Monday, September 13, 2010

Eucharistic Vestments II - What to do with that spare pastor.

If you have been to a few North American Lutheran parishes with more than one pastor, you have probably witnessed the bewilderment about what to do with that spare pastor on Sunday morning. The rubrics in our hymnals speak about "assisting ministers" - but where do they stand? What exactly do they do? How do they vest?

Serving as one of these misplaced pastors is an odd experience. It gives one a distinctive third wheel feeling when one is to read the Gospel lesson, for example, but just sort of hang out over at the left end of the chancel while the celebrant leads the rest of the service.

But there is no need for this to be either confusing or stressful - the assisting minister should simply vest and serve as a liturgical deacon. Of course, if yours is one of the few parishes that is blessed with a real live ordained deacon, all the better! But it is appropriate for any pastor to serve the deacon's liturgical role when he is called upon to assist in the Divine Service.

Detailed rubrics for such a celebration with deacon, and even subdeacon, can be found in the edition of Piepkorn and McClean that Fr. Petersen caused to be published.

A deacon is most appropriately vested in alb (and amice), cincture, deacon's stole, dalmatic, and maniple.

I have found that even pastors who are unfamiliar with a liturgical deacon's role much appreciate being involved in the service in such a thought-out and dignified manner - as more than an afterthought. We join with two other parishes for Ascension and Epiphany services and keep a set of vestments - dalmatic and tunicle - for these occasions. A copy of Piepkorn/McClean and a matching set of chasube, dalmatic, and tunicle would be a fine addition for any circuit that regularly gathers together for such services.

And for the parish with two or more pastors, contrast the unity and beauty of this manner of conducting the Divine Service with the simulcast approach becoming more and more popular in certain circles. In this model, two services occur at the same time, the second beginning some 15 or 20 minutes after the first service. This allows the preacher to move from one worship space to the other.

Such a procedure is American in more than just its efficiency. Lost is the idea of the Divine Service as a unified act, a pressing together of the whole people of God in that place toward a common goal: receiving the blessing of God together, as community. The sermon, and the bearer thereof, is very much the cog dropped into the machine at just the right spot and time.

In sum, making use of multiple pastors by using the traditional liturgical roles of celebrant, deacon, and subdeacon adds a sense of unity, beauty, dignity, and reverence to the Divine Service.



  1. Surely I am misunderstanding you; you would put a presbyter in the vestment of a deacon just because the presbyter is fulfilling a traditional diaconal/subdiaconal role??? Tell me it's not so. You are not a functionalist???

  2. Yeah, I would think celebrant vests stole & chasuble and "spare" pastor vests alb & stole.

    But, I'm "just a seminarian, I don't know a lot about that. You'll have to ask..."

  3. I appreciate this post, and would simply want to add that this procedure is especially fitting in the case of pastors who have actually been ordained into the diaconate. Those deacons who have gone on to priestly vocation should know that they never cease being a deacon.

    And I would respectfully suggest to Fr. Weedon that the functionalist approach is where those who are in neither the diaconate nor the priesthood are allowed and encouraged to don the dalmatic and maniple, read the Gospel in the Mass (even saying "The Lord be with you"), and handle the Eucharist, such as what sometimes happens in campus ministries, and field education.

    I would also add the thought that it is fitting to have an acolyte, or what some rubricians call a "server," at Mass, where that is possible. And one fact that Lutherans often fail to remember is that the acolyte serving in the Mass need not be a boy of a certain age category. If you once were trained an acolyte, and now, fifty years later, you are at a church, where the pastor is going to say Mass, but has no one to serve, you can volunteer to do so (if you still remember how, and have knees that work). Deacons and pastors especially should guard against thinking that they graduated long ago from being an acolyte. It is not absolutely necessary, but is very good and helpful and fitting, to have an acolyte at every Mass, even Low Mass. At our parish we presently do not have trained acolytes (besides me). Nor do we have subdeacons. Therefore at Low Mass I serve as acolyte, and on Sundays I serve as acolyte, subdeacon, and deacon. (That means that on Sunday I wear the tunicle under the dalmatic...just joking.)

