October 13, 2001
The Pious Pastors
of the Holy Diocese of Denver
All things should be done decently and in order. (1 Corinthians 14:40)
Beloved in the Lord,
Whenever two or more clergy concelebrate in the divine and holy
services of our Church, as well as when clergy concelebrate with the
hierarch, a definite order of seniority is followed so that, as the
Apostle Paul says, the services be done
decently and in order.
Accordingly, please abide by the following guidelines at all
concelebrated services in this holy and God-protected Diocese.
First and foremost, as our theology teaches there is always only one Celebrant at the Divine Liturgy: our Lord Jesus Christ Who is iconographically represented by the hierarch or, in his absence by the senior priest.
All other priests participating in the Divine Liturgy or other services of the Church are concelebrants, not cocelebrants. Consequently it is only the senior priest who stands before the Holy Altar while the other priests stand on the south (right) and north (left) sides of the Altar. These other (junior) priests never stand before the altar, except to receive Communion and when joining together to make reverences (e.g., prior to the Great Entrance and before the Creed).
In regard to seniority, the Chancellor of the Diocese is the direct representative of the Hierarch and thus takes precedence over all other clergy. The Pastor of a parish is the direct representative of the diocesan hierarch to a parish, and as such is the senior concelebrant ex officio, regardless of ordination date or ecclesiastical office, in the absence of the Hierarch or the Chancellor.
Whenever the pastor invites a retired or visiting priest to concelebrate, the pastor himself shall therefore be the senior celebrant, and all concelebrating clergy take their places according to offikion and ordination date.
When an Archimandrite visits another parish, however, the pastor should accord him the place of seniority in view of his ecclesiastical rank. In this case the pastor becomes the second in seniority and takes his place at the south (right) side of the altar, or may choose not to concelebrate as seems proper to him.
Similarly, when an older and more senior priest visits a parish with a much younger pastor, the pastor might consider inviting the visitor to be the celebrant while he remains in the altar vested in his rasso Ð and at communion with his epitrachelion Ð if he does not choose to celebrate.
It is not appropriate for clergy, retired or active, to stand among
the congregation; instead they should either be concelebrants or take
their place standing in the sanctuary. Clergy attending the divine
services standing in the sanctuary area, are vested in their rassa. At
the Divine Liturgy they vest in the epitrachelion after the exclamation,
Let us be attentive: Holy Things for the holy, and receive Communion after all
of the concelebrating clergy according to seniority.
In regard to seniority among concelebrant clergy, this is determined first according to the offikion, and then by ordination date.
The various offikia are honorary awards that may be bestowed upon a priest by his diocesan bishop. Historically the offikia corresponded to functions performed by the clergy. The Pnevmatikos was a priest acknowledged as a confessor, or spiritual father. The Sakellarios was responsible for the sacred vessels and other appointments, while the Oikonomos was an overseer or manager. Strictly speaking, offikia are applicable only within the diocese in which they were awarded.
In practice today, these honorary awards and their titles are an acknowledgment of faithful service to the Church, and are recognized across diocesan boundaries throughout the Archdiocese of America.
Married clergy may be awarded the offikia of Pnevmatikos, Sakellarios, Oikonomos, and Protopresbyter; celibate clergy may normally only be awarded the offikia of Pnevmatikos and Archimandrite.
I am enclosing a seniority list of diocesan clergy, which is correct at present although future bestowals of offikia will obviously result in changes thereto.
Let none of us, however, become
puffed up in view of these honorary
awards and their titles. Always keep in mind that we have responded to
the divine call not for any other reason but to serve God's people, even
if it means to do so in a sacrificial manner and at the expense of our
personal time and resources. On the Great Day we will have to give an
accounting, not to our spouses or to our children or to any parish
council, or to anyone else except the Lord Who gave to us this great
commission to feed His sheep.
"The office of the priesthood is performed on earth, but it ranks among the heavenly things. And with good reason; for this ministry was set up not by an angel, or an archangel, or by any created power, but by the Paraclete Himself ... He commanded that men who are still in the flesh should imitate the actions of angels. Therefore, the priest ought to be as pure as if he stood among those powers in heaven." Saint John Chrysostom
With Paternal Blessings,
of the Diocese of Denver