HIERARCHY, CHURCH, the collective body of organized ecclesiastical ranks, in successive order, one above another. The pyramidal structure consists of a hierarch, the pope as the head of the church, in subordination to whom are the episcopacy composed of METROPOLITANS, ARCHBISHOPS, and BISHOPS as well as the presbytery of protopriests (see HEGUMENOS), PRIESTS, and MONKS. Nowadays, they can perform the liturgy in the absence of a priest.
The hierarchy also includes the diaconate composed of ARCHDEACONS, DEACONS, SUBDEACONS, and READERS, whose members, although originally intended to "serve tables" (Acts 6:2), soon developed into a definite rank performing an indispensable task in the liturgy and other church services.
Prayers on behalf of the hierarchy are offered as part of the greater intercessions in the course of the celebration of the Divine Liturgy.
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