29 Nov 2019
Ordination to Diaconate – Tee Ping Koh and Alfred Donat
St Patrick's Church, Adelaide
My brothers Tee Ping and Alfred, in a few minutes you will lie prostrate on the floor of the sanctuary of this church while the People of God here assembled pray to the Saints for themselves and for you, as you undertake this step towards Holy Orders. The prayer will be sung, “bless these whom you have chosen; bless them and make them holy; consecrate them for sacred duties; strengthen them in Your service”.
The prayer affirms for us that you are chosen, that you are called to be holy, that you are to be consecrated persons, and that you are to give your energies to the service of the Lord.
Hence the importance of the litany in this ceremony, whereby the Church here present on earth, and gathered in this church today, prays to the Church which has gone before us, the Church glorious in the Saints.
Mary Ann and Hellen, who have shared your life and love as your wives, and lived with you the vows of holy marriage, and as your other half, must also give their consent. The Bishop then says “we choose these men, Tee Ping and Alfred, our brothers, for the order of deacons”. It is an act of the Church towards you, a calling of you, it is a vocation in the full sense of that word, to be called by the Church.
With the bestowal of Holy Orders, your baptismal vocation will take a new orientation. All of us are baptised to ministry as Christians. We see lay ministry more and more active in the Church today, as the Holy Spirit awakens this realisation amongst us. In the baptism ceremony it says that we are all called to be priest, prophet and king. All the baptised have a priestly, prophetic and royal vocation. It is the priest’s role to reconcile, to unite people with God, to bridge the secular and the Divine. It is the prophet’s role to show forth the Gospel in deed not just in word, and the royal’s role was to care for the vulnerable, the people on the edge who had no one else other than the king to look after them. Baptised Christians are baptised into the priesthood of Christ, as both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict have written so clearly. All the baptised are the Body of Christ in the world, as Saint Paul says. Being Christ in the world, and sharing in His priesthood, all baptised Christians are called to the ministry of Christ which was to preach, to teach, and to heal.
One of the key roles of the ordained ministry which you both now approach is to assist and enable the People of God in the exercise of their baptismal ministry. The ordained minister is to work among and for the people of God, not over them. The ordained minister is to serve his brothers and sisters in the Church and beyond, and to help them live their own vocation to preach, to teach, and to heal.
You are about to be ordained, Tee Ping and Alfred, into the ancient order of deacon. Upon you is to be conferred Holy Orders. We see in the Acts of the Apostles that the apostles appointed “seven men of good reputation who were with the Holy Spirit”. They were to care for the poor and the widows. Stephen, the first Christian martyr, was a deacon, and thus showed that the role of Witness must, or can accompany, the office of deacon, a Witness to charity and the faith in deeds.
In the early Church in Rome there were seven areas related to the seven diaconates. They were places of the deacons, established for public assistance. The places of the deacons fulfilled the roles of asylums, hospitals, hospices for pilgrims, and food distribution centres for the poor, all reflecting the vocation of the deacon. Deacons played a special role in assisting the bishop, and in helping the administration of the Church.
Your ordination, Tee Ping and Alfred, is enacted by the action central to the conferring of Holy Orders, the laying on of hands. As a symbolic gesture the laying on of hands goes back into the beginnings of Scripture, when Moses laid hands on Joshua who was “filled with the Spirit of wisdom” and was ordained to be a shepherd for the flock of Israel following Moses. Throughout the Old Testament prophets and kings had hands laid on them as acts of consecration. Time and again in the New Testament Jesus lays hands on people, “… and laying hands on each He cured them”. Consecration and healing are the purposes of the laying on of hands. It is the most ancient act of dedication and blessing among the People of God. And Saint Paul writing to Timothy, indicates how the laying on of hands had become the approved practice, where Paul writes “you have in you a spiritual gift which was given to you when the prophet spoke and the body of elders laid their hands on you”. “You have in you a spiritual gift which was given to you.” You will have in you a spiritual gift, Tee Ping and Alfred, your identity and vocation as a deacon, “given to you” by the Holy Spirit in the Church.
When ordained deacon, Tee Ping and Alfred, your life is to focus on the three tables, the Table of the Word, the Table of the Eucharist, and the Table of Service. Those three tables are the diaconate vocation, the preaching of the Word of God, the service of the Table of the Eucharist, and the providing of the Table for the poor.
As a deacon may you draw new strength from the gift of the Holy Spirit that will be bestowed upon you tonight. As a minister at the altar you will proclaim the Gospel, prepare the sacrifice and give the Lord’s Body and Blood to the community of believers. It will be your duty to bring the Word of God to the believer and the unbeliever alike, to preside over public prayer, to baptise, to assist at marriages and bless them, to give viaticum to the dying, and to lead the rites of burial. Once you are consecrated by the laying on of hands, and are bound more closely to the altar, you will perform works of charity and mercy in the name of the Bishop with whom as a deacon you are especially associated.
Apart from the three tables, you are called to be men who pray on behalf of the Church, and for the Church, as you commit yourself to the saying of the Liturgy of the Hours. The commitment that you give links you with the whole prayer of the Church throughout the world, showing that the whole Church of God is praying with you the prayers of praise throughout the whole world. It is part of your vocation now that you enter Holy Orders to be faithful to the Liturgy of the Hours, so that you praise God as part of the rhythm of your life, in union with the whole Church universally.
The words of the prayer of consecration to be prayed over you tonight, Tee Ping and Alfred, have these exhortations for you
May you excel in every virtue: In love that is sincere; In concern for the sick and the poor In unassuming authority; In self-‐discipline and in humbleness of life.
For this we pray as the People of God. Amen