AXIOS! Subdeacon Roman Marchyshak Ordained to Deaconate
AXIOS! Subdeacon Roman Marchyshak Ordained to Deaconate

The ministry of the deacon is based in the ministry which Christ performed for us. This ministry is one of service and is expressed by Christ with these words: “I am among you as one who serves.” (Luke 22:27)

With these words Christ reversed the order of things, for He who is higher than the heavens became a servant for our salvation. The master becomes a servant and makes service to others the path of salvation.

“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles Lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you; but whosoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whosoever would be first among you must be your slave;” (Matthew 20:25)

Service is basic to Christian spirituality for it is by our unselfish and obedient service to others—with all the suffering and humiliation that this implies—that we participate in the divine life of God.  The Apostles were the first to receive this function of service from Christ and they in turn set up an official priesthood to insure its continuation in the Church. They appointed the first bishops and deacons so that Christ’s ministry might be extended and maintained for the salvation of all.

Service is fundamental in Christian spirituality, as it is through our selfless and obedient acts of service to others, even amidst the associated suffering and humility, that we engage in the divine Grace of God. The Apostles were the initial recipients of this service role from Christ, and they, in turn, established an official priesthood to ensure its perpetual presence within the Church. They designated the inaugural bishops and deacons with the purpose of extending and upholding Christ's ministry for the ultimate salvation of all.

Very early in the Church, as recorded in the Book of Acts, the words “deacon” (which translates to mean servant or waiter) and “diaconate” came to be used as the designation of a specific office, part of the official ministry of the Church. The Book of Acts tells us that, with the expansion of the Church, the Apostles were unable to perform all that them as travelling ministers of the word. They appointed bishops to preside over the Christian communities so that they might continue their preaching. Deacons were also chosen from among the faithful to assist in the work of the Church and as co-workers with the bishops.

Originally, seven deacons were chosen, and their duties were twofold. First, they had the responsibility of gathering the food and other goods which were brought to the Church as offerings, and of distributing these donations as the philanthropy of the entire community to the needy whom the Church supported. It was also their duty to prepare for the Eucharistic gatherings and the common meals in which the whole Church participated. Consequently, the deacon’s role was both to extend the Church’s charity to those who required it and to lead the people in the liturgical gatherings.

The notion of serving at tables had a profound early influence on deacons’ association with angels. Just as angels serve God, deacons serve the divine feast within the sacred Church. As a result, the style and structure of deacon's attire not only reflect their likeness to angels but also the practical aspects of their service at the altar and their connection to the bishop. Hence, the deacon's stole, known as the orarion, which he dons before approaching the Holy Table during the Anaphora, is often likened to the wings of angels.

Deacons would gather all the items necessary for the Liturgy and prepare them in a separate room, bringing them in to the church at the appointed time, preceding to the altar and presenting these gifts to the priest as an offering of the people.  This is the origin of our Great Entrance and the reason why even today the deacon carries the holy paten at the Entrance and announces:

All of us, and all pious and Orthodox Christians, May the Lord God remember in His Kingdom, now and ever and unto ages of ages.

The Deaconate of the Church continues from the Early Church through today, assisting the bishops and clergy, and serving at the Holy Altar, to the members of the Body of Christ, and to the world, surrounded and aided by Seraphim who serve eat their side, aiding and guiding them, and interceding for them before the Lord.  Entering this Holy Order is a blessing and an honor for any man.

On Saturday October 21st, the faithful of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA gathered in the Three Holy Hierarchs Chapel of the Saint Sophia Ukrainian Orthodox Seminary to celebrate the Divine Liturgy and to support and pray for one such man, Subdeacon Roman Marchyshak, who was to be ordained into the Deaconate of the Church.

On the chilly autumn morning, the chapel glowed warmly and invited everyone to come in and warm their bodies and their souls.  As the chapel filled the seminarians gathered near the entryway to greet His Eminence Archbishop Daniel, Ruling Hierarch of the Western Eparchy of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA and Vice-Chairman of the Seminary Board, as well as an instructor in the Seminary, who would be performing the laying on of hands upon their brother seminarian Roman this day, in the presence of His Eminence Metropolitan Antony, Prime Hierarch of the UOC of the USA and the Diaspora.

Stepping up with a korovaj (round bread) two of the students who just joined the seminary this year, greeted the Archbishop.  Seminarian Bohdan Bodnar shyly expressed on behalf of his brother seminarians, warm greetings and gratitude to His Eminence in Ukrainian, as Seminarian Marian Meleshko greeted him in English, proudly showing off his vastly improved English skills.  With a warm smile for the young man their hierarch graciously accepted their well wishes and assured them of his continued prayers. 

