"Axios!" (Greek ἄξιος, "[he is] worthy") is an acclamation of faith. Adopted by the early Eastern Orthodox church, it is made by the faithful at the ordination of bishops, priests and deacons. The acclamation may also be made when a bishop presents an ecclesiastical award to a clergyman during the Divine Liturgy.
The ecclesiastical custom has its origins in the early Christianity, when the clergy were elected by the entire church community, including the laity. This was based upon the precedent set in the Acts of the Apostles (1:15-26; 6:2-61). Election and ordination (Greek: cheirotonia - χειροτονία, literally, "laying-on of hands") are two separate actions. The election was accomplished by all, the laying-on of hands by the bishops only (1 Timothy 4:14). Because of the danger of politicizing the process, and because of electoral corruption, the clergy began to be appointed by the episcopate alone (a priest or deacon is appointed by the ruling bishop; a bishop is elected by a synod). A remnant of the election remains at the beginning of the ordination ceremony when the candidate is brought forward and bows first to the people, then to the clergy, and finally to the ordaining bishop—each of the three classes that would have been involved in the election. As he bows to each, a deacon proclaims: "Command!", inviting not only consent but authorization to proceed with the ordination.
The biblical participation of the laity in the ordination is still fulfilled, when the newly ordained is being vested and presented to the people by the bishop, they will exclaim, "Axios! Axios! Axios!" to show their approval.
There has been some discussion as to whether or not the withholding of "Axios" by the laity would somehow invalidate the ordination. However, the role of the laity has never been a sacramental one, and the teaching of the church regarding the validity of the Mysteries (Sacraments) is that they are not dependent upon the worthiness of the minister (see Donatism).
When a bishop wishes to confer an ecclesiastical award or honor on a deacon or priest under his jurisdiction, this will normally be accomplished at the Little Entrance of the Divine Liturgy. At the end of the Third Antiphon, the procession with the Gospel Book will halt at the bishop's cathedra. The clergyman who is to receive the award will be presented to the bishop, the protodeacon will remove the bishop's mitre, the bishop will lay his hand upon ht head of the clergyman and say the prayer for the particular award. He will then confer the award (a pectoral cross, kamilavka, mitre, etc.) and the people will exclaim, "Axios! Axios! Axios!" This exclamation does not indicate any participation of the laity as it does at ordination; rather, it is simply an expression of their acknowledgment of the clergyman's worthiness for the award, similar to applause at a secular awards ceremony.
- Sokolof, Archpriest D. (2001), A Manual of the Orthodox Church's Divine Services (3rd ed.), Jordanville NY: Printshop of St. Job of Pochaev, Holy Trinity Monastery, p. 145.
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