AXIOS! Subdeacon Matthew Brian Delp Ordained to Deaconate in Dover, FL
AXIOS! Subdeacon Matthew Brian Delp Ordained to Deaconate in Dover, FL

On a balmy overcast Sunday morning of December 10th, the faithful arrived at the Holy Protection of the Mother of God parish in Dover, Florida.  The little church filled with people who were excited and filled with anticipation.  This Sunday they would witness the ordination to the Holy Deaconate of fellow parishioner and graduate of the St. Sophia Ukrainian Orthodox Theological Seminary, Subdeacon Brian Matthew Delp, by the laying on of hands by His Eminence Archbishop Daniel, Ruling Hierarch of the Western Eparchy of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA.

Having attended Vespers the evening before, they still recalled their hierarch’s words during his sermon when he had instructed them to be true Christians, and not Christians in “name only”.  Subdeacon Brian and his wife, Rebecca, are examples of just this, giving of their time and resources freely in a show of true Christian charity to others throughout their lives, and expecting nothing in return.  His Eminence instructed everyone to do God’s work in circumstances that are unplanned and seemingly random to us, for God presents us daily with opportunities to do His work, we only need to keep our spiritual eyes open, and be willing to do what needs to be done. 

During Vespers, Archbishop Daniel accepted Subdeacon Brian’s profession of faith, which is required prior to ordination to the Deaconate, and blessed the candidate for ordination, along with his wife.  At the conclusion of the intimate services, His Eminence asked that everyone step up to be anointed with holy myrrh from the relics of Saint Nicholas of Myra.  What an honor it was to be present as Subdeacon Brian prepared to enter the official ranks of clergy, in the presence of their hierarch, and getting anointed with myrrh from a beloved saint and bishop.

The emotional and spiritually edifying evening left everyone feeling humbled, yet empowered, blessed and energized as they returned to church on Sunday morning.  Gathering outdoors they eagerly awaited as Archbishop Daniel, led by a procession of altar servers carrying the cross, ripidia and episcopal candles, approached the church where he was warmly greeted by Parish Council President Ellen Flynn, who presented him with the traditional bread (lovingly baked by Barbara Johnson) and salt.  This is an ancient tradition, where a bishop is welcomed to a church with a loaf of bread with a salt cellar placed on an embroidered towel.  In the Old Testament in Leviticus 2:13, the Lord instructs the Israelites that they shall season every gift of their grain offerings with salt.  In the New Testament the symbology has its origins in the words of Christ when he said, “I am the bread of life” and “You are the salt of the earth.”

Having accepted the bread and himself returning the warm greeting to the parish administrators, and the faithful who had gathered around him, His Eminence proceeded into the church where he was greeted by parish priest, Very Rev. Harry Linsinbigler who having presented him with the cross, then led the way into the nave for the start of the Divine Liturgy.  Flanked by the countless icons upon the walls surrounded them the faithful felt the very presence of the Lord and His saints as the Divine Liturgy progressed and the Holy Gospel was read.  Once again, Archbishop Daniel gave a moving sermon that left everyone teary eyed and emotionally charged, rekindling their faith and determination to be the best Christians they could be in this ever-changing world.

At the conclusion of the Anaphora, with Christ physically present upon the Altar Table, Subdeacon Brian, having received the blessing of his hierarch went to stand in the Narthex along with his brother Subdeacon Peter Flynn. Within moments, from the altar was heard “Command!” at which point Subdeacon Peter led his brother forward from the rear of the church, stopping to allow Subdeacon Brian to bow before the holy icon, and before entering the altar where he was greeted by Fr. Harry and led inside through the Royal Gates where he once again received a blessing from Archbishop Daniel who was sitting at the Northwest corner of the Altar table.  Fr. Harry led the candidate around the Altar table, stopping at each corner to allow Subdeacon Brian to kiss each corner of the table before returning to His Eminence, where 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.  Having circumvented the Altar Table thus thrice, Subdeacon Brian fell to 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! Lord have mercy!  Lord have mercy!” adding their fervent prayers to those of His Eminence.

As the prayers were completed, newly ordained Deacon Brian 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!”

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 Brian by the hand, Archbishop Daniel led him forward to present him to the people, as they exclaimed, Axios!  Axios!  Axios!  Deacon Brian was now 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 and prayed the Lord’s Prayer.  The entire time Deacon Brian 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 Brian 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, the newly ordained deacon 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 Brian standing beside him on the ambo, read the certificate, the Notice of Ordination.  As everyone sang Axios! Axios! Axios, His Eminence turned to him and stated that it has been a blessing to see him enter the Deaconate of the Church. 

At the conclusion of the service Archbishop Daniel joined the faithful in the Social Hall, along with “Saint Nicholas” who had arrived to celebrate this phenomenal day with the parish.  As His Eminence blessed the meal and everyone settled down to enjoy themselves, Saint Nicholas posed for photos, and handed out goodies to both young and those young-at-heart.  Laughter emanated from the hall as people basked in the joy of each other’s company and rejoiced in the Lord’s Day and all that had come with it.

May the Lord bless newly ordained Deacon Brian with many years of health and happiness as he serves in the Lord’s Vineyard.  Axios!  Mnohaya Lita!

AXIOS! Subdeacon Matthew Brian Delp Ordained to Deaconate in Dover, FL

Photos by Subdeacon Maksym Zhuravchyk

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