Lectors are part of the minor orders in the Orthodox Church. The minor orders refer to a distinct service of clergy junior to those of the major orders (deacon, priest and bishop). In ascending order of seniority, the minor orders are: candle bearer, cantor, lector and subdeacon. Hence the lector was junior to the subdeacon and senior to the cantor. They exist in all Orthodox Churches, not just the Russian Orthodox Church. In fact, it is also true of the Oriental Orthodox, Assyrian, Eastern Catholic Churches and pre-1972 Latin Catholic Church.
Interestingly, the Western Church (ie, the Latin Catholic Church) also used to have minor orders, including lectors, mirroring that of the Orthodox Churches. They were the porter, lector, exorcist and acolyte. The subdeacon was also present in the Western Church, but it was considered a major order, junior to the orders of deacon, priest and bishop. It was one of the ancient traditions that survived with the divided Church, despite a whole millennia apart, and was a proof of their common fidelity to tradition (more or less, anyway). However, they, along with the subdiaconate, were abolished in the Western Church in 1972. In their place, however, we have what we call ministries, whose members are not ordained. The Eastern Catholic Churches, however, retain the minor orders.
It should be noted that the Latin Rite has retained the all-male instituted ministries of Lector and Acolyte. While canon law allows males over the age of 18 to be permanently instituted to these two ministries, it also allows Bishops’ Conferences to set the criteria for institution. Many, if not most, limit institution to these ministries to men preparing for ordination to the Diaconate, whether permanent or transitional.
When no instituted lectors or acolytes are present, these ministries may be filled by male or female parishioners.
You are indeed correct. However, an institution is not the same as a minor ordination, nor is it intended to. The Rite of Institution is different in rite and nature from the minor Rite of Ordination. That is why the Church also changed the name by which the offices are referred to as well, to ensure that people do not confuse the two. The reasons for this reform have been explained before, and regardless of how some might feel about them, they are what they are. Further to that, Fr. Z has a good article regarding the differences between the older and newer understandings of their office.
We don’t usually call them “Lectors,” we call them “Readers.” It is a minor ordination, though to distinguish it from the ordination that really matters (deacon, priest, bishop) we often colloquially say “I was tonsured a Reader” because there’s a tonsuring that takes place. Reader is considered the first step to the priesthood, that’s part of the prayer in the ordination, and we wear cassocks when we’re at Church (in some jurisdictions, you only wear it if you’re actually reading that day. You can address a Reader by their title. For example, I am a Reader, and sometimes people will call me “Reader Joseph.” That’s also the name I receive Communion and the other Sacraments. Our job is to chant the Epistle, and to do the Reader portions of services (such as the Trisagion and Beginning Psalm during Vespers, or the Trisagion during a Memorial or House Blessing). In the absence of altar boys we serve that role. We’re supposed to have the Trisagion prayers and a few other prayers memorized, and should know the Prokeimenon Tones and know how to set up the services.
Lectors are extraordinary ministers. They are not ordained. As such the role of lector can be filled by any lay member of the parish, male or female, who is able to fulfill the parish’s specific obligations in proclaiming the Word of God. Unlike the priest, the lector does not read the Gospel,
In most of the stateside parishes, the lector merely had to be demonstrate his/her ability to read and enunciate clearly. He or she was required, along with the EMCH to attend an annual meeting to stay updated concering proper procedures regarding procession, recession, dress, and deportment while on the altar.
My overseas parish is a large parish with numerous volunteers. Members of the lector’s ministry are required to attend monthly meetings, the monthly Enriching the Faith program, and First Friday Adoration. A renewal ceremony is held each September. Failure to attend meetings means not being on the roster for the next month. Meetins generally include a presentation by one of the Mass group regarding a spiritual topic (perphaps a line from scripture), as well as prayer, and any matters specific to the lector’s ministry (uniformity, dress code, etc.)
Members in the Eucharistic Ministry commit to a full year of formation, as well as well as personal scrutiny before acceptance into the ministry, as well as the requirements to attend First Friday Holy Hour and the Monthly Enriching the Faith program.
Extraordinary means “outside ordination.”
I don’t think lector carries an ‘extraordinary’ qualification.
An EMHC is an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion because the ordinary ministers are the Deacon, the Priest or the Bishop.
By contrast the instituted lector is the ordinary minister to read the first and second readings just like it is the ordinary ministry of the deacon to read the Gospel. A priest only reads if there is no lector (instituted or not) or deacon to do so.
Lectors have not been called extraordinary by the Church. Non-instituted laypeople may fill in for instituted lectors, just as non-instituted altar servers may fill in for instituted acolytes.
“Extraordinary” means “outside” the normal “order” of things. It shares a root word with “ordination” which means to introduce a man to Holy Orders, but in itself it does not have anything to do with ordination.
The main point that I was trying to make is that the role of lector is filled by ordinary lay people within the Church. We are not ordained to the ministry any more than a person who serves in the music ministry is ordained. Whether we serve as lector, choir member, or sacristan, our role is service to the Church.
Different parishes have different expectations of those who do volunteer to serve in these different capacities.
Yes, Webster’s does define extraordinary as outside the norm while the Church defines extraordinary as outside ordination. They are 2 different definitions of the same word, which can cause confusion. An EMCH is not ordained, but is an extraordinary minister. It is not a role that I hold in my current parish. I have not undergone the required year’s formation; although it is a role that I held in past parishes. I was commissioned, and my name forwarded to the bishop so that he knew who was handling the sacred Host and Chalice.
I don’t know that we’d characterize it as a debate, but what I have learned from this moved thread (it was originally up in the Eastern Rite section and then moved down here for some reason) is that in both the Orthodox and the Eastern Rite of the Catholic Church, lectors are ordained, which is interesting to know. I had no idea.
I’m not sure if I would call it a debate either. I was the one who pointed out that lectors are currently not ordained in the Western Church, and I understand that while that has drawn many a response, none were trying to contend this particular point. We all agree that the current state of the lectorate in the Western Church is that of an non-ordained office. What we did discuss, however, is the nature of the office within the understanding of it being non-ordained.
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