The young men stepped aside to make room for Very Rev. Fr. Vasyl Pasakas, Seminary Dean of Students, who offered Archbishop Daniel a blessing cross and also warmly greeted him on this crucial day in the history of the Seminary, the ordination of one of their own.  Accepting and kissing the cross, His Eminence presented it to the various clergy who had gathered at the chapel to celebrate this joyous occasion.

The Divine Liturgy began with the deep and resounding voices of the seminarians chanting and singing directed by Subdeacon Roman Marchyshak, highlighted by the happy gurgles and giggles of the numerous children who had joined their mothers, wives of the seminarians and clergy, in the chapel.  Soon to be “Deacon”, Subdeacon Roman glowed a the Biblical “pearl of great worth” as he directed the seminarians all dressed in their black cassocks, while himself wearing ornate white vestments.

The Gospel Reading on this day, read in Ukrainian by Deacon Pavlo Vysotskyi and in English by Protodeacon Ihor Mahlay was from the Gospel of Luke Chapter 5:27-32, retelling how Christ had seen Levi, a tax collector, and told him to “Follow Me.”  Levi did just that, and later invited Christ to dine with him.  The Scribes and Pharisees seeing Jesus eating with tax collectors and sinners complained against Him, but Christ replied stating, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.  I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”

Fr. Vasyl Pasakas gave a moving sermon in English expounding on the reading, explaining how difficult it was for Levi to “follow” Christ, leaving behind his wealth and comfort, and going among the people who disliked him.  It was a great sacrifice and a difficulty for him to follow Christ, but he was determined and he was successful.  Once Christ called Levi (Matthew) he became happy, he realized he did not need any of the wealth and instead he became a fisher of men.

Fr. Vasyl mentioned the book “The Old Man and the Sea., written by Ernest Hemingway.  In the story the old man sets out in a boat 84 times and returns without catching a fish.  He gets ridiculed and begins to despair, but, he has faith that one day he will in fact catch a fish, so he continues in his efforts.  On the 85th day he manages to catch a large fish, a marlin, which is longer than his little boat, and he struggles to keep afloat as the fish tries to drag him down.

Fr. Vasyl compared this story to the life of a priest, who struggles day after day, almost drowning in their efforts, and forgetting why they do what they do.  He reiterated the importance of pausing in life and remembering just why we do these things and what they mean to us and to others.  He asked the priest, seminarians, and laity present, to always remember that we make these efforts for Christ, as fishermen on His behalf, and then it all becomes clear the efforts are well worth making if only to catch and save that single fish.

As he concluded, Archbishop Daniel who was standing and attentively listening from the altar, stepped forward and delivered a sermon in Ukrainian. 

His Eminence turned to Subdeacon Roman and told him that in a matter of minutes he will be ordained, and while he will look physically the same, he will have taken upon himself a great responsibility, a responsibility to serve.  Those who serve have to curb their own desires and personal interests and learn to serve and do whatever needs doing. Those who serve have to be ready at any moment to remove their vestments, roll up their sleeves, and help in whatever needs to be done around them.  Only in this way will their fishing expeditions be successful. 

Archbishop continued by saying that if our service consisted of only serving in beautiful and ornate settings, wearing lovely vestments, it would be easy.  But our service goes much deeper.  Looking at the subdeacon he told him that soon he will be serving at the holy altar table, touching sacred items, and preaching the holy Gospel.  He must remember that those who are gathered will be listening as he reads from the Gospel.  While his deep voice will be pleasant to the ears of the listeners, the message will only resonate as deeply with them, as the true desire to share that message is with the deacon.  If he reads from his heart, wishing to share God’s word with his listeners, then those words will touch the hearts of those listening and the message of the Lord will be heard, absorbed, and will act within the souls of the faithful.  It is a huge responsibility, and a huge honor to be able to execute this service.

Reminding the young subdeacon that everyone has gathered here today to support him in his calling, the Metropolitan, himself, the assembled clergy, his brother seminarians, the faithful who had gathered in the chapel, and those who were joining them over the social media livestream, all were here for him, to honor his calling, to support him, and to pray for him.  He is not alone on this journey.  With these encouraging words Archbishop Daniel returned to the Altar and the service continued. 

