The clergy of the Orthodox Church are the bishops, priests, and deacons, the same offices identified in the New Testament and found in the early church. Priests (also called presbyters or elders) include archpriests, protopresbyters, hieromonks (priest-monks) and archimandrites (senior hieromonks). Deacons also include hierodeacons (deacon-monks) archdeacons and protodeacons; subdeacons, however, are not deacons, and comprise a separate office that is not to be major clergy, as do readers, acolytes and others.
Bishops are drawn from the ranks of the monks, and thus are required to be celibate; however, an unmarried priest (such as a widower) may be ordained to the episcopate if he received monastic tonsure first. Priests and deacons may be married, provided that they are married prior to their ordination to the diaconate. If they are later divorced or remarried, they are not permitted to remarry unless they first leave the clergy and return to lay status. All Orthodox clergy must be male. There are records of deaconesses in the New Testament and in the early church; the consensus today is that this office was never equivalent to that of deacon, but had separate responsibilities. The ancient office of deaconess was subsumed by the office of abbess.
Progression of Ordination
The typical progression of ordination is: reader, subdeacon, deacon, priest, bishop. Each ordination must take place in order, although it is possible to ordain a layman to all five offices in the course of a weekend. The organization of the Orthodox Church is both hierarchical and conciliar (or synodal). It is hierarchical in that priests, deacons, and laymen are expected to follow their bishop and to do nothing without their bishop, and in that Jesus Christ is the head of every bishop. It is conciliar or synodal in that there is no single Pope whom all the bishops follow (the Pope of Alexandria functions as a patriarch), but rather the bishops meet together in synods or councils and reach binding agreements through consensus. A bishop, even the patriarch, is bound to obey the decisions of his synod. A council with representatives from all the churches is an ecumenical council.
Although Orthodox clergy are given considerable honor by the Orthodox Church, each ordination is also viewed as a kind of martyrdom. The Orthodox cleric agrees to be a servant of both Jesus Christ and of the people of the church; many of the vestments are intended to remind him of this. Much is expected of the clergy, both practically and spiritually; consequently, they also have a special place in the litanies that are prayed, asking God to have mercy on them. External Links Forms of Address for Orthodox Clergy (http://www.goarch.org/en/special/usvisit2002/clergy/clergy_greetings.asp)
A Priest is a holy man who takes an officiating role in worship with the distinguishing characteristic of offering sacrifices. Priests have been known since the earliest times and in the simplest societies. Priests are generally regarded as having good contact with the gods of the religion he or she ascribes to, and other believers will often turn to a priest for advice on matters spiritual. Being a priest is a full time assignment, ruling out any other career.
Eastern Orthodox priests, when not celebrating a service, generally wear a long robe called a cassock, and many also wear a large cross, called a pectoral cross. (The cross is more often worn by priests in western countries to distinguish them as Christian.) As a general rule, the Slavic churches tend to give pectoral crosses to all priests, whereas those in the churches of Arabic and Greek descent (i.e., those from the "Byzantine" Empire) receive pectoral crosses only as an honorific token. Some Eastern Orthodox priests wear a collar similar to that of Western clergy, although this is falling out of favor since this leads to their being confused with Roman Catholic or Protestant clergy. When celebrating services, Orthodox priests always wear special liturgical vestments
Thus, in Eastern Orthodoxy generally a priest is also called a "presbyter" or elder. Priests are considered clergy; a priest can only be ordained by a bishop. In the Eastern traditions, only men may become priests; canonically the minimum age is 30 years of age, although exceptions are made from time to time at the bishop's discretion. Married men may become priests in the Orthodox Church. Celibacy is not required of priests in the Orthodox, Anglican or Episcopalian Churches, but Orthodox priests are not allowed to marry after their ordinations, for example if their wife dies.
The most significant liturgical acts reserved to priests are the administration of the Sacraments, including the celebration of the Mass (see also Eucharist), Holy Baptism and the Sacrament of Reconciliation, a rite of Repentance, also called "Confession". The presence and ministry of a priest is required for a parish to function fully.
The Eastern Orthodox Church has two minor orders, those of reader and subdeacon. Candidates for ordination receive the clerical tonsure prior to being ordained by the laying on of hands to these minor orders. There is a distinction between the laying on of hands for minor orders (chirothesis) and that for major orders (chirotony). Those in these lesser orders are not considered clergy in the same sense as those in major orders.
For the Orthodox, Father is the correct form of address for monks who have been tonsured to the rank of Stavrophore or higher, while Novices and Rassophores are addressed as Brother. Similarly, Mother is the correct form of address for nuns who have been tonsured to the rank of Stavrophore or higher, while Novices and Rassophores are addressed as Sister. Nuns live identical ascetic lives to their male counterparts and are therefore also called monachoi (monastics), and their common living space is called a monastery. Some women's monasteries are nearby or even adjoining a men's monastery.
Many (but not all) Orthodox seminaries are attached to monasteries, combining academic preparation for ordination with participation in the community's life of prayer. Monks who have been ordained to the priesthood are called hieromonk (priest-monk); monks who have been ordained to the deaconate are called hierodeacon (deacon-monk). Not all monks live in monasteries, some hieromonks serve as priests in parish churches thus practising "monasticism in the world".
The Orthodox Church has always allowed married priests and deacons, provided the marriage takes place before ordination. In general, parish priests are to be married as they live in normal society (that is, "in the world" and not a monastery) where Orthodoxy sees marriage as the normative state. Unmarried priests usually live in monasteries since it is there that the unmarried state is the norm, although it sometimes happens that an unmarried priest is assigned to a parish. Widowed priests and deacons may not remarry, and it is common for such a member of the clergy to retire to a monastery (see clerical celibacy). This is also true of widowed wives of clergy, who often do not remarry and may become nuns if their children are grown. Bishops are always celibate. Although Orthodox consider men and women equal before God (Gal. 3:28), only men who are qualified and have no canonical impediments may be ordained bishops, priests, or deacons.