme Pontiff also had been involved with Eastern Churches in S. America.  Consequently, the Eparch concluded swiftly that it was both pleasing and opportune to deign to grant to the Reverend Subdeacon his Permission.

He added, with not-quite-mock menance, the stern admonishment to “Say The Roman Black and Do The Roman Red!”

Even as they were sharing their goodbyes and protestations of good will, the fax machine spit out the Eparch’s perfectly legible chirograph.  (The Eparch followed up with letters to both the Subdeacon and the parish priest.)

Subdeacon Grigori happened to have all his proper vestments with him.  They had a couple walk-throughs and – badda bing badda boom – ecce Sunday Solemn Mass.

And so it was that that happy Sunday with the Solelmn Mass and the real Eastern Subdeacon, became a matter of fond recollection and anecdotes.

Later in the year, Subdeacon Grigori returned for another visit!  The first stay at St. Fidelia had been so very agreeable both for its liturgical excellence in the Roman Rite – a new experience for the Subdeacon, if you get my drift – and because of the priestly fraternity that he knew was sure to follow the Sacred Synaxis.

This time, however, Subdeacon Grigori was without his own proper Eastern vestments!  They were were in the bag lost by the airline.  “Haudquaquam mihi molestum’st“, quoth he, in his best effort to fit in with his Latin hosts, “Let us be flexible.”

When it came time for the Solemn Mass, our Subdeacon vested contentedly as a Roman subdeacon, this being the only commonsensical course to pursue.  The music for the Ordinary was the Mass by Stravinsky, in honor of their Western/Eastern, modern/traditional liturgical nexus.

Subdeacon Grigori, as before, flawlessly carried out his subdiaconal ministry according to the Roman Red and Black, not a syllable lacking or gesture out of place.  He even used the thurible in the Roman manner, though afterwards he showed the altar boys how they used it in his Church.

Having decorously mactated the Victim, the clerics went to the Church hall for coffee and doughnuts with the folks. Subdeacon Grigori gave the parishioners a presentation about the differences between Roman and Byzantine liturgy.

Once the pastoral duties were complete, including a baptism and a Churching, the clerics went off together, parish priest, Fathers assistant, and Subdeacon, to St. Ipsidipsy over in the next county.  St. Ipsidipsy was, of course, the infamous parish entrusted to their mutual friend, Msgr. Zuhlsdorf (hey… fiction is the only way I’ll make Monsignor…).  In Monsignor’s rectory they had a light lunch.  Since they were way out in the wilderness, they then repaired, as was their wont, to Monsignor’s private outdoor firing range near the satellite dish arrays, backup generators, CPU cooling tower, bocce ball courts, and various antennae.

Having prayed to St. Gabriel Possenti and their Guardian Angels for steady hands and safety, they proceeded to put thousands of rounds through a variety of handguns. AR-15s with high-capacity magazines were not lacking. A Barrett .50 cal sniper rifle was fired with great effect.

They all agreed with Grigori’s observation that the glint of sunlight off the shower of casings falling to the ground about their feet was not unlike the sparkle of sun in the Holy Water during that morning’s Asperges.

The only dark note in the afternoon came when Father 2nd Assistant’s Sig Sauer P220 jammed from an errant round of .40 cal that had mysteriously made its way into the .45 ammo can. They consulted, set the Sig apart for closer inspection, and Father continued with his Beretta (… what else?).

Every story has its low point, and they had had theirs. It was a grave moment of concern, but their natural, hard-wired conservative, nay rather, even traditional Catholic cheerfulness overcame even that hitch in their afternoon.

Once all the paper was conclusively dead and all the metal targets had been sufficiently rung and spun, they invoked St. Joseph, Defender of the Church and Mary, Queen of the Clergy and sought out the humble church of St. Ipsidipsy where they sanctified their Sunday through Exposition, Vespers (sung antiphonally), and Benediction.

The scent of spent gunpowder mingled with the incense as together they wafted through the waning sunlight from the windows, their ears ringing merrily from both the .50 cal. and the Sanctus bells.

The conclusive clank of the tabernacle’s door sent them back to the rectory to clean their weapons over Campari sodas and then to enjoy homemade Buccatini all’amatriciana, steaks, salad, bottles of Barolo, which Monsignor had prudently opened before even the first round of .45 ACP had been fired.  They tucked in, reviewing news from the blogs, sharing the usual informations priests are privy to – amusing and dire – about diocesan and parish matters, chuckling for a while over a story in the Fishwrap and by turns glowering over the liberals’ continued misinformation campaigns, reviving anecdotes from seminary and past assignments all while not forgetting to proffer current tips on the best places to buy ammo.

