The Hierarchical Orders
of the Orthodox, One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church

Resources to Promote Knowledge of the Christian Priesthood
Soorp Stepanos:  First Deacon & Martyr
Armenian Icon of Holy Ordination


Before the grandeur of the priestly grace and office, the holy fathers felt an urgent call to conversion in order to conform their whole lives to him whose sacrament had made them
ministers.  Thus St. Gregory the Theologian, as a very young priest, exclaimed:  “We must begin by purifying ourselves before purifying others; we must be instructed to be able to
instruct, become light to illuminate, draw close to God to bring him close to others, be sanctified to sanctify, lead by the hand and counsel prudently… I know whose ministers we
are, where we find ourselves and to where we strive.  I know God's greatness and man's weakness, but also his potential.  [The priest is] the defender of truth, who stands with
angels, gives glory with archangels, causes sacrifices to rise to the altar on high, shares Christ's priesthood, refashions creation, restores it in God's image, recreates it for the world
on high and, even greater, is divinized and divinizes.” -St. Gregory the Theologian (Oratio 2, 71, 74, 73: PG 35, 480-481, CCC).

    The traditional collection of Eastern Canons known as The Rudder of the Catholic Orthodox Church, comments on Canon 2 of the Apostolic Canons:
    "Clergymen, ordinarily and generally, are those who have been admitted to a priestly and ecclesiastical office by the laying on of hands of a bishop in any
    ecclesiastical rank from bishop on down to reader and cantor..."  It also adds, "Although Bishops, Presbyters, Deacons and Sub-Deacons are properly
    spoken of as being ordained, Readers and Cantors are said to be sealed." -Rudder, pg. 4.

Anyone who is ordained is a partaker of Holy Orders and is part of the Church's hierarchy and clergy.  Each clerical rank is a participation in one of the degrees of
the Holy Priesthood of Jesus Christ -according to the office to which each man is ordained.


MINOR ORDERS:  1) Doorkeeper*, 2) Reader / Cantor, 3) Exorcist*, 4) Acolyte*, 5) Sub-Deacon
MAJOR ORDERS:  1) Deacon, 2) Presbyter, 3) Bishop

*Orders no longer active and/or subsumed by other orders in the Eastern Orthodox Church

"LAY-DEACON":  A title that refers to one who is not ordained but serves by economia in a diaconal capacity (known as a "stole-bearer" in Armenian tradition).  
The practice resulted from extreme cases of clergy shortages (e.g., from the Genocide) and is now discouraged by most hierarchs.  Similarly the Church sometimes
allows lay-readers, lay-cantors and lay-acolytes to have roles in the liturgical worship, but the Church gives preference to those who are ordained for these
ministries.  When used in reference to someone who is actually ordained, the term "lay-deacon" is erroneous and oxymoronic.  It betrays an apparent ignorance of
Church canons and history.  It adds to confusion and perpetuates a rather extreme form of clericalism which views only presbyters and celibates as clergy.  
According to Church canons, once a man is ordained to any clerical rank, by that very fact, he is no longer considered among the laity but instead is governed by
the Church's canons for clergy.  The Church's historic canonical tradition makes this abundantly clear.


APOSTOLIC CANONS, Canon LXIX:  "If any bishop, presbyter, deacon, sub-deacon, reader or chanter does not fast during the Forty Days of Pascha, or on Wednesday or
Friday, let him be defrocked except if he were prevented on account of bodily illness, but if a layman let him be excommunicated."
Epitome:  Clergy must not ignore the fasts.  

COUNCIL OF LAODICEA, Canon XXIV:  "No one of the priesthood, from presbyters to deacons, and so on in the ecclesiastical order to subdeacons, readers, singers, exorcists,
door-keepers, or any of the class of the ascetics, ought to enter a tavern."
Epitome:  Clergy should not enter a tavern (bar or pub).  

FIFTH-SIXTH (QUINISEXT) ECUMENICAL COUNCILS, Canon VI:  "Since it is declared in the apostolic canons that of those who are advanced to the clergy unmarried, only
readers and cantors are able to marry; we also, maintaining this, determine that henceforth it is in nowise lawful for any subdeacon, deacon or presbyter after his ordination to
contract matrimony but if he shall have dared to do so, let him be deposed..."
Epitome:  Ordained clergy, sub-deacon or higher, cannot enter a marriage after their ordination.

FIFTH-SIXTH (QUINISEXT) ECUMENICAL COUNCILS, Canon IX:  "Let no cleric be permitted to keep a 'public house.'  For if it be not permitted to enter a tavern, much
more is it forbidden to serve others in it and to carry on a trade which is unlawful for him.  But if he shall have done any such thing, either let him desist or be deposed."
Epitome:  Since clergy are forbidden to enter pub (tavern or bar), much more are they forbidden to own or operate one.

FIFTH-SIXTH (QUINISEXT) ECUMENICAL COUNCILS, Canon XXVII:  "None of those who are in the catalogue of the clergy shall wear clothes unsuited to them, either
while still living in town or when on a journey: but they shall wear such clothes as are assigned to those who belong to the clergy..."
Epitome:  Clergy are to wear dress proper to clergy, whether travelling or at home.

