Monday, March 28, 2011

The Call to Sacred Orders - The Permanent Deacon

It is above all the call to service that I wish to celebrate with you today. In speaking of deacons, the Vatican Council said that " strengthened by sacramental grace, in communion with the bishop and his presbyterate, they serve the People of God in the service of the liturgy, the word, and charity" (Lumen Gentium, 29). Reflecting further on this description, my predecessor Paul VI was in agreement with the Council that "the permanent diaconate should be restored... as a driving force for the Church’s service (diakonia) towards the local Christian communities, and as a sign or sacrament of the Lord Christ himself, who ‘came not to be served but to serve’” (Pauli VI Ad Pascendum, Intr.). These words recall the ancient tradition of the Church as expressed by the early Fathers such as Ignatius of Antioch, who says that deacons are "ministers of the mysteries of Jesus Christ... ministers of the Church of God" (S. Ignatii Antiocheni Ad Trallianos, II, 3). You, dear brothers, belong to the life of the Church that goes back to saintly deacons, like Lawrence, and before him to Stephen and his companions, whom the Acts of the Apostles consider “deeply spiritual and prudent” (Act. 6, 3).

This is at the very heart of the diaconate to which you have been called: to be a servant of the mysteries of Christ and, at one and the same time, to be a servant of your brothers and sisters. That these two dimensions are inseparably joined together in one reality shows the important nature of the ministry which is yours by ordination.


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