27 Responses to "Let the Deacons Respond!"
  1. One interesting observation is that all the responses of the deacons are addressed to the people and in the form of an order; with one exception (saved Amen with your spirit, let us attend) which is addressed to the priest. None of the deacons responses are addressed to God. A very easy way to focus in the liturgy is to do what the deacon asks us for: when he says ‘pray for the salvation of the world and of the city of ours’, we have to pray for the world and the city we live/lived in; and so on. Surprisingly, many people just ignore the orders of the deacons.

  2. Abouna, I think a few things are important to note:

    1) Most of the original deacon responses are said in Greek, NOT in Coptic. The point of the deacon responses are always to direct the people. The major language at many times in Egypt was Greek so the deacon directed the people in Greek. The responses that are Coptic are newer responses. Now that they are being said in the same language as the priest we lose out on their original purpose which is a major reason as to why people skip them.

    2) on a side note, there are studies being done on responses like sothis amen (saved amen and with your spirit) because it is not an original response in the liturgy and it is not the deacons rite to proclaim an absolution to the priest. Only the laity as a whole can do that, which happens in the beginning of the liturgy of the word. So we need to understand the origin of these responses and what their purpose is.

    There are many pieces of our liturgy that have been changed incorrectly over time and we need to fix them to have correct understanding. Example of such is the deacon response “Greet one another”. It has completely lost its meaning and purpose because of incorrect liturgical practice. In any of the old manuscripts and even recent books produced by our monasteries, along with the recordings of our hymns in Ragheb moftahs collection we see a completely different rendition with a very specific purpose. Because we’ve lost/stopped practicing the liturgy in its original way, we’ve lost a lot of the meaning as to why we do things. This is why people see no need for the deacon responses.

    • I agree on the sotis amen one. Father Athanasius El Makary mentioned it is not original and out of context. There are some orher things but I don’t think now is a good time to discuss them so that people don’t get confued

    • Regarding the absolution to the priest, this is a known and accepted idea in the liturgy. After the priest reads the absolution for the people; the people chant (sotis amen ke to pnevma ti so) then tai shory and so on. Idea is to give the absolution to the priest. I don’t see a problem here.

    • What I’m saying is that, only the laity as a whole can give absolution to the priest, not the deacon alone. That’s not his role. It is okay for the entire congregation to do so. That is why we do give the absolution in sothis amen before the absolution of the servants

  3. Thank you, Anthony Fanous and Danny Dandoona Girgis, for your comments.

    As for the Greek/Coptic issue, I’ve heard this many times, but it doesn’t seem convincing, because as they stand now, many of these responses are not exact translations of what the priest said, as I mentioned in the blog post. Since these responses mention more, they shouldn’t be treated as mere repetitions that can be skipped at will.

    Moreover, let’s just accept for argument’s sake that they are repetitive. That alone shouldn’t eliminate the deacons’ role to command, exhort, etc. Perhaps that repetition is part of the drama of the Liturgy. One cannot deny that the Holy Spirit preserved these responses centuries after the Coptic/Greek dichotomy became irrelevant.

    Lastly, Danny is correct that many things are out of place in the Divine Liturgy today. However, I don’t think the answer to erosion is more erosion. If things have fallen into disuse, the answer is not to abandon whatever we have left. The answer is to preserve what we have and strive to restore what was lost through humility and education.

    • I heard that both priest and deacon responses were Greek; then only the priest parts were translated to Coptic while deacons’responses were kept in Greek so that people understand them. The monastery of St Macarius recently published the original liturgy text in Greek with its translation. I will double check that and get back to you later tonight !.

    • Anthony, another important thing to note is that the liturgical rite differed from place to place so there are manuscripts of the Greek and the Coptic. Many of the manuscripts abouna Athanasius uses are both Greek and Coptic.

    • I know about this geographical issues and lack of communications. I will check Abouna Athanasius’ books; and also there are two books published by Abu Makar monastery: (1) Kholagy Al deer al abyad, which is the oldest known Coptic kholagy and (2) St Basil liturgy, the original Greek text with its Arabic translation. Will check these and get back to you

    • If you have kholagy el deer el abyas in PDF please send

    • I have a hardcopy only :(. Sorry

    • Sherif Hanna says:

      Anthony Fanous Hey Anthony where can I find the “Kholagy Al deer al abyad” that you referred to?

    • Sherif Hanna, I got a hard copy from Egypt. May be I can try to get one for you. You can buy it from (Megalet Morcos) either in Alexandria or Cairo. I got mine from St George Sporting bookstore in Alexandria. Let me see if I can help.
      Meanwhile, this site/page can be of interest to you:
      http://arabic.coptic-treasures.com/rites/rites.php

    • I checked the books: (1) the Greek origin of the liturgy shows the deacon response only for the litany of the peace of the church. (2) the kholagy of al deer el abyad does not show any of the deacon’s responses to the litanies. Interesting! Will try to dig further.