    I'm also reminded of a couple of anecdotes from the life of Father Solanus Casey. One was a special occasion where he, and, I think, his two brothers, were together for an anniversary. Together, they had High Mass, one being celebrant, one deacon, and the third subdeacon, even though all three were priests. The second anecdote that comes to mind is from when Casey was an old man, about 86 years old. A visiting priest was celebrating Mass in the monastery's chapel, and only knew that there was a old monk serving him as acolyte; then, at breakfast he came to realize that it was Father Solanus, who loved the Mass so much that he was glad to serve.

  4. Fr. Weedon,

    The reverend deacon has you dead to rights :)

    Yes, it is entirely appropriate for a presbyter to serve as a liturgical deacon and dress as such. This is an old, old tradition. Why, the Bishop of Rome himself wears a tunicle underneath everything else at high pontifical mass. The Office, after all, is one and unitary, and indivisible.

    Why even the Bishop of the NID wears the dalmatic while serving down here in Worden!


  5. One more thing - have a look in Ceremonies of the Modern Roman Rite. The authors have a very good discussion of this Western tradition. In sum: if you have a deacon on hand, he should serve the role. But if all you have is a presbyter, then he should vest and serve as liturgical deacon.

    Lutherans have never, to my knowledge, been much into concelebration - which would be expressed by more than one fellow wearing a chasuble.

    The other appropriate option for "spare" pastors would be choir dress (cassock, surplice, stole) and sitting in choir (say, the first pew). But wandering around up front in alb and stole is, I argue, not the best solution by a country mile.


  6. Of course, besides being a closet humanist I am also a post-modernist, and think it is quite fine for the people to pray the Our Father, so my words may not have the weight this group requires, but here there are nonetheless: the modern Missouri default is that the stole is a mark of ordination. That is sort of true historically but it was always and only worn by ordained men over an alb under either a chasuble, dalmatic, or tunicle. But let us just take that as the default. If you're celebrating at a Vespers service wear a cassock, surplice, and stole - and keep your yap shut about it. The stole means you're ordained. A tibbet means you're either an Episcoplean or a High Church Presbyterian. As far as functionalism goes, the chasuble, dalmatic, and tunicle do not indicate rank or position but function. That is there should only be one chasuble at a mass because there is only one celebrant. The bishop shouldn't wear a chasuble if he is not consecrating. He should wear a cope. A pastor assisting could wear a cassock, surplice, and stole - esp if he is only preaching. But if he is going to serve in the liturgical role of deacon, then he could well wear the dalmatic. The confusion, Fr. Weedon, is that deacon is both a position in the Ministerium and a liturgical role, unlike celebrant or subdeacon.



  7. I am willing to rethink it, I am still not persuaded as to the propriety of the practice. Can you share some of the historical info on this? I'd appreciate it.

  8. Fr. Petersen,

    Your closet humanism and blatant post-modernism can be forgiven for you proved your orthodoxy a couple years ago at Octoberfest when you accused the Rev. Fr. Editor of not believing in the Real Presence because he didn't wear a maniple.

    I am happy to report that he has since repented and be readmitted to the Fellowship.


  9. I tend to think that he should simply get to be a hearer for that day. Rest, hear, be fed. Nothing wrong with that =o) If you have two pastors, let them alternate weeks.

  10. Fr. Brown,

    On the other hand, as someone who has served as an assistant pastor: that would have driven me nuts. I was ordained to serve the people. Any week I don't get to fulfill my calling and duty feels, somehow, empty.

    In this case, what is Gospel to one is most certainly not Gospel to another.


  11. Reverend Fathers and Brothers:

    On those occasions when you have a "spare" pastor, it is fitting, and traditional, that he serve in the role of Deacon. He vests accordingly and performs the deacon's duties. If, as in some cases, you then have a "spare" deacon, the deacon would vest and serve as sub-deacon.

    At my church we have been served by two pastors. On these occasions one celebrated and the other would preach. The Deacon would serve as lector and also proclaim the Gospel. This, at least, was the local custom.

    If you have a deacon or sub-deacon that is not ordained, the deacon would not wear a stole, and neither would wear a maniple.

    It is historic and traditional that the minister vest in the habit of the office that he fulfills at that particular mass.