SEVENTH ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, Canon XVI:  "All buffoonery and decking of the body, ill becomes the priestly rank.   Therefore those bishop and clerics who array
themselves in gay and showy clothing ought to correct themselves, and if they do not amend, they ought to be subjected to punishment..."
Epitome:  Clergy should not wear showy, gay attire.


-  Introduction to the Priesthood in the Eastern Church  
On the Episcopal Order of Bishop    
Presbyters, Ministerial Priesthood and the Meaning of the Word Priest   
On the Eastern Tradition of Married Priests  

The Historic Order of Deacon -from Wikipedia
-  The Deacon in Today's World by Archbishop Joseph Tawil
On the Clerical Dress of Deacons and Minor Clergy by Subdeacon Lazarus W. Der-Ghazarian
The Byzantine Deacon by Protodeacon B. David Kennedy

The Major Significance of the Minor Orders by Archpriest Lawrence Farley
The Historic Order of Sub-Deacon -from Wikipedia
The Order of Sub-Deacon in the Armenian Church Tradition by Subdeacon Lazarus W. Der-Ghazarian
The Order of Sub-Deacon in the Byzantine Church Tradtion -adapted from Protodeacon B. David Kennedy
The Order of Sub-Deacon in the Latin Church Tradition  -from the Catholic Encyclopedia

The Four Minor Orders in the Armenian Church by Subdeacon Lazarus W. Der-Ghazarian
A Basic Catechism for Acolytes of the Armenian Church by Subdeacon Lazarus W. Der-Ghazarian
The Four Minor Orders of the Armenian Church -Excerpts from Fr. Garabed Kochakian & the Catholic Encyclopedia
A Guide for Readers in the Orthodox Church -An excellent guide for Readers of the Byzantine Tradition
On the Order of Reader in the Byzantine Church -from Orthodox Wiki

On Women's Ordination by Fr. Alexander Schmemann
Labelling the Debate (on Women's Ordination) by Fr. Lawrenece Farley
On the Order of Deaconess in the Armenian Church by Subdeacon Lazarus W. Der-Ghazarian
A Public Statement on Orthodox Deaconesses by Concerned Clergy and Laity   
The Iconic Character of the Priesthood and Women's Ordination by Fr. Shnork Souin


-  On Eastern Canonical Tradition by Subdeacon Lazarus Der-Ghazarian
Modern Canonical Questions in Orthodoxy by Subdeacon Lazarus Der-Ghazarian
The Apostolic Canons:  A Collection of Authoritative Canons from the Early Church
The Canons of the Eastern Orthodox Church:  Authoritative Canons of the Orthodox Church
Ancient Church Canons of the Church and other Authoritative & Historic Councils  


-  The Antiochian House of Studies St. Stephen's Course in Applied Orthodox Theology:  
A highly respected theological program, recognized by Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox and Eastern Catholic hierarchs alike, for those interested
in studying Orthodox theology to become priests, deacons or lay theologians.  It is designed and directed by world-class Orthodox theologians
and scholars to be a "school without walls" for those unable to attend seminary.  It's attended by students from the world-over including
America, Greece, Romania, Egypt, Armenia, Ireland, Sweden, Nigeria, Taiwan, Hong Kong and New Zealand.

On the Importance of Keeping a Daily Rule of Prayer by Subdeacon Lazarus Der-Ghazarian
The Seven Canonical Hours of the Armenian Church by Subdeacon Lazarus Der-Ghazarian
The Canonical Hours:  Three compact disc amateur recordings of actual Armenian Canonical Hours Services which can be used to assist
with diaconal training.  They are also a joy to listen to and pray with.  Contact Subdeacon Lazarus to obtain copies:  
CD #1.  The Night & Morning Hours;   CD #2.  The Sunrise & Evening Hours;  CD #3.  The Peace and Rest Hour Services

Return to the home page of the St. Gregory the Enlightener Institute   

(c) Copyright: 2001-2020, Lazarus Der-Ghazarian,, All Rights Reserved
The Mystical Icon
of the Holy Church

Here the Church is represented
by a ship which Christ steers
using the Rudder (or Pendalion).
This represents how the
Orthodox Church's Canonical
Tradition guides her through the
trackless sea of life.
There are many other things which rightly keep me in the bosom of the Catholic Church.  The consent of the people
and nations keeps me in the Church; so does her authority, inaugurated by miracles, nourished by hope, enlarged by
love, and established by age.  The succession of priests keeps me, from the very seat of the Apostle Peter, to whom the
Lord, after His resurrection gave it in charge to feed His sheep, down to the present episcopate.
                                          -St. Augustine, Against the Letter of Mani Called Foundation, 5, AD 397.
"Everyone constituted in the sacred hierarchy, according to his position and the nature of his orders, is initiated into
divine things and divinized, so that he may impart to those who come after him, a share of this divinization which he
has received from God."
                                                   -ST. DIONYSIUS THE AREOPAGITE ON THE SACRED PRIESTLY RANKS OF THE CLERGY (Allen, 122).