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Question 35.

Father Christopher, greetings.

Your work, particularly in writing the virtual book on the Introduction to Icons, is phenomenal. The book is truly a great source into understanding the Orthodox Icon. Overall, as I have said before, the website in general is full of helpful and excellent content.
Do permit me to ask You a questions. Your help is greatly and cordially appreciated.
I was wondering if You could briefly explain the ranking of priests in our Church. I am a little confused with the titles (or ranks) of Presbyter (Πρεσβύτερος), Oeconomos
(Οικονόμος) and Protopresbyter (Πρωτοπρεσβύτερος). I originally understood that the Epigonation was worn by Oeconomos and Protopresbyter (plus Archimandrite) priests only, and that they alone could be confessors. Yet I know of Presbyters who wear the epigonation and are confessors. And of Archimandrites, of who wear the epigonation, yet are still not confessors. Does not the epigonation have a connection to the rank of confessor? Do these ranks among the priests determine what a priest can and cannot do (ie. wear a pectoral cross, hear confession)?

Thank you

Evangelos

 

Answer to Question 35

Dear Evangelos

 

There is only one priesthood and the ranks that you mention are only honorary titles. Presbyter (Πρεσβύτερος) is the untitled priest followed by Eocomonos (Οικονόμος) and then Protopresbyter (Πρωτοπρεσβύτερος). Celibate priests are given the title Archimandrite. In older times the Eoconomos was a priest responsible for the Metropolisí treasury and the Protopresbyter was the highest ranking priest with the responsibility of organizing the other priests in the Metropolitan area. Today these positions have lost their original meaning and are only honorary titles given to many priests. When many priests serve a co-liturgy then the order and date of their title defines their position in the Liturgy. The word Archimandrite means the head of the fold, and was a title given to the Abbots of Monasteries. In our times many celibate Priest live in the world and serve a Parish Church. On paper they are monks and belong to a monastic community, but many have never even lived in a monastery. They are often given the honorary title Archimandrite and wait to be appointed as a Bishop when a See becomes vacant. All titled priests have the dignity of wearing the pectoral Cross and Epigonation. The Cross and Epigonation have nothing to do with the confessor Priest and neither does any title. The Russian Church often makes a priest a confessor during his ordination, but in the Greek practice, a priest is made a confessor only when the Bishop deems him spiritually ready to accept such an undertaking. This will be determined by his education or character or both. If a priest is a theologian but has a loose tongue then he might not be able to keep the secrecy required in the sacrament. This is even more difficult for priests of small villages where everyone knows each other and where everyone to a certain extent is related. If the priest frequently goes to the local coffee shop, there is a danger that he will forget that he was told something during confession and let something slip. If on the other hand a priest is uneducated, but of a good spiritual character the bishop must be sure that he will be able to answer correctly to matters concerning the faith. Thus a priest might be given a title, but not the permission to hear confessions.


With love in Christ
Fr. Christopher