from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. A cleric ranking just below a deacon.
  • n. A cleric who acts as assistant to the deacon at High Mass and normally reads the Epistle at the Eucharist.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A Catholic clerical rank below that of a deacon, obsolete in the Roman Catholic Church.
  • n. A Catholic cleric who assists the deacon at High Mass and normally reads the Epistle at the Eucharist.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. One belonging to an order in the Roman Catholic Church, next interior to the order of deacons; also, a member of a minor order in the Greek Church.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. A member of the ecclesiastical order next below that of deacon.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. a clergyman an order below deacon; one of the Holy Orders in the unreformed western Christian church and the eastern Catholic Churches but now suppressed in the Roman Catholic Church


from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

Originated 1275–1325 from Middle English subdecon and -dekene, from Late Latin subdiāconus. See sub- +deacon.


  • Ancient ecclesiastical monuments and documents lead us to believe that a subdeacon was a sort of head-acolyte or arch-acolyte, holding the same relation to the acolytes as the archdeacon to deacons, with this difference, however, that there was only one archdeacon, while there was a deacon for each region.

    The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume 1: Aachen-Assize

  • Harnack further holds that the gentle treatment of sinners is an interpolation intended against Novatianism, and that the deaconesses as well as the subdeacon are a later addition, He dates the original form in the first half of the third century, and the additions in the last quarter of it; but the reasons given are very weak.

    The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume 4: Clandestinity-Diocesan Chancery

  • The fourth and fifth Lessons were read by two bishops, the sixth and seventh by the cardinals, the eighth by a subdeacon, and the ninth by the Pope himself.

    The Station at St Paul

  • A chanter sings the prophecy of Hosea; the Tract follows; the Penitentiary reads the prayer; the Deacon sings flectamus genua, the subdeacon Levate and reads a lesson form the book of Exodus.

    More Rare Images: Good Friday with Pius XI in the Sistine Chapel

  • The Deacon pours wine, the subdeacon water, into the chalice, which is placed on the altar; the celebrant says "in Spiritu humilitatis" and turning to the people invites their prayers, "Orate fratres", recites the Pater noster and sings the "Libera nos quaesumus Domine."

    More Rare Images: Good Friday with Pius XI in the Sistine Chapel

  • For the Assumption Day (Bank Holiday and feast of Obligation in France), a solemn mass was celebrated by an Assumptionist assisted by a deacon and subdeacon at 11: 00 in the Upper Basilica.

    Lourdes : Pèlerinage National

  • The chanters lead to the "Sala Regia" and stop at the door of the Pauline chapel ... the subdeacon, with the Cross uncovered, between two Voters of the signature carrying lights; the Cardinal deacons, priests and bishops; the Cardinal celebrant, and the Sovereign Pontiff, followed by the officers of his court, and Generals of religious orders.

    More Rare Images: Good Friday with Pius XI in the Sistine Chapel

  • The subdeacon kneels to hold up the foot of each of the 12 men as the priest washes it, and the deacon proffers a towel with which to dry it, after which the priest kisses it.

    Compendium of the 1955 Holy Week Revisions of Pius XII: Part 3 - The Mass of Holy Thursday and the Mandatum

  • The sacred ministers then go to the sacristy to vest for Mass: the deacon and subdeacon exchanging dalmatics for folded chasubles, with a second subdeacon similarly vested to carry the processional cross.

    Palm Sunday Rites According to the Missal of Braga

  • From the eastern steps the subdeacon, with his face to the altar, read the Epistles; and from the western steps the deacon, facing the people, read the Gospels.

    Ambos, or Ambones


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