The Apostles instituted three orders in the priestly
hierarchy: the episcopate, the priesthood and the diaconate. In the Sacrament
of Holy Orders the sacred ministers receive the grace of the Holy Spirit for
the service of the Church, to teach people the Christian faith and piety (a
devout way of life), to perform services in church and at home and to direct
the life of the Church.
(hierarchs) receive the highest degree of grace. All bishops are equal in
respect of the grace they have received, but they are divided into various ranks
according to their administrative responsibilities: bishops, vicar bishops,
archbishops, metropolitans and patriarchs. Besides celebrating divine services
and preaching the word of God, bishops have the power to ordain priests and
deacons; to consecrate chrism, antimensia and churches; and to direct church
affairs in the parishes which are subject to them. In modern times it is the
practice of the Church to select candidates for the episcopate exclusively from
or presbyters, receive the grace to celebrate the services and sacraments of
the Church with the blessing of the bishop (although they cannot ordain other
priests); they also preach the word of God and administer the affairs of their
own parishes. Senior priests are called archpriests. Priests who are also monks
are called hieromonks. The more senior hieromonks are called abbots, and the
most senior are archimandrites.
comes from a Greek word meaning "servant." Deacons assist bishops and
priests in performing the divine services; they cannot perform such services
independently. The participation of a deacon adds beauty to the service, but it
is not absolutely necessary, and in many churches services are carried out
without the assistance of a deacon. A deacon who is senior in the service of
his bishop is called a protodeacon, or, if he is a monk, an archdeacon.
Others who take part in the divine services are
the reader, who reads prayers, and the chanter, who not only reads but also
sings. Often parishioners who are able to read and sing from the church service
books also form part of the choir. The choir and its director contribute to the
solemnity of services for the feasts of the Church.
The sacred ministers and the people who pray with
them form one spiritual family, a little church. All the members of this Church
family ought to have one goal: to save their own souls and to further the
salvation of others. Those who regularly pray in a particular church are called
its parishioners. They confess their sins and receive the Sacrament of Holy
Communion in their parish church; they enter holy Matrimony there; they bring
their children there to be baptized and they bring their deceased family
members to be buried.
Every Orthodox Christian should be a parishioner
of a particular church. He should consider it a holy place and take care of its
decoration and maintenance, and should also offer material support to those
persons who serve the church.
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