Ranks in the church

In the Christian New Testament Church, there are three degrees of priesthood established by the holy apostles. The main position is occupied by bishops, followed by presbyters – priests – and deacons. This system repeats the structure of the Old Testament church, where the following degrees existed: high priest, priests and Levites.

Priests for the service of the Church of Christ through the sacrament of priesthood find the grace of the Holy Spirit. This allows to perform divine services, to manage the affairs of the Church, to teach people through the Christian faith of a good life and piety.

The highest rank in the Church is held by bishops who receive the highest level of grace. They are also called archpriests – chief priests. Bishops have the right to perform all sacraments and church services without exception. It is the bishops who have the right not only to perform the usual Divine Service, but also to ordain (or ordain) other Orthodox as priests. Also, bishops, unlike other priests, can consecrate myrrh and antimins.

All bishops are equal to each other in the level of priesthood, but the most honored, oldest of them are called archbishops. Metropolitan bishops are called metropolitans – translated into Greek, “capital” will sound like “metropolis”. The bishops of the oldest Christian capitals are called patriarchs. These are the bishops of: Jerusalem and Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Rome.

Sometimes a bishop is assisted by another bishop. The second of the named clerics is called vicar  in this case.

The most honored and worthy priests can be called archpriests, in other words – chief priests, first priests. The chief archpriest is awarded the title of protopresbyter.

When a priest is a monk at the same time, he is called a hieromonk – priest-monk, translated into modern Russian. Hieromonks, who are abbots of monasteries, bear the title of hegumen. Sometimes a hieromonk can be called a hegumen(abbot) regardless of this, simply as an honorific. Archimandrite is an even higher rank than abbot. The most worthy of the Archimandrites can later be elected as bishops.

Deacons are the lowest, third-ranking sacred rank. This Greek name translates as “servant.” When church rites or services are performed, deacons are bishops or priests. However, the deacons themselves cannot do them. The participation or presence of a deacon during the Divine Service is not mandatory. Accordingly, church services can often take place without a deacon.

Individual deacons, the most worthy and deserving, receive the title of protodeacon – first deacon, if expressed in modern language.

If a monk receives the rank of deacon, he is called a hierodeacon, the main of whom is an archdeacon.

In addition to the three sacred ranks, there are other lower official positions in the Church. These are subdeacons, palamaris and psalmists (dyaks). Although they are church ministers, they can be appointed to the position without the rite of priesthood, but only with the bishop’s blessing.

Psalmists are obliged to read and sing both during the Divine Service in the church and when the priest performs spiritual duties in the houses of the parishioners.

Palamaris must call the faithful to the Divine Service with the help of a bell. In addition, they are required to light candles in the temple, assist psalmists during singing and reading, offer incense, etc.

Subdeacons participate only in the ministry of bishops. They clothe the hierarch in ecclesiastical vestments and hold lamps (called dikyria and trikyria) which they present to the hierarch who blesses those who pray.

Useful Information

09/07/2022
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