Monday, 28 May 2012

What is a Reader?

Many have asked, so it seems as well to define it here. In past times when literacy amongst the people was low, the Reader reading in church was the main way that people would hear Scripture – apart from the Gospel of course.
The reader’s duty was to read from the Old Testament, the epistle at the Divine Liturgy, to chant psalms, the verses for prokeimenons and alleluias and other appointed hymns during divine services. The care for the parish’s liturgical books and the construction of services to the typicon was also his responsibility.
Officially, the reader is a member of minor clergy and the position is the second highest of the minor orders in the Orthodox Church – coming below Sub-Deacon but above Doorkeeper.
The reader is expected to wear a black cassock (in our jurisdiction) which is worn as a sign of the suppression of his own tastes, will and desires, and of his canonical obedience to God, his bishop and the liturgical and canonical norms of the Church. It is expected that he shall, in addition to living the Christian life, read Scriptures daily and must pray daily. He will also have memorised commonly-used liturgical prayers. In our Parish, members of our church family have long-established roles within services and we share the chanting of psalms and hymns amongst the choir members.
Fr Samuel constructs the services for the church and Richard continues to do a fine job of printing the necessary bits for the choir folders and setting the words to the notes.
So what is the point then, if all this is done already?
Perhaps Fr Samuel feels that I need more encouragement to read and pray and that if he somehow makes it obligatory, I might put in greater effort towards this. Perhaps he is about to offload some of the work he does in preparing services. More likely is that maybe I just look better in a cassock – which may well be correct as I am told it is “quite slimming”. Thanks! Whatever the reasoning behind my appointment, I feel very honoured and hope that I will manage, with your prayers, whatever is thrown at me. Many thanks to Father Samuel.
Some interesting research online suggests that if Readers are shown in icons, they are generally portrayed wearing a pointed hat with the brim pulled out to the sides. Thankfully, this distinctive garb is now obsolete!

Reader Martin