Liturgical Handbook of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad
When a Bishop celebrates with one or more Priests, but without a Deacon, how does the service proceed? Which Diaconal responsibilities are taken up by the Priests, and which by the Bishop?
Category: Hierarchical Services

While there is no formal ustav describing the arrangement of Divine Services in situations where a Hierarch serves without a Deacon (since the rubrics normally presume a Hierarchical service will be served by at least one Priest and one Deacon), there is an established tradition widespread enough as to be predictable for occasions on which the Bishop may celebrate in a parish without a Deacon serving.

General roles — Divine Liturgy:

  • In general, the Priest takes over the Deacon’s role of leading the people in prayer by proclaiming the Litanies, though he does so from his customary place in the Altar (at the side of the Holy Table) and not on the amvon. (At the Vigil, he does so from the amvon.)
  • In most cases, when the Priest proclaims a Litany in such a situation, he also proclaims the exclamation at its end; however, there are a few exceptions to this. The Bishop will always proclaim the following exclamations, even if the Priest has said the Litany:
    • ‘For Holy art Thou, O Our God…’ (before the Trisagion)
    • ‘For a merciful God art Thou…’ (at the end of the Litany of Fervent Supplication)
    • The exclamation at the end of the Litany for the Departed (if appointed)
    • ‘That being kept always under Thy dominion, we may send up glory unto Thee…’ (at the end of the Second Litany of the Faithful)
    • ‘Through the compassions…’ (before the Creed)
    • ‘And vouchsafe us, O Master that with boldness and without condemnation…’ (before the Our Father)
    • ‘For thou art our sanctification…’ (at the Litany of Thanksgiving)
  • The Bishop, rather than the Priest, will bestow the peace upon the people in all cases.

Specific notes:

  • The censings will normally be done by the Priest, who asks for the Bishop’s blessing upon the incense before each. (The Bishop may elect to cense prior to the prayer of the Cherubic hymn.) The Bishop will cense the Holy Gifts on the Holy Table at the time of the hymn to the Theotokos, as usual.
  • During the threefold recitation of both the Cherubic Hymn and the Prayer of the Third Hour, where the Deacon normally says the refrains between the recitations, the Priest does not do so in the absence of a Deacon; rather, the Bishop will himself recite the prayer and the refrains.
  • During the Creed, the Bishop and Priest (if only one) will together raise the aer over the gifts; but if there is more than one Priest, they will elevate it over the Bishop’s head in the customary way. The Priest will fold the aer and set it aside after the Creed is complete.
  • During the Eucharistic Canon, the Diaconal actions are assumed by the Bishop, not the Priest (e.g. the elevation of the star during ‘Singing the triumphal hymn, shouting, crying aloud, and saying…’). The Deacon’s commands at the consecration (‘Bless, Master, the Holy Bread’, etc.) are omitted.
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