Let me start by describing what a Deacon is not. He is not a priest; he is also not a parishioner; nor is he someone in between. He is however, a cleric and an ordained minister with the indelible mark of Holy Orders. His vocation comes from his ordination in which he vows obedience to the Bishop and takes on the title as a Herald of the Gospel.
In the hierarchy of Melchizedek, (priest, prophet, king) the Deacon is the prophet. A prophet is not a fortune teller; rather he is one who is “Ordered” to proclaim the Word of God. In many of the prophetic books, you see the prophets are engaged in their ministry despite the excuses they use. Jesus himself states, “A prophet is not welcome in his native land.” (Lk 4:24) Despite a Deacon’s insecurities and doubts, he is called to stand at the ready and respond to God with the words of Isaiah, “Here I am Lord, (Is 6:8) (I may be too old or too young, or not good enough or a sinful person, but) I have come to do your will.” (Ps 40:8) The prophetic Deacon is the one crying out to the people of God, “Repent and believe in the Gospel”! (Mk 1:15) It is the Deacon that proclaims the Word of God through the Book of the Gospels; also known as the Deacon’s book.
The Deacon is also known as an Icon of Jesus Christ the Servant. When one peers into the heart of a Deacon, they see Jesus washing the feet of his Apostles (Jn 13) and obediently adhering to the direction of the Blessed Mother when she states, “Do whatever he tells you.”(Jn 2:5) In today’s language, the Deacon works at the service of the Archbishop and the Church. He does not belong to the parish but is often sent to a parish at the request of the Archbishop. He is an extension of the Archbishop’s agape and diakonia.
Diakonia or Deacon mean servant. It is the act of service that exemplifies the Deacon. Indeed, the Deacon is called to a ministry of service or Beatitudes as one of three primary vocational calls. By his nature, the Deacon visits the prisoners, cares for the sick, dying and abused. He also feeds the hungry, provides encouragement to the homeless, wipes the tears from the sorrowful, and is a voice (prophet) of the forgotten and helpless. (Mt 5:1-12)
During liturgy, the Deacon stands at the altar because of his contribution to the poor—both the earthly poor and the spiritually poor. The Deacon conducts the prayers of the faithful for God to hear the petitions of the Church offering them up to God like incense before His throne.
The Deacon is the minister of the Chalice or the Blood of Christ. It is the Deacon that mixes the water into the wine as a product of hard work, sweat and blood, of the community and presents this gift to the priest so that he can offer it up to God. This mixing of water and wine is also a sign of Our Lord’s humanity and divinity and through the invocation of the Holy Spirit, this simple drink, becomes the true presence of Christ. Then he presents the gifts of bread and wine to the sacrificial one, or the priest, so that he can invoke the Holy Spirit and turn these gifts into the Body and Blood of Christ.
The Deacon is also the one who helps brings resolution to conflicts within the community. In the Acts of the Apostles, the Twelve ordained seven worthy men to become Deacons. This was due primarily to bring unity between the Hebrew speaking and Greek speaking communities. (Act 6)
With a Deacon it is not what he is; rather, it is what he has become. The Deacon fully embraces Church teachings, not just out of covenantal obedience; but, because he loves the Church. He has an intimate understanding that She teaches with the love of the Blessed Mother, Mary, and under the direction of the Holy Spirit, to do what is best for humanity—even if, on the surface, it seems difficult.
Finally, a Deacon understands the true meaning of peace. A peace that, as St. Paul states, “surpasses all understanding.” (Phil 4) The Deacon knows this peace because he understands that Jesus walks with him throughout his ministry and guards his heart and mind. (Phil 4)—in joy and in suffering.
The Deacon follows his call to ministry. He knows he is being call because he loves God and wants to continue the good work that has begun in him through Christ. Men of God know the path they must walk because they know God created them and knew them, (Is 43:1) calling each of them even while they were being fashioned in their mother’s womb. (Is 49:1)