ASK FATHER: Latin deacons in Eastern Divine Liturgy

From a reader…


When Latin priests concelebrate at a Divine Liturgy, they are are to wear Latin Vestments (cf. Instruction for Applying The Liturgical Prescriptions of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, #68).

The Deacon in the Divine Liturgy uses his Orarion for certain
actions, which are difficult or impossible to do with the Latin Deacon’s stole (Such as crossing the orarion over one’s shoulders).

Thus, what should occur when a Latin Deacon assists at a Byzantine Divine Liturgy?

I don’t think this has been answered by any official body.  If it has, I haven’t see it.

The law says that a minister assisting at the liturgy of a different ritual church wear the vestments of his own proper ritual church.  Thus, all things being equal, a Latin deacon should wear Latin diaconal vesture. Any ritual action which he is unable to do, such as crossing his orarion, he would simply omit, using the principle that no one is bound to the impossible (Regulae Iuris, #6).

I suppose if there is not any Latin vesture available for the Latin deacon, he could vest in the other rites vestments, but … it seems to me that with proper planning that wouldn’t be necessary.


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  1. cathdeac says:

    I am a Latin deacon, and when I concelebrate (they do not say ‘assist’ for Eastern Divine Liturgies) , with my bishop’s permission, at a Divine Liturgy, Father asks me always to wear a sticharion and an orarion, i.e. the proper Byzantine vestments. He says that the Latin dalmatic is too similar to a sakkos (the vestment of a Byzantine bishop).

  2. Fr. Z., my Byzantine sources tell me that unlike bishops and priests who de facto can be the celebrant or con-celebrant at the Sacred Liturgy (Latin Rite or Eastern Rite), deacons, (of any rite) are not celebrants since they cannot preside and therefore do not need bi-ritual faculties to assist at Holy Mass or the Divine Liturgy. They tell me that Latin rite deacons who occasionally assist at Byzantine Divine Liturgies can and ought to wear the proper liturgical vestment of the rite proper to the liturgy itself whereas con-celebrating priests and bishops would wear vestments proper to the liturgical rite they themselves belong. A Latin rite priest would need bi-ritual faculties to celebrate the Divine Liturgy as main celebrant and would wear Byzantine vestments whereas if he were merely con-celebrating, he would wear the vestments proper to HIS rite. Deacons, on the other hand, do not preside (concelebrate) and would only need bi-ritual faculties if he were to assist on a more regular basis.

    I am no expert in Eastern Law or Liturgy so I apologize if I inaccurately explained the current rubrics in force on this matter.

  3. Geoffrey says:

    “The law says that a minister assisting at the liturgy of a different ritual church wear the vestments of his own proper ritual church”.

    Does it matter if we are talking about ordained vs. instituted ministers? I wonder what a duly instituted lector or acolyte (subdeacon) of the Roman Rite would wear?

  4. Stephen Matthew says:

    My experience has been that Latin rite Deacons assisting at the Divine Liturgy (as the princiapal deacon) wore, like the (primarily) Latin rite priest (who has bi-ritual faculties), Eastern vestments. This seems immeninetly sensible if you are the princiapal celebrant or the principal deacon for the liturgy, because certain parts of the liturgy won’t work correctly with Latin vestments. This was for the very reason mentioned. The deacon had learned to do all of the proper actions of the deacon (even the chanting) and learned all the vesting prayers and such, and the only way to do that is to actually wear the vestments that function properly for the rite in question. (Now if a Latin deacon did not know all the gestures and such, then perhaps wearing Latin vestments would make it clear why he was being lax in his liturgical praxis.) The one accommodation made in the instances I am thinking of, were that the servers, lector, choir, etc. vested in black Roman cassock (sans collars, and certainly no surplice), because that is what was available and reasonably approximates the Eastern cassock (Eastern cassock usually does not have buttons up the front, it is more of a robe like garment).

  5. Augustine Thompson O.P. says:

    As Stephen Matthew notes above in passing it would be very difficult to perform the role of a Byzantine deacon when wearing Latin vestments. The dalmatic would cover the stole (orarion) make make it impossible to hold it up when singing the litanies. Even without the dalmatic you could not lift one end of a Latin deacon stole as the ends are attached. When I served the Melkite liturgy as a deacon I wore the Byzantine vestments for that reason. By the way, unless I am mistaken, the image in the post shows a subdeacon’s vestments, not a deacon’s.

  6. By the way, unless I am mistaken, the image in the post shows a subdeacon’s vestments, not a deacon’s.

    In the Russian tradition the deacon and the subdeacon’s vestments are the same, except that the deacon wears cuffs. The subdeacon wears his orarion crossed all the time, whereas the deacon only crosses it at a certain point.

    In the Greek tradition, the orarion is always the double orarion, which is in the Russian tradition an award for deacons worn only by some, while the Greek subdeacon wears the (crossed) single orarion.