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  13. But... three chasubles in the Divine Service are so pretty.

  14. "I tend to think that he should simply get to be a hearer for that day. Rest, hear, be fed. Nothing wrong with that =o) If you have two pastors, let them alternate weeks."

    Fr. Brown:
    I don't know if I'd say that's wrong, but there is something not quite right about it. In general, I think it befits the proper attitude of the ministers of the Church to want, as often as possible, to serve at the altar (even when on vacation). Oh, and when I say "ministers" I definitely do not have in mind the definition used in the LCMS Lutheran Annual. Goodness, that would mean we'd have all kinds of people at the altar, just about everyone EXCEPT deacons.

  15. "The bishop shouldn't wear a chasuble if he is not consecrating. He should wear a cope."

    Fr. Petersen:
    I won't argue with this, but will suggest that when a bishop (of one's communion) is present, he ought to be asked to be the celebrant.

  16. I also have to disagree with Fr. Brown (wasn't he Chesterton's clerical detective in the mystery stories?).

    Maybe it's just me, but I am never so uncomfortable as when I have to be "in the pew." Some guys like to sit with their wives and wear street clothes. I hate that. I love my wife, but I don't belong in the pew with her. And I refuse to go into a church "in mufti." I would rather be vested and assist in some way. It used to be considered good etiquette to offer a visiting clergyman a role in the Mass - although I think nowadays it might be considered rude to "make him work on his day off." Pastors are also "fed" by the Divine Service - but given that we believe the ministry is a vocation (rather than a function), I can't simply flip a switch and laicize for the day. The best solution is to avoid vacations entirely. They are overrated. They are far too stressful. Better to be at ease in the chancel, to rest and be fed in the presbyterial vocation rather than to be stressed out in impersonating a layman. Honesty is just so much less stressful. ;-)

    And I do agree that vesting liturgically as a deacon is appropriate for presbyters if they are serving in that role. When I used to serve with a senior pastor, we both vested as presbyters, but the celebrant wore the chasuble that week (while the non-celebrant was the preacher). That was the arrangement, and somehow, I don't think the senior pastor would have worn his stole diagonally while the associate pastor did not. Some of our LCMS terminology complicates matters.

    I was consecrated a deacon while on vicarage and count it a high honor. As Deacon Gaba pointed out, being ordained a priest does not remove a man from the order of deacons. In fact, we would do well for all of our pastors to serve a year as a deacon. Consecrating (or ordaining, if you prefer) men to the diaconate on vicarage would also address some other problems.

    As my wise classmate said: "What we need in the LCMS are male deaconesses."

    One of these days, I am going to serve with a brother pastor at the altar and put my stole on diagonally. It is a good reminder that we are servants.

  17. Fr. Curtis:

    Your idea of having attending ministers in choir dress, and sitting "in choir," should not be overlooked. In a sense, this is not unknown in Missouri, for I have noticed that whenever there is a big celebration that brings large numbers of priests, we tend to follow much the same procedure, such as ordinations, or "call night," memorably also my late pastor's funeral in 2003. Unfortunately, the trend on those occasions seems to be for guys to wear alb & stole, but hey, old dogs can learn new tricks right? The difference between having clergy in choir on those special occasions and having them do so for any Sunday Mass, beside Fr. Beane's point that we need to get away from the idea that a pastor needs to sit with his wife, is I think, the fact that we need to move toward the notion that the Mass is a special, solemn event, even when there is not something unusual like an ordination or call service. Having said all this, I would emphasize that having clergy in choir should be for those not needed that day for deacon & subdeacon. Those spots should be filled first, ideally.

  18. Marvelous and much needed topic. Yes, by all means, let's get rid of the nomenclature of assisting ministers, and make them deacons. Let's get liturgical!

    Being a bit of an anglophile, as Petersen knows, I also like the distinction that is made in their circles between deacons, who are ordained, and subdeacons, who need not be. I have a subdeacon here, who is not ordained. As such, he does not distribute the cup (well, there's another topic!), but serves among other things to maintain the integrity of the items on the altar (in medieval times, the subdeacon's appointment occasioned the providing to him of a liturgical item whose name I don't recall, but which has the function of being a fly swatter; I'm not kidding).

