My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE.
ON THE MYSTERY (SACRAMENT) OF PRIESTHOOD: SAINT JOHN CHRYSOSTOM (Part II)
Saint John Chrysostom sees that the role of priests in the Mysteries (Sacraments) of Reconciliation/Confession, Baptism and Eucharist makes our salvation dependent upon them! "For if anyone will consider how great a thing it is for one, being a man, and compassed with flesh and blood, to be enabled to draw near to that blessed and pure nature, he will then clearly see that great honor the grace of the Spirit has vouchsafed to priests; since by their agency these rites are celebrated, and others nowise inferior to these both in respect of our dignity and our salvation. For they who inhabit the earth and make their abode there are entrusted with the administration of things which are in Heaven and have received an authority that God has not given the Angels or Archangels. For it has not been said to them, "Whatsoever you shall bind on earth shall be found in heaven, and whatsoever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven..." this binding lays hold of the soul and penetrates the heavens; and what priests do here below God ratifies above, and the Master confirms the sentence of his servants. For indeed what is it but all manner of heavenly authority which He has given them when He says, "Whose sins you remit they are remitted, and whose sins you retain they are retained?" What authority could be greater than this? "The Father has committed all judgment to the Son?" But I see all put into the hands of these men by the Son. For they have been conducted to this dignity as if they were already translated to Heaven, and had transcended human nature, and were released from the passions to which we are liable" (Book 3:5).
"For transparent madness, it is to despise so great a dignity, without it is not possible to obtain either our own salvation or the good things which have been promised to us. For if no one can enter into the Kingdom of Heaven except he be regenerated through water and the Spirit, and he who does not eat the Flesh of the Lord and drink His Blood is excluded from eternal life, and if all these things are accomplished only by means of those holy hands, I mean the hands of the priest, how will anyone, without these, be able to escape the fire of hell, or to win those crowns which are reserved for the victorious?" (Book 3:5).
Saint John Chrysostom reaches the conclusion that the authority of the priest over the Mysteries (Sacraments) of Baptism, Reconciliation/Repentance/Confession, and Anointing (Holy Unction) is a reason for them to be more feared and honored than kings and Jewish priests and to be more loved than parents: "These verily are they who are entrusted with the pangs of spiritual travail and the birth which comes through baptism: by their means we put on Christ, and are buried with the Son of God, and become members of that blessed Head. The Jewish priests (rabies) had authority to release the body from leprosy, or, rather, not to release it but only to examine those who were already released, and you know how much the Office of the priest was contended for at that time. But our Christian priests have received authority to deal, not with bodily leprosy, but spiritual uncleanness--not to pronounce it removed after examination, but actually and absolutely to take it away. Wherefore they who despise these priests would be far more accursed than Dathan and his company and deserve more severe punishment...God has bestowed a power on priests greater than that of our natural parents...for our natural parents generate us unto this life only, but the others (priests) unto that which is to come. And the former would not be able to avert death from their offspring, or to repel the assaults of disease; but these others (priests) have often saved a sick soul or one which was on the point of perishing, for not only at the time of regeneration, but afterward also, they have authority to forgive sins. "Is any sick among you?" it said, "Let him call for the elders (priests) of the Church and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up: and if he has committed sins they shall be forgiven them."
(To be continued)
Please note: It is most important to pay attention to the divine words of Saint John Chrysostom on the Sacrament of Priesthood in the Orthodox Church. Over a number of years, I have seen and witnessed the misunderstanding and even the lack of respect for the Sacrament of Priesthood and/or the priest. The Office of Priesthood has been under attack and marginalized. I recall years ago someone very important saying that priests "are a necessary evil." For many years parish priests and even their families have been mistreated, neglected and even abused. The priest in some parishes is someone "hired" and "fired" by the local parish council as is said by some.
Can there be a functioning parish without a priest? Millions of dollars are spent to erect magnificent church facilities but what good is it if there is no priest to serve that parish?
The priesthood is a vocation and not a profession! One does not choose to be a priest but is called or chosen by God to serve Him and His people. No one is worthy to be ordained a priest. He is educated by our Archdiocese for seven years at Holy Cross and then assigned by the Archdiocese to one of our Greek Orthodox parishes.
The parish priest is not the enemy! Our enemy is only one, the devil. He is the one that seeks our destruction and death. The priest is the shepherd who feeds, protects and saves the sheep from the many threats that surround them. He is the one that baptizes the, marries them, heals them, guides them, prays for them, nurtures them, and leads everyone under his care to Our Savior Jesus Christ.
The Orthodox Christian must pray for his/her priest. Do you know the following prayer for your priest?
+In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Lord Jesus Christ, enkindle the hearts of all Your priests with the fire of zealous love for You, that they may ever seek Your glory; Give them the strength that they may labor unceasingly in Your earthly vineyard for the salvation of our souls and the glory of Your All-Honorable and Majestic Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, now ane eve, and unto ages of ages. Amen.
Another for Priests by Saint John of Kronstadt
O Lord, let Thy priests be clothed with righteousness; Let them always remember the greatness of their calling; Let them not be entangled in the snares of the world and the devil; Let them be saved from the cares of the world, the delight in riches, and the desire for other things entering into their hearts. Amen.
"Glory Be To GOD For All things!" -- Saint John Chrysostomos
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God