  7. Missing words…

    In the Greek tradition, the orarion for deacons is always the double orarion, which is in the Russian tradition an award for deacons worn only by some, while the Greek subdeacon wears the (crossed) single orarion.

  8. Deacon Bill says:

    In the past I assisted regularly as deacon in both a Latin and Ruthenian parishes. The eparch asked that I wear the appropriate Eastern (diaconal) vestments. I had, of course, already received faculties from my own Latin Cardinal-Archbishop, and was given additional faculties from the eparch. The key, in my opinion, lies in the regularity with which the deacon is going to assist in the Eastern parish, as others have said. On those occasions where I have been invited to be present within the sanctuary as a visitor (not functioning fully as the deacon of the Liturgy), I have always vested in Latin vestments.

    God bless,

    Deacon Bill

  9. Augustine Thompson O.P. says:

    Hmm. Whatever the practice in the other Eastern Churches are, my experience in the many Melkite liturgies I served or was present at, was that their was no belt (or whatever the item in the picture is called) worn by the deacon. And he (and I) crossed the orarion before communion. This seems to be the Russian practice as well:

    Skim down to the section on “how deacon’s vestments are different from priests.” The Melkites also refer to the orarion as the “angel’s wing.”

    The Melkite practice seems (logically) to be Greek.

  10. cathdeac says:

    Thank you, dear Fr. Trigilio, for your clear explanation. Father Michail agrees. However, he insists that deacons are ‘concelebrant’, pointing out that in the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom itself, at a certain point there is the following dialogue between priest and deacon:

    ????? ???? ????, ???????????? ???.
    ??? ? ????????? ?????? ????? ??????????? ??? ??, ??? ??????? ??????? ?????????? ???.
    ??? ? ??????? ???? ?? ?????? ??????????????? ???? ????? ??? ?????? ??? ???? ????.
    (Pray for me, my concelebrant.
    And the Deacon: The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.
    And the Priest: The same Spirit will concelebrate with us all the days of our life.)

    Also, in several other points of the Liturgy the priest and the deacon call each other “????????????” (“concelebrant”).

    I am not an expert. What do you think about it, reverend Fathers?

    [Use Unicode for other characters. HERE]

  11. Paul M. says:

    Some additional considerations not yet mentioned:

    (1) This set of photographs shows a Syrian Melkite archdeacon using a single, crossed orarion, not a double orarion and not a single uncrossed orarion: If the archdeacon could do this and still serve the Divine Liturgy, then it weakens the argument that a Latin deacon would be impeded from doing so given that his stole is crossed and not hanging down. Granted, that paper and its author could simply have been wrong about the status of those deacons. (Perhaps they belonged to a different church than the Melkites.) But if the paper was correct, then it indicates that a Latin deacon could still effectively serve the Byzantine Divine Liturgy using his own vestments, provided that he omitted the use of the dalmatic.

    (2) It is the custom for Eastern deacons, when serving the Mass, to wear the vestments of their church, not Latin vestments. For an example, see this set of images during Mass at the Lateran Basilica for Holy Thursday, celebrated by Pope Benedict.

    (3) When the law or custom does not expressly cover a particular matter, one should rely on laws issued in similar matters (among other sources). (CIC 19/CCEO 1501.) Here, not only do we have the custom demonstrated in #2 indicating that deacons should usually use the vestments of their own church rather than the church where they are serving, we also have a similar express provision that concelebrating priests should use the vestments of their own church.

    Thus, given that custom and similar laws show that deacons ought to wear the vestments of their church, and that it appears that the crossed stole is not really a practical issue at least from a historical perspective, it appears that there are no obstacles for a Latin deacon to wear his vestments when serving the Divine Liturgy.

  12. ByzCath08 says:

    In the current service books on the Divine Liturgy, this is how that conversation takes place:

    Taking the censer from the deacon, the priest incenses the holy gifts three
    times and says:
    Deal favorably, O Lord, with Sion in Your good pleasure and let
    the walls of Jerusalem be rebuilt. Then You will be well pleased
    with a sacrifice of justice, oblations and holocausts; then they will
    lay calves upon Your altar.
    Having given back the censer, he bows his head and says to the deacon:
    Priest: Remember me, brother and fellow minister.
    Deacon: May the Lord God remember your priesthood in His
    Priest: Pray for me, my fellow minister.
    Deacon: The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the
    Most High will overshadow you.
    Priest: May this same Spirit act together with us all the days of our
    Deacon: Remember me, holy master.
    Priest: May the Lord God remember you in His kingdom ?always,
    now and for ever and ever.
    Deacon: Amen

  13. Michael_Thoma says:

    Paul M.,

    Those images look like a Syriac priest/deacon, not Melkite.

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