At the conclusion of the Anaphora, with Christ physically present upon the Altar Table, Subdeacon Roman Marchyshak received the blessing of from his hierarch and stepped out of the altar and went to stand at the back of the chapel.  Standing beside him were Subdeacon Mykola Stefanyk and Subdeacon Yurii Izhyk.

Within moments, from the Altar Protodeacon Ihor Mahlay loudly proclaimed, “Command!”  At the directive Subdeacon Roman fell onto his knees and bowed towards the Altar.  Rising to his feet, the two subdeacons grasped him by his elbows and led him forward.  Again, was heard, “Command!”, and the young man once again fell to his knees and bowed in the middle of the Nave.  Rising up he was led forward to the Royal Gates, “Command, Holy Master, the one who presents himself before you!” echoed through the chapel, and the subdeacon entered through the Holy Gates, and was received in the altar by Protodeacon Ihor and Deacon Pavlo, who then escorted him to kneel before Archbishop Daniel, who sitting at the Northwest corner of the Altar table took a moment to give him counsel and bless him. 

The subdeacon rose and was escorted by the two deacons around the Altar table, pausing to allow the Subdeacon Roman to kiss each corner of the table.   Returning to His Eminence, he once again bowed before him kissing his hand and epigonation epigonation (palitsa).  The palitsa, which is the diamond shaped article hanging below the bishop’s knee, holds a dual meaning. First, it denotes the celebrant as a "soldier" of Christ. Second, it symbolizes the Word of God, fighting the wiles of the enemy. 

Deacon Sergii Khomitskyi and Deacon Andrii Vatrych stepped up and led the subdeacon once again around the Altar Table, and then a third time he was once again escorted around the table, this time by two priests, Fr. Vasyl Pasakas and Fr. Ivan Tchopko, who finally released him to stand before the Altar Table.  His Eminence arose, as Subdeacon Roman prostrated three times before Christ, and then got down on his knees at the southwest corner of the Table, placing his right hand over his left upon the corner, with his head humbly resting upon his hands. 

Placing his own hands atop of the candidate’s head, Archbishop Daniel read the Prayer of Ordination:

“Lord our God, in Your providence You send your Holy Spirit upon those who are ordained by Your unsearchable power to become servants to minister Your Pure Mysteries, do You Lord, look upon this man whom You have consented to be ordained by me to the service of the Diaconate and preserve him in all humility, that he may hold the mystery of the faith with a pure conscience.

Grant to him the grace which You gave to Stephen, Your first martyr, whom You called first to the ministry of Your Diaconate.  Make him worthy to please You as he serves You in the office which you, in your goodness, bestowed upon him.  For those who minister well prepare themselves for good reward; and proclaim him Your perfect servant.”

As the Archbishop was praying, and the Holy Spirit was acting, all the people present, clergy and laity, raised their voices and repeatedly sang “Lord have mercy! Господи помилуй! Kyrie, Eleison” adding their fervent prayers to those of His Eminence.

As the prayers were completed, newly ordained Deacon Roman slowly rose to his feet and stepped to the side.  Archbishop Daniel took each piece of the new deacon’s vestments, blessed them, and presented them to the people, before placing them on the newly ordained Deacon.

First was the orarion, which is the deacon’s stole that is draped over his left shoulder allowing him to raise the front portion with his right hand, like a raised angel’s wing, while reading the litanies, and performing other tasks.  As His Eminence stepped forward and raised the orarion before the people, he exclaimed “Axios!” and the people replied, “Axios! Worthy!  Гідний!”

Next Vladyka presented the cuffs, which remind the deacon that he serves by the power and Grace of God, not on his own merit, and are a symbol of the bonds that tied the Savior’s hands during His Passion.  The cuffs were followed by a ripida/church fan. The ceremonial fan is used during processions, and always stands by the Holy Table.  This fan depicts the six-winged Seraphim, and was presented to the Deacon because he now, like the Seraphim, serves as an angel at the Altar of God.  Next, the Archbishop presented the censer, followed by the Service Book, from which the Deacon will read the prayers during the services.  The final object His Eminence presented the people was the newly ordained Deacon of the Church.

Finally, taking Deacon Roman by the hand, Archbishop Daniel led him forward to present him to the people, as they exclaimed, Axios!  Axios!  Axios!  The newly ordained deacon stepped down into the nave and gave his wife a warm hug before returning to the Altar.  Deacon Roman was handed the Ripida/Church Fan as he took up his position beside the Altar table and slowly waved the fan over the Body and Blood of Christ.  Archbishop Daniel fell to his knees, along with all the clergy in the Altar as they prayed the Lord’s Prayer.  The entire time Deacon Roman slowly, humbly, and with respect waved the fan over the Altar table, just like an angel.

