Thursday, May 26, 2011

"Deacon Reader" Summer Reading 2

We're looking at the first essay, by Fr. Enright. I posed the question,

1) What are the two points from Acts 6 he makes on p. 8? Do you agree with these two points?

On p. 8 he writes:

The diaconate starts out as seven men serving the Greek-speaking Jewish-Christian widows in Jerusalem, a serving that is to be found at two tables at which these neglected saints would sit, the table of the word and the table of charity, both places of need, the spiritual and the material, but each flowing from the other. To put it another way, serving these two tables meant that these men were engaging in an evangelization of the whole person.

Is this "evangelization of the whole person by word and charity" who deacons really are? What are your reasons for agreeing or disagreeing?


dbrockhaus said...

David, i am using the down loaded version. this quote on page 8 you are referring to is not my page 8.
Page 8 speaks of Cyprian,the Bishop of Carthage in Africa, and the Deacon's Liturgical role.

Deacon David said...

Thanks, Dennis, I didn't know the page #s would be different. I'll include section titles and paragraphs so that we can all follow the same way.

dbrockhaus said...

Commenting on question 2,chapter 6 in Acts; It really looks like all the Apostles are wanting is someone to perform the necessary earthly tasks that are needed to operate a community.
They laid hands on the seven and got that and more.
Just like like in the Gospels, the apostle expect one thing and always get that and something a whole lot bigger.
Not only did the widows get handled, the church got evangelists and " wonders" and "sign" workers.
Really opens up what a Deacon does.

I'm not sure how one extracts the idea that Stephan is a Deacon and not considered a presbyter.

drtom12 said...

Love your comment Dennis on the idea that God gives what you asked for and so much more that you didn't expect. I will be thinking about that one for days! I remember last year, one of our esteemed teachers (David) commented that Stephen wasn't killed for being a good waiter. He was killed because of the "so much more" that God imparted with the laying on of hands!

Deacon David said...

Dennis, I agree God gives more than we can ask for. In the case of Acts 6, we know that the Apostles were celebrating the Eucharist (Acts 2:42, etc), and the details of the ministry of Stephen and Philip clearly don't include "breaking the bread." So they weren't being brought into that particular share of the apostolic ministry. The reality of the distinction between deacon and priest is therefore already in place in Acts 6, even if the vocabulary of Holy Orders hasn't caught up to that reality yet. (But it does before the end of the 1st century.)

I also think it's pretty clear in the text of Acts 6 that what the widows need is not just social or financial help, but more importantly catechesis in Greek (instead of Hebrew or Aramaic). So Stephen and Philip and the rest are being brought into a distinct share of the apostolic ministry that includes (1) preaching and catechesis, which they both obviously do in Acts 7-8; and (2) an intention of maintaining community unity - they're not independent of the apostles, as again their actual recorded ministry shows; and (3) baptizing; and (4) some practical administration (of charity, in whatever sense) to protect (2) while doing (1) and (3). At the same time they're NOT "breaking the bread."

So in this early form, the essential outlines of the diaconate are clearly in place within the earliest understanding of the community.

dbrockhaus said...

Thanks for clearing Act's 6 up for me David.
This is one of the "Aha" moments.

drtom12 said...

I want to jump ahead to something that stood out for me beginning on page 23-24 talking about the council of Trent in 1563. Specifically, page 24, about a third of the way down, it says "Their office (the Deacon's) is to guard the preaching bishop lest he be approached by vicious enemies or the divine word be reviled by insults and despised". The long and short of it is, through ordination, I am the bishops man. will I, am I ready to defend him when attacked. In this day and age, it is unlikely that will be physical. I believe most of the attacks will be verbal. I believe this will be of enormous importance in our ministries. The bishop is attacked repeated in our diocese for the very difficult decisions that he has to make. I may not always agree with decisions made, but will I not only follow them faithfully, but will I defend my bishop for having made them? This is something I know I will need to do across the board: the bishop and the church deserve nothing less.

dbrockhaus said...

Some years back, in the Army, blind obedience, you take the hill just because you were told too! Follow orders just because. at that time we trained, just to reinforce that discipline.
our required prayer life could be considered a one type of training.
a true gift from the Holy Spirit would be another.
Of course, a most holy Bishop makes it easier.

the question arises here, our loyalty to our Bishop or to the Priest we are assigned to serve?
once again I think the Holy Spirit would have to help.

Deacon David said...

Tom and Dennis, you're both right. Being the "bishop's man" means defending him both actively and passively -- not only in challenging others to follow and support him at need, but also in how we ourselves talk about him or to him. The oath taken at ordination is "respect and obedience to me and to all my successors."

Military training is of a different sort than clerical training, but there are parallels. Obedience is part of it. In the military, disobedience gets your buddy killed. In the clergy, disobedience risks the loss of souls. The stakes are high, but in neither case is it supposed to be so blind that our conscience and our will are not engaged in the obeying. But, barring an "order" to do a grave moral evil, obedience also includes my judgment following the bishop's judgment - even if I disagree.

In an ideal world, there's no difference between obeying the bishop and obeying one's pastor. Since this world isn't ideal, and none of us is perfect, sometimes there's a conflict. Then you do have to exercise your own judgment, with much prayer and discernment.