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§ 43. New Church Officers.


The expansion of the church, the development of her cultus, and the tendency towards hierarchical pomp, led to the multiplication of offices below the diaconate, which formed the ordines minores. About the middle of the third century the following new officers are mentioned:

1. Sub-deacons, or under-helpers;149149    Ὑποδιάκονοι,subdiaconi, perhaps the same as the ὑπηρέται of the New Testament and the earlier fathers.48 assistants and deputies of the deacons; the only one of these subordinate offices for which a formal ordination was required. Opinions differ as to its value.

2. Readers,150150    Ἄναγνωσται, lectores, mentioned by Tertullian.49 who read the Scriptures in the assembly and had charge of the church books.

3. Acolyths,151151    Ἄκόλυθοι, acolythi.50 attendants of the bishops in their official duties and processions.

4. Exorcists,152152    Ἔξορκισταί,exorcistae51 who, by prayer and the laying on of hands, cast out the evil spirit from the possessed,153153    Δαιμονιζόμενοι, ἐνεργούμενοι52 and from catechumens, and frequently assisted in baptism. This power had been formerly considered a free gift of the Holy Spirit.

5. Precentors,154154    Ψάλται, psalmistae cantores53 for the musical parts of the liturgy, psalms, benedictions, responses, etc.

6. Janitors or sextons,155155    θυρωροί, πυλωροί, ostiarii janitores.54 who took care of the religious meeting-rooms, and at a later period also of the church-yards.

7. Besides these there were in the larger churches catechists, and, where the church language in the worship was not understood, interpreters; but the interpreting was commonly done by presbyters, deacons, or readers.

The bishop Cornelius of Rome (d. 252), in a letter on the Novatian schism,156156    In Euseb. vi. 43.55 gives the number of officers in his church as follows: Forty-six presbyters, probably corresponding to the number of the meeting-houses of the Christians in the city; seven deacons, after the model of the church at Jerusalem (Acts vi); seven sub-deacons; forty-two acolyths, and fifty-two exorcists, readers, and janitors.

As to the ordines majores, the deacons during this period rose in importance. In addition to their original duties of caring for the poor and sick, they baptized, distributed the sacramental cup, said the church prayers, not seldom preached, and were confidential advisers, sometimes even delegates and vicars of the bishops. This last is true especially of the "archdeacon," who does not appear, however, till the fourth century. The presbyters, on the contrary, though above the deacons, were now overtopped by the new office of bishop, in which the entire government of the church became centred.



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