A Reflection by Reader Riley Winstead
Bishop Nicholas Samra of the Melkite Eparchy of Newton recently called me and fellow-seminarian, Mikhael Naddaf, to the order of reader. We were ordained to this minor order at our home parish in McLean, Virginia – Holy Transfiguration – at evening vespers on Saturday, the 16th of November 2019.
The Reader is the lowest rank of orders. The office of Reader is a commitment to Christ and to the Melkite Church that we will serve through chanting the Scriptures, a responsibility we take seriously. Though it is a minor order, that does not mean that the commitment is unimportant: the Scriptures we will chant in the Divine Liturgy must also be proclaimed by our lives. Christ supplies the Church with many gifts and callings, all of which work together to build up the Body of Christ (I Cor. 12:4-12). In a major ordination, the Bishop prays for the Spirit to fulfill what is lacking, and this is generally understood to refer to the man being ordained, to strengthen his human weakness with divine grace. This prayer can also be understood as a petition to fulfill what is lacking in the parish community: if someone is not engaged in the parish or an order of clergy is missing, something is lacking. Similarly, the minor orders reflect vital roles in the community; in this case, that role is to proclaim the Scriptures liturgically, to assist in chanting the divine services, and to live the Scriptural truths proclaimed in the liturgy.
Just like the engagement of the families of the parish fill the community with life, joy, and zeal, so too do the ranks of clergy fill the church with specific ministerial functions. We all benefit from each other’s commitment to Christ and to the local parish community. I pray that our own human frailty will not be an obstacle to God’s divine work in and through us, and that we will be strengthened to serve the community that we love. In the wake of the loss of our beloved pastor Fr. Joseph, his memory and legacy gives us a model of the servant leadership that characterizes the service of the clergy.
Both Mikhael and I have taken this step together, but this is only the beginning as we continue our studies in the Seminary. We will continue working at improving our chant, continuing our academic studies, and improving ourselves in all aspects of formation so that we can be better instruments of Christ in his Church.
I think it is fitting that the ordinations took place in the beginning of the Nativity Fast, as this highlights the spiritual preparation we undergo during our time in the Seminary. Now that we have accepted this office, we must be faithful to it, so that even in the lower orders, our faithfulness to Christ in smaller matters may lead to faithfulness in greater responsibilities we will undertake in the future (Luke 16:10).