As the Royal Gates closed, one could hear, “Holy Things are for the Holy!”  Having regularly partaken of the Eucharist, this was nonetheless the first time the young deacon would participate in the Communion of the Clergy.  The faithful, who stood, eagerly anticipating their turn to partake, wondered how the young man must be feeling.  Deacon Roman must have been going through a myriad of emotions at the honor of standing before God at the Altar Table.

As the Royal Gates swung open, Deacon Roman emerged holding the Chalice containing the Body and Blood of Christ.  At the conclusion of the Communion Prayer, Archbishop Daniel took the Chalice from the deacon, and proceeded to commune all the people who had been so patiently waiting.

With the conclusion of Divine Liturgy, the Dismissal Prayer having been read, Archbishop Daniel, with newly ordained Deacon Roman standing beside him on the ambo, read the certificate, the Notice of Ordination.  As everyone sang Axios! Axios! Axios, His Eminence turned to the young man and stated that it has been a blessing to see him grown up and enter the Deaconate of the Church. 

Stepping out from the altar His Eminence Metropolitan Antony spoke to the newly ordained deacon.  He reiterated how in the Gospel reading Levi was a tax collector despised by his own people for having collected from the people more than Rome had dictated, most likely pocketing the more funds than what was sent on to Rome.  His people disliked him.  After Christ tells him, “follow Me,” Levi immediately realizes that what he has been doing, is not truly who he is, and he leaves everything behind and follows Him.  Later in the evening he invites his fellow tax-collectors and friends to come to his home for a meal, to which he has also invited Christ.  The tax-collectors are not longer his friends, because he has left their lifestyle of theft to follow Jesus, making them look even worse in the eyes of the public.  And yet, Levi doesn’t stumble, but follows Christ.

When Jesus first approached Levi, He already knew him.  He knew him when he was in the womb of his mother, and he was with him throughout his life onto that moment when He approached and invited Levi to join Him.  Looking at Deacon Roman, His Eminence stated that Christ also knew the young man back from when he was in his mother’s womb, and all his life He has been with him, preparing him to follow Him. 

He told the young man that God has prepared him and will continue to guide and support him through his deaconate, and into his priesthood.  The Grace of the Holy Spirit will provide him with all that he needs to be successful in this role.  He Eminence told him to make the motto of his life, “The Father is my hope. The Son is my refuge. The Holy Spirit is my protector. Glory to the holy and undivided Trinity, now and forever.”  If he truly believes this from the core of his being, that Christ chose him from many others around him as he chose Matthew (Levi), to take up this responsibility, He will give you all you need to be the perfect deacon, and the perfect servant to mankind.  The Metropolitan gave the new deacon his blessing and reminded him that he has the full support of his hierarchs and all the clergy and will be in everyone’s prayers as he works in the Lord’s vineyard.

Deacon Roman turned to him and thanked him along with Archbishop Daniel for their mentorship and support.  He explained how much he appreciated their prayers, their advice, and the efforts they each had made on his behalf, to teach him, shape him, and prepare him for the priesthood.    He stated there are no words to describe the moment when your bishop lays his hands upon your head and through them Christ touches your very soul, giving you the Living Water and the Grace of the Holy Spirit.

He thanked everyone for their support and prayers, as he entered the altar to present his hierarchs with bouquets of roses in gratitude for all they had done for him.  In turn, he himself was presented with a colorful bouquet of flowers from his brother seminarians, who expressed their pride in his accomplishment and assured him of their continuing prayers on his behalf.

Asking Fr. Ivan Tchopko to step out of the Altar, Archbishop Daniel greeted him, as this day marked the 5thanniversary of his priestly ordination.  Fr. Richard Jendris was also greeted on the 6th year anniversary from his entry to the clergy, being ordained into the deaconate.  The celebration continued as His Eminence greeted Dobrodijka Oksana with her birthday, and her little daughter Taisia’s namesday. 

His Eminence greeted everyone and thanked them for joining today’s service.  He asked that everyone remember to keep the newly ordained deacon in their prayers.  As final photos were taken, everyone began to sing Monhaya Lita.

May the Lord bless newly ordained Deacon Roman with many years of health and happiness as he serves in the Lord’s Vineyard. 

Axios!  Worthy!  Гідний!

AXIOS! Subdeacon Roman Marchyshak Ordained to Deaconate

Photos by Subdeacon Maksym Zhuravchyk

(61 images)

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