    And on the maniple, yes, it is true: This celebrant now wears one. And although I do like the idea that it's a confession of the real presence, I'm not altogether sure that's correct, since the vesting prayer for the maniple says nothing about that. Still a nice thought, though.

  19. Since we don't have manipula (plural?) here at my congregation, I would assume the draped purificator over the index finger will suffice? ;-)

  20. The matter of the subdeacon, and his relationship with the deacon, is a rich and an important topic of its own. On the one hand, it is significant that the subdiaconate is part of the sacred service at the altar, and so the subdeacon wears the maniple, and the eucharistic vestment of the tunicle. (And this, by the way, is a further and important sign of the inappropriateness of women serving as subdeacon, or of filling any aspect of the subdiaconate in a place, such as being the lector.)

    On the other hand, there is a crucial and qualitative distinction, as Fr. Eckardt points out, between the subdeacon and the deacon. This is traditionally made clear in the Mass by the fact that the subdeacon does not touch the sacred vessels with his bare hands. He uses the humeral veil for this purpose (bringing the chalice from the credence table to the altar, for example). And (in the West) he does not wear a stole.

  21. I am still hoping that someone can supply some historical data on presbyters vesting as deacons to serve in the liturgy?

  22. Does anyone have access to Caeremoniale Episcoporum, par. 22. At least according to some sites online it suggests that the priest may offer the deacon's liturgy, but is to do so vested as a priest.

  23. Dear William:

    Traditionally, all presbyters are also deacons, and all bishops are also deacons and presbyters. I don't believe there has ever been an "exit rite" upon ordination to priest or bishop.

    But I do see your point, and I think it would be interesting to see how vesting within both grade by human right and by liturgical function has played out historically.

  24. Here is the paragraph:

    Ceremonial of Bishops 22: “Presbyters taking part in a liturgy with the bishop should do only what belongs to the order of presbyter; in the absence of deacons they may perform some of the ministries proper to the deacon, but should never wear diaconal vestments.”

    I do not know if this governs SOLELY pontifical masses (that seems to be its intent?). I know this is current Roman law; I have no idea how old it is.

  25. "it suggests that the priest may offer the deacon's liturgy, but is to do so vested as a priest"

    That is interesting, Fr. Weedon. I would be quite interested in more info on that statement, its context, what is really intended by it, etc. Here is my thought: when a priest celebrates a sung Mass, and is on his own in the chancel, then, yes, he does all three parts, but does not do any dress changes mid-Mass. He is vested in the chasuble. If, however, he is serving as deacon in a Mass that has a separate celebrant, then I cannot see him vesting as the celebrant. It is in no way a demotion or denial of one's priesthood to wear the dalmatic and serve as deacon on a given occasion.

    I have been a deacon for just over a year, and so this past Easter was my first as a deacon. Therefore I invited a visiting priest and friend of our parish to serve as deacon at the Paschal Vigil, since I am not yet trained in chanting. Fr. Gary did an excellent job, of course. He wore my dalmatic. I served as subdeacon.

    In general, however, my own opinion is that where you have the availability of one whose particular vocation is to be deacon, he should be used for that purpose even when priests are in attendance. There are certain aspects of the liturgy (the Praeconium Paschale comes to mind in a special way, since I brought up the Vigil in the last paragraph) which are distinctly "diaconal moments" (to borrow a phrase used by John Zuhlsdorf: ).
    Those holy functions, then, befit the use of vestments distinctive to them (unless the priest is celebrating Mass with no assistants). (Note well, any literalists who may be reading this: the use of the word function does not imply functionalism.)

  26. Fortescue uses the 1886 edition of the Caeremoniale. I'd love to compare it with the modern edition.

  27. Fr. Weedon,

    I'm on the run now, but I'll try to remember to get you the paragraphs from Ceremonies of the Modern Roman Rite when I get a chance to be back in the office.


  28. Just want to clarify: The subdeacon does wear the maniple, even if he isn't ordained? I ask because at Zion Detroit, the subdeacon does not wear the maniple. Thanks!

