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Question 73.

Father you blessings!

Recently I have been asked to become a sub-deacon and I am a little unsure of the duties required of me and my allowances and restrictions.
Also is a sub-deacon allowed to administer Holy Communion if given a blessing?


Answer to Question 73.

Dear Cls,
If you are single then you must think carefully before accepting to be ordained as a subdeacon, because the canons of the Church forbid a subdeacon to marry after he is ordained. This ruling is sometimes overlooked by some bishops, but others follow strictly to the rule. Because of this ruling two types of subdeacons have evolved in the Church the ordained subdeacon and the simply "blessed" subdeacon who in reality is just an acolyte.

Duties may be similar, but the ordained subdeacon has certain duties not allowed to other helpers in the Sanctuary. 

Subdeacons, like readers, are permitted to wear a cassock, although many do so only when attending services. At all other times their dress is no different from the laity.

During the Divine Liturgy he vests with the sticharion. The sticharion is a long-sleeved tunic that reaches all the way to the ground. In addition to this, a subdeacon will also wear an orarion. The orarion will be tied around his waist, up over his shoulders (forming an X-shaped cross in back), and with the ends hanging down in front, tucked under the section around the waist in an X-shaped cross. In places where acolytes also wear orarions, they are distinct from subdeacons in that an acolytes orarion hangs straight down in front.

The ordained subdeacon has the following duties:

● Serving in the Sanctuary, generally as the head server.

● Co-ordinating and leading the serving team.

● Training new altar servers.

● Care of the altar area, including cleaning the altar area, looking after the vestments of clergy, looking after the cloths of the Holy Table, including cleaning, mending and changing them according to feasts, fasts and seasons. Preparing the Prothesis beforehand, making sure everything is in place before the start of the Office of Oblation. For this reason, he has a general blessing to touch the Holy Table, the Table of Oblation and Holy Vessels, which a blessed subdeacon, acolyte, reader and other servers may not do.

● To assist the bishop when he is presiding, by: vesting the bishop, holding the bishop's service book, carrying the bishop's staff, presenting the bishop with the dikeri and trikeri.

● Operating the veil and the curtain of the Royal Doors.

● Other duties that the bishop may assign.

● Any of the duties of a Reader, if required. He may read the reading from the Apostle at the Divine Liturgy.

● Other duties that the priest may assign.

● As a member of the minor clergy, a subdeacon - according to his abilities - might be entrusted with the duties of: cantor, catechist or other leadership roles in the community.


Outside of hierarchical services, the subdeacon serves in the altar as any other server but, as highest-ranking of the minor clergy.

In general, a subdeacon is not allowed to administer Holy Communion, this is the duty of the higher clergy, but if the priest is elderly and needs assistance, the local bishop might as an act of economy, give such a blessing to a subdeacon, if no deacon is available to assist.   

The blessed subdeacon who has not been ordained may not touch the altar or assume other prerogatives of ordained subdeacons outside services.


Hope this has been of help.


With love in Christ

Fr. Christopher