On Saturday before the First Passion Sunday, new subdeacons are usually ordained for the Society of St. Pius X.
The role of the subdeacon is to present the paten and the chalice to the deacon at solemn high Mass, to pour the water into the chalice, and to sing the Epistle. He is also responsible for purifying the sacred linens.
The ceremonies of the subdiaconate take place as follows: after the admonition concerning their definitive commitment, the ordinands prostrate themselves on the ground, face to the earth, as a sign of humility and adoration, as the patriarchs and the prophets once did. Then
in unison with all the elect of Heaven is sung the Litany of the Saints, that favorite prayer of the Church in which all of the meritorious titles and the works of the God-Man are presented to the Holy Trinity. This pros- tra tion and this litany precede the diaconate and the priest- hood as well. Then the admonition to the ordinands lists out the functions of the subdeacon. There follow the tradition of the chalice and the paten, the prayer for the new subdeacons, and finally the imposition of the sacred vest ments and the handing over of the book of Epistles.
From the beginning of the ordination, the bishop warns the subdeacons that perpetual chastity is imposed upon them and that no one may be admit ted to this order without the sin cere will to accept celibacy (CIC, can. 132). In order to allow the subdeacons to raise their mind regularly to God, the Church commands them to recite the breviary (CIC, can. 135). Their new state demands of them a profound spirit of faith and the practice not only of purity of body but also of soul.
The bishop asks for the subdea cons the grace to fulfill their functions well, along with the gifts of the Holy Ghost, so that they might be the watchful guardians of the altar and of the holy Host during the sacrifice.
The ceremonial of the subdiacon ate emphasizes the holiness of the priesthood, which is an inward holiness. It finds concrete expression in the decision to give oneself totally to Jesus Christ and to leave the world, to abandon all the cares of the world. As St. Paul says, he who is ordained “does not entangle himself in worldly affairs” (II Tim. 2:4). Of all the orders, the subdiaconate is certainly the one that most emphasizes this consecration.
A vibrant call to Holiness The instruction which the bishop addresses to the subdeacons is a vibrant call to change their lives: “If up to now you have had a
certain somnolence, a certain indifference in your piety, in your devotion, in the love of
God, now you must be vigilant. If you have been intemperate, be sober. If you have been too free, be chaste.” If your faith has not been very lively up until now, then from now on you are going to need to have a lively faith, the true Catholic faith.
The Church insists on subdeacons’ having the spirit of faith. She ends her admonition on that note. She takes up the extraordinary expression of the Apostle, “All that is not of faith is sin” (Rom. 14:23).7 What does the bishop mean when he speaks these words to them? He means that everything which is in the world draws toward sin. Only the faith gives the light which saves, gives the grace that washes us in the blood of Christ and gives eternal life, through the Sacrament of Baptism and through the other sacraments. All that is not tied to the faith ultimately is in the service of sin, even if there are natural lights which are still good in themselves; if they are not ordered toward the faith, if they are not purified by grace, they cannot produce acts which are meritorious for eternal life.
God knows we need to hear these words today. How many people are losing the faith – alas! even among the clergy. How many peo ple today are falling away from the faith! That is why it is more necessary than ever that this call be heard by the subdeacons, so that they might be truly the lights which enlighten the world. If up to that moment they have not been sufficiently aware of this necessity of putting Christ in the center of all things, in the center of their heart and soul, may they make that resolution now, at this point, of placing Jesus every where, for without Him we can do nothing. He said so Himself: “Without Me, you can do nothing” (Jn. 15:5).
“The ceremonial of the subdiaconate emphasizes the holiness of the priesthood, which is an inward holiness.”¨