  29. Brian:

    The maniple is the distinctive mark of those who have attained to the subdiaconate. (The absence of the maniple in modern Roman Catholic parishes, or what is unfortunately termed the "ordinary use" of the Roman Rite, is partly due to the disappearance of the subdiaconate in that realm.)

    Lutheran "liturgical renewal," in vogue in the 1970s & onward, was a blessing in many ways, but I think one of the reasons some of this gets confused in some quarters of Lutheranism today is that that movement (which I don't condemn wholesale because it was one of the forebears of our own present day liturgical-Confessional movement) was too dependent on many of the assumptions that came out of the changes put in place after the Second Vat. Council. I'm not implying this as an explanation for what happens at Zion, Detroit, just making a general comment.

    Adrian Fortescue concisely summarizes the subdeacon's vesture at the altar in an early edition of his work thus: "The subdeacon at Mass wears the amice, alb, girdle, maniple, no stole, but a tunicle made in much the same shape as the deacon's dalmatic, but with longer and narrower sleeves."

  30. What, that's it? You guys done here? Maybe Curtis could show us some pictures of some vestment designs.

  31. I am not done here; I'm still hoping for some of the historical evidence of priests vesting as deacons/subdeacons to assist at the Mass. I'm not disputing it exists; but I'm not aware of it myself, history of vestments not being an area of expertise. Sadly, I've lent by Stiller, because I have a recollection of some discussion of vestments in it that might confirm Fr. Heath's contentions.

  32. At the moment I can only think of certain anecdotes, such as the one I mentioned earlier, of the early 20th century example of Solanus Casey. He was a Capuchin, and part of the Latin Roman Rite, and his example is hardly treated as unusual or new. However, at this time I lack resources to study the matter more definitively.

  33. Let me share a word from J. B. O'Connell's The Celebration of Mass. It does not qualify as "historical evidence." However, as a scholarly commentary on the traditional rubrics of the Latin Rite, I find it helpful. From p.468:

    "Only a priest may act as a substitute for a deacon but a cleric in Minor Orders or at least tonsured may, for a reasonable cause, act as substitute for a subdeacon...

    "If a priest and a deacon are available to fulfil the office of deacon and subdeacon, either may take the part of the subdeacon. Some rubricians say the priest should act as deacon because of his greater dignity; others say the deacon should do so since it is his special office. The question has not been authoritatively decided...

    "Only the celebrant, deacon, and subdeacon may wear vestments. All others wear cassock and surplice; even the M.C., if he is a canon or prelate, must not wear his robes."

  34. "This chasuble was worn only by the liturgist functioning at the altar, while the other clergy wore the white surplice over the black cassock. In connection with the dedication of New Church in 1699 we are told explicitly that before the end of the musical rendering of the Kyrie 'both clergymen, namely the head deacon in the chasuble, but Magister Werner in the surplice, came out of the sacristy' (AG, p. 29). This report also informs us that in Leipzig the eucharistic vestments were worn not only during the celebration of the Communion but throughout the service." Stiller, p. 65.

    "Likewise, the various liturgical functions in the services, to th extent these were to be done by the clergy, were distributed among the clergy according to a consistently and precisely observed schedule for all Sunday and festival services as well as for the individual weekdays. All main and Vesper services on Sundays and festivals, as well as all weekday services that included a sermon, were during all of the 18th century in Leipzig always conducted by several clergymen. In the main services of the two main churches two clergymen always officiated in addition to the pastor of the church, who only preached the sermon and made the announcements. One of these served as liturgist at the altar, and the other as lector and as assistant in the distribution of the Lord's Supper. Of course, in keeping with an old tradition, the reading of the Gospel was often done by the priest serving at the altar. Thus we hear in 1694 that the Epistle 'was chanted by the deacon at the lectern,' but the Gospel 'by the priest at the lectern' (LKA, pp. 14ff.). For the sake of clarification, the pertinent description in the Leipziger Kirchen-Staat may be quoted: 'After the collect has been chanted, another priest steps to the lectern and chants the Epistle. . . . After the hymn the priest at the altar chants the Gospel' (LKS, p.6)." Stiller, p. 69.

    It appears from the preceding discussion that there are several "priests," one of whom is "pastor," and others are "archdeacon," "deacon," or "subdeacon."


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