    • According to Abouna Athanasius Al Makary: the litanies were prayed without the deacon’s responses until the era of St Athanase the Apostolic (328-373 AD), and at the end, the people’s response was Amen. Then St Cyril the great when he edited the liturgy of St Mark, he added the deacon’s response and also added the litany of the pope. He also modified the people’s response to: lord have mercy; as was followed in the other eastern churches.
      Abouna also added that afterwards, all liturgies in all the churches have deacon’s responses except in the liturgy of the Roman church :). Pray for me !

  4. Sam says:

    Fr Moses,

    What if the repitition argument was more thought out than what you had posed? For example, in the Liturgy books, the Priest is saying their part in Coptic and the Deacon response is in Greek – to my knowledge this was because the Deacon was translating so that the congregation would understand what to pray for at that time. If we all understand the common language, whether it be Arabic, English, or Coptic, then what is the point of repeating it again? Also, it isn’t “oftentimes” that the Deacon response is different than the Priest, it’s more common that it is repetitive.

    • Sam says:

      Sorry, I just noticed you answered this already. Thank you for the answer.

    • Fr. Moses Samaan says:

      Thank you, Samuel, for your comment. Yes, it is a good perspective, but I mentioned my humble view in my last comment to Anthony and Danny.

      Either way, I find it difficult to accept that we in the 21st c. are the first enlightened generation in the history of the Coptic Orthodox Church that has noticed this repetition and is willing to remove these responses. The dichotomy between Coptic/Greek has been dead for about a thousand years, but the Church has kept these responses in Arabic. I don’t know if it’s humble of us to assume we know better than our Fathers who preserved these responses even when Coptic/Greek was no longer an issue.

      As I said in the post, perhaps the Holy Church will decide to remove these responses and eliminate the liturgical role of the deacon altogether. If She does, I will obey, but my argument in this post is that, as long as we accept a liturgical role for deacons today, we might as well let them do what they’re supposed to do.

  5. Abouna Moses Samaan I agree with you in that we shouldn’t let go just because things are already messed up, but I think we need to have a massive movement in restoration of our liturgy.

    The idea that some responses add more than the priest part is true and I also agree with you on that. But that doesn’t negate that the deacon response was directed to the people in a different language so they could understand. What I mean by that is that he directs them more so. Both the priest and the deacon have the same idea, the deacon is just explaining more. I don’t that is an argument to say they shouldn’t be skipped just because he says some extra words. I think the argument should be they shouldn’t be skipped because it is part of a dynamic liturgy in which everyone is participating and following a certain role.

    (I don’t like the idea of attributing the preservation to God the Holy Spirit because we don’t want to flip the coin and say the stuff we lost is because the Holy Spirit let us lose them. Take into account that there are very practical reasons why we have preserved certain things and lost certain others.)

    • Sherif Costandi says:

      Thank you father for a great article. Thank you all for an enriching discussion. I thought it’s worthwhile mentioning that the deacons( chanters) in the parish of Asyut, Egypt say the litanies responses in Coptic if the priest is praying in Coptic. We had a little notebook with all the responses translated in Coptic. Thus, I’m not really convinced with the “translation” role of the deacon, I feel it is more for emphasis and expansion of the prayer as father Moses mentioned in his article.

  6. Charles says:

    I’m so happy Father Moses brought this up. Tradition is inherent in orthodoxy, and I hope this article acts as a calling to the church not to let our traditions erode as they are intertwined with our church history. Let the deacons respond to the litanies!

  7. Abraham Fanous Samuel Fakhoury

  8. Fr. Pimen Shenoda says:

    Thank you for this, Fr. Moses. I completely agree with your reverence’s assessment. But one question: you don’t think the diaconate has already eroded in the Coptic Church? (You suggest that it will, but hasn’t happened yet.)

    Those who are “full” deacons, when they are around (which continues be rare in the church as a whole), hardly fulfill their proper role as deacons. We typically see them more as time-savers by virtue of the fact that they can administer the Blood of Christ to the people. So we have a deacon but still allow a seven year old say the Deacon responses (if we even say them). Moreover, we find it to be a cute blessing to have a bunch of 5 & 6 year olds “dress.” This has played a central role in totally eroding the ranks of chanters, readers, and the various levels of the diaconate, or so it seems to me. And it is very difficult even at the parish level to work on this because 1) people have the expectation that their little ones should “dress,” and 2) one cannot say “no” to them because this has become a practice blessed in the church.

    Forgive me.

    • Fr. Moses Samaan says:

      I agree with your Reverence, Fr. Pimen. The issue is complicated on more than one level. From one, preserving the responses even from the mouths of children might help preserve the proper role of deacons generally, but from another, that very action eliminates the need for training and ordaining ‘full’ deacons, which further erodes the rank generally.

      As I said before, if we accept the idea of deacons serving the Holy Altar (whether they be chanters or ‘full’ deacons), we might as well preserve their liturgical role until the Holy Church offers a more systematic solution. Otherwise, we lose not only the liturgical role, but even the small remnant of ‘full’ deacons that exist throughout the Church.

      • Fr. Pimen Shenoda says:

        Yes, I agree, my father. I guess we also need to actually have some assessment of what the roles of the various ranks actually are.

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