Melkite Greek Catholic Church
 

Question:

I wonder why did you say, in your homily at the Ordination of Deacon James Whelan, BSO, on September 18, that "the deacon is an extension of the priest?" I thought that the deacon was originally the extension of the Bishop and later the formation of priests came. (Asked by Elias Sahyouni, Deacon at John the Baptist Melkite Church in Chicago)

Bishop John's Answer:

When I said that "the deacon is the extension of the priest, as the priest is the extension of the bishop," I meant it pastorally rather than sacramentally. The Bishop is the only minister of the sacrament/mystery of Orders. Deacons as well as priests are extension of the Bishop's full priesthood. He represents the High Priest, Our Lord Jesus Christ. However, pastorally, that is for the sake of harmony in the parish and efficient service to the People of God, the Deacon extends the service of the priest in his respective parish, as the priest extends the service of the Bishop.

In all cases, bishops, priests, deacons and faithful, we all are extensions of God's love to each other and to the world.

It is as you said the Holy Spirit is the extension of the Son as the Son is the extension of the Father. The Son is the image of the Father and (quote Christmas Vespers…) and the Holy Spirit is the Image of the Father through the Son. Is it a triaingle of equal distance, or a straight line pointing exclusively to the Father who is the Godhead?

Question:

"I would like to know the difference between the priest and the deacon can the deacon give a blessing to the people of the church and can he perform marriages and funeral masses. Or does he just assist the priest during the mass by doing the ritualistic part of the mass and proclaim the gospel to the people…"

Bishop John's Answer:

Thank you for your question about deacons. I can see that you observe things happening at Liturgy. Have you ever considered some form of ministry within the Church yourself?

Christ acts in the Liturgy and Sacraments of the Church. In them, He acts through all the people. We all share in His priesthood through Baptism - the royal priesthood of the faithful. But He has also left a special gift to the Church of an ordained priesthood. The fullness of that priesthood is found in the Bishop, who is head of the local Church and makes God's Fatherhood present. But, since the Bishop cannot be present at all times in all the parishes of his church, his priesthood is extended and partially shared by two groups of men: one is the presbyterate (priests). The priests lead the worship in local parishes, standing in for the bishop. They share the bishop's priesthood, but not to its fullest. The other group of his helpers is the diaconate (deacons). Deacons are also ordained by the bishop and share in his priesthood, but not as fully as the priests. Each group helps the bishop and extends his presence and ministry to the local community, each in his own way.

Now, to get to your particular questions. From the tone of what you asked, I gather that you are more familiar with the role of deacons in the Latin Rite, rather than the Eastern Churches. There are differences in what the deacon can do. In the Latin Rite, deacons can do weddings and funerals on their own - but not in the Eastern Churches. In the Latin Rite, there are several blessings which a deacon can do - but not usually in the Eastern Churches. In general, in the East, the deacon invites the people to pray - he directs their prayers by announcing intentions for prayer. The people respond by singing "Lord, have mercy" or "Grant this, O Lord". He also sings the Gospel and assists at Communion by handling the chalice. The deacon normally assists the bishop or priest - they give him a blessing before each thing he is to do - he does not usually do any service on his own.

Question:

"Does the eparchy have a permanent deaconate program? If so, where can I get information on it."

Bishop John's Answer:

Thank you for asking. The Director of our Deacon Formation Program, which has been conducted every year since 1971, is The Reverend Father Paul Frechette, Our Lady of Perpetual Help Melkite Church, 256 Hamilton St., Worcester, MA 01604, (508) 752-4174.

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