The designated driver had been chosen by lot back at St. Fidelia’s (it fell to Father 2nd Assistant, who was therefore to be exempted for the next couple weeks), and so they brought out the cigars, the Warres ’77, the Hennesey XO and the Lagavulin 16.  Unicuique suum, after all, which happened also to be the motto on the coat of arms of Father 3rd Assistant.

His actis sumptisque omnibus, waving goodbye to Monsignor Z, they hitched up their cassocks, piled into the Father Pastor’s spacious new Volkswagen Phaeton, and sped down the road.

And so they came back to St. Fidelia’s, tired but happy.

THE END

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About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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14 Responses to OLDIE ASK FATHER: Eastern Subdeacon for Roman Solemn Mass? A Clerical Bedtime Story.

  1. Nathan says:

    A very good effort at a clerical bedtime story, Father. If only you had gone into detail.

    In Christ,

  2. Cheesesteak Expert says:

    Such was the fraternal joy that yet a third visit of Subdeacon Grigori was planned; and on the appointed day, he duly presented himself with a new set of eastern vestments (his old ones never having been found by that paragon of efficiency, the baggage claim service).

    But lo, there stood in the sacristy a young female altar server, enthusiastic and full of anticipation.
    **********************
    How would you finish this chapter? Is Subdeacon Grigori vexed in any way? Should he err on the side of discretion being the better part of valor? Should he quietly excuse himself with a sudden coughing fit? Or …..

    [Not to worry. Such a scenario would never occur at St. Fidelia.]

  3. TopSully says:

    Makes one wish he lived in the parish boundaries of St. Ipsidipsi and were assigned duties as Parish Armorer, a task for which he might be qualified…

  4. JesusFreak84 says:

    Female altar servers are as banned in the TLM as they are in the Eastern Rites. If she can sing, put her to work in the schola ^_~

  5. Michelle F says:

    My TLM parish recently received a convert from an Eastern Orthodox Church, and the young man who converted was a Subdeacon in the Orthodox Church. On the day after he was received into the Roman Church, he assisted our priest at the altar as the thurifer for a Holy Hour with Exposition and Benediction, followed by a traditional Latin High Mass.

    Part of the young man’s reason for converting to the Roman Church involved doctrinal issues, and part of it was his attraction to the traditional Latin Mass. The Roman Church’s devotion to Christ in the Blessed Sacrament was another attraction.

    So … Fr. Z’s fictional story isn’t too far removed from reality.

    And, yes, the young formerly Eastern Orthodox Subdeacon certainly knows how to handle the incense!

  6. Maximilia says:

    Should you ever retire, Father, I expect novels, ya hear.

  7. benedetta says:

    Tour de force — bravo!

  8. dp0p says:

    P. G. Wodehouse, call your office!

  9. AnAmericanMother says:

    Bravo! Bravo!

    You are welcome to come slay quantities of steel targets at our Cowboy Action club any time. We will be happy to loan you the necessary replica firearms . . . and surely you can think of historically appropriate dress (post-Civil War to 1900) :-)

  10. Mojoron says:

    A better choice of cognac would be Remy Martin XO, and a $1000 difference.

  11. Adam Welp says:

    Should the position of sacristan at St. Ipsidipsy become vacant, I humbly submit my application!

  12. Cheesesteak Expert says:

    Now that really is fantasy.

  13. Joe in Canada says:

    Of course we don’t need to import ordained Sub-deacons, since, according to the motu proprio of Pope Paul VI ministeria quaedam (1973) there is nothing to stop us from calling acolytes ‘subdeacons’.
    I wonder if a Byzantine subdeacon should wear Byzantine vestments if he is serving at a TLM – where he is not really concelebrating.

  14. Uxixu says:

    The subdeacon doesn’t concelebrate, he ministers aka serves aka assists the deacon (and thus the celebrant).

    Excellent point, though. I can’t see how anyone in the USCCB would think that the rather bureaucratic sounding “Admission to Candidacy for Ordination” sounds better than Subdeacon with history going back at least to Pope Cornelius in AD 255.