By Sbdcn. Nathan (Symeon) Adams
On Aug. 18th 2018, I was tonsured and ordained to the minor orders of Candle Bearer, Cantor, Reader, and Subdeacon at the Shrine of our Lady of Mariapoch, located in Burton, Ohio. I was ordained by Archbishop Cyril Vasil, Secretary of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches.
My three years at Seminary had prepared me for this moment: all of the liturgical preparation, the growth in the church, the spiritual support of our Director of Spiritual Formation, Fr. Will Rupp, and the other forms of preparedness along the way made the experience more profound. Two preliminary remarks from fellow seminarians most stuck with me throughout the ordinations and the other celebrations at the pilgrimage. Melkite Seminarian Mikhael Naddaf reminded me that while it is true that the works of the minor-orders are already practiced by un-ordained altar servers, the subdeacon is ordained, so graced by the Holy Spirit to accomplish this office. Secondly, fellow Ruthenian, Eparchy of Parma, seminarian Miron Kerul’-Kmec pointed out that all of the ordinations move the ordained progressively closer to the holy altar, that is, towards the mysteries. These two themes guide my own reflection of the ordinations I underwent.
The ordination to all four minor orders in one service permits a snap shot story of progression towards the holy altar. With the ordination to Reader the progression ensues. “Son,” said Archbishop Cyril, “the Order of Reader is the first step to the priesthood.” There is a reminder of this progress in the ordination to the subdiaconate, “You [God] have bestowed various orders upon your Church and have established different degrees of ministry for the service of your holy and pure mysteries.” The subdeacon (likely the main sacristan of the ancient church) is exhorted to light the candles of the altar. The altar becomes his home, his natural habitation. As the service for the ordination of a subdeacon says, “Master, keep him blameless in everything, and grant that he may love the beauty of your house, stand at the doors of your holy church, and light the candles of the dwelling of your glory. Plant him in your Church as a fruitful olive tree bearing the fruits of righteousness.”
The progress towards the holy altar likewise requires a more serious calling to purity. I was exhorted, “As you read the Holy Scriptures, strive for virtue day by day. Never allow anything to disgrace the order you have received as you await a higher order. Live peacefully in righteousness and holiness and you will win favor with God and be advanced to a higher ministry.” The subdeacon is not only called to be blameless, but “blameless in everything” and “perfect in everything.” The context of this responsibility is thankfully a prayer for the Master’s providential grace for the subdeacon. If the exhortation to be holy is encouraging, the affirmation of the subdeacon is invariably humbling: “You have appointed your servant Nathan worthy to minister to your holy Church.” As I stood before the icon of Christ, my eyes covered by a servant’s towel, I could only peer into the eyes of Christ in his holy icon. Face to fact, like a horse with blinders, there was nowhere else to turn. I was called to serve at his holy altar. I simply said to the Lord, “I know myself to be unworthy, but I do accept the responsibility you have given me.”
Please pray for me as I progress towards the Lord’s holy mysteries in my final year of seminary.