Reader

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A Reader in cassock.
A reader, also called a lector (in Greek, αναγνώστης, anagnostis or anagnostes; in Slavonic, Чтецъ, chtets) is the second-highest of the minor orders of the Orthodox Church. It is a sub-clerical order to which a man is tonsured and ordained, setting him apart as blessed by the bishop to read in services and in the Divine Liturgy. He may also serve as a cantor, catechist, or in other leadership roles in the local parish community.

In the absence of a reader, a layperson will commonly be blessed to perform the duties of a reader.

Contents

Duties

An ordained reader has the following duties:

  • Read Old Testament readings during services,
  • Read the epistle during the Divine Liturgy and other services,
  • Chant psalms,
  • Chant the verses for prokeimenons, the alleluia, the antiphons,
  • Sing other appointed hymns during the divine services.

In addition to this, the reader will usually:

  • Construct the services according to the typicon.
  • Sing in the choir.

As a member of minor clergy, a reader - according to his abilities - might be entrusted with the duties of:

  • Cantor
  • Catechist
  • Other leadership roles in the community.

Ordination

Immediately before ordination as a reader, the candidate is tonsured as a sign of his submission and obedience upon entry into the clerical state. This is a separate act, making a layperson into a clergyman, and occurs immediately prior to his ordination as a reader. The ordination itself is, like that of the subdiaconate, through Cheirothesia - literally, "to place hands" - as opposed to Cheirotonia - "to stretch out the hands" - which is practised at the ordination of bishops, priests and deacons.

After being tonsured, the reader is vested in a short phelonion, which he wears while reading the Epistle for the first time. This short phelon is then removed (and never worn thereafter) and replaced with a sticharion, which the reader generally wears thereafter whenever he performs his liturgical duties.

What a reader wears while conducting his duties can vary, however, and many bishops and priests will allow a reader to perform his function dressed only in a cassock or (if a monk) outer cassock (riassa/exoraso). Often, a bishop will decree what vesting practice he wishes to be followed within his own diocese; for an example, see here, section VIII.

The office of a reader subsumes that of a taper-bearer, and the service of ordaining a reader mentions both functions.

In contemporary practice, any layman may receive the priest's blessing to read on a particular occasion.

Terminology

It is through ordination - not the tonsure - that one is made a reader or subdeacon; this is highlighted by the fact that the tonsure is performed only once and is not repeated before the ordination of a subdeacon. The confusion has arisen by the common reference to a man being "tonsured a reader" which, while widespread, is not technically correct.

History

In the Pre-Nikonian Russian Church, there existed an additional junior grade of reader called psalomshchik (in Slavonic, Ѱаломщикъ), whose sole function was to read the long Kathisma Psalms, thus permitting the reader and chanter to save their voices. This office survives in those churches that utilise the Pre-Nikonian Russian ritual: Old Believers (both priested and priestless), those parishes under ROCOR or the Moscow Patriarchate. The title of psalomshchik survives in the later reformed Nikonian Russian rite as an alternative, slightly archaic and quaint name for chanter.

This order is higher than the doorkeeper (now largely obsolete) and lower than the subdeacon.

Byzantine icons often show readers and church singers wearing a stikhar-like garment (more loose and flowing than the modern stikhar) and a pointed hat with the brim pulled out to the sides (see here, lower left corner). This distinctive garb is now obsolete.

Allowances

Readers are permitted to wear a cassock, although many do so only when attending services; this is done as a sign of his suppression of his own tastes, will and desires, and his canonical obedience to God, his bishop and the liturgical and canonical norms of the Church. Readers will generally not wear a clergy shirt.

While reading in church, the reader will generally wear a sticharion; and in some places, will do so when receiving communion.

A reader is usually tonsured by the bishop, though in some traditions, an archpriest or archimandrite may do the tonsure with the bishop's blessing if he is not available. In monastic communities, the ruling archimandrite may tonsure those monks over which he rules.

External links

This article forms part of the series
Clergy
Antiochian Local Synod
Major orders Bishop | Priest | Deacon
Minor orders Subdeacon | Reader | Cantor | Acolyte
Other orders Chorepiscopos | Exorcist | Doorkeeper | Deaconess - Presbityde
Episcopal titles Patriarch | Catholicos | Archbishop | Metropolitan | Auxiliary | Titular
Priestly titles Protopresbyter | Archpriest | Protosyngellos | Economos
Diaconal titles Archdeacon | Protodeacon
Minor titles Protopsaltes - Lampadarios
Monastic titles Archimandrite | Abbot - Hegumen
Related Ordination | Vestments | Presbeia | Honorifics | Clergy awards | Exarch | Proistamenos | Vicar
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