On Sunday, I was ordained into the Holy Priesthood in Our Holy Orthodox Church. In the Prayer of the Cherubic Hymn prior to the Great Entrance, the priest prays the words of St John Chrysostomos. The saint has succinctly captured what every priest must feel especially when he thinks of his unworthiness: “…for to serve You is great and awesome even for the heavenly powers.” These feelings are something that I will carry with me each time I am privileged to serve the Liturgy. Even though, I cannot speak with you all personally, I do want to thank you all for your prayers and your support. His Eminence Metropolitan Isaiah, Dn Paul and Fr. Vasileios were there at the altar with me and their prayers very much strengthened me. Even more than that day, when I reflect on their wisdom and example, I will find them models to emulate and inspire.
For so many years, His Eminence has been the icon of Christ for those of us in our Metropolis. His humble spiritual leadership has been a blessing to us all. He will always be in my prayers. As I said in my remarks prior to the ordination, I have been blessed to work with many bishops, priest and deacons all my life. I cannot name them all individually here, but each, those in God’s Kingdom, and those serving His people now are shining examples of dedicated servants of Our Lord. My biggest sadness on that day is that because of our present crisis my children and grandchildren were not personally with me. They were missed more than I can say, I thank all my family for their support and encouragement.
The icon above is called Christ the High Priest. It is always found on the throne of the bishop in every Orthodox church. This is to remind us that Christ’s priesthood is THE priesthood of the Church. As St Paul reminds us in his epistle to the Hebrews, Christ is the priest, “Thou art a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.” All bishops are icons of His priesthood. As the continuing presence of the apostles in the Church, it is they that connect us to His ministry and safeguard the treasury of tradition in the Church and as the words of the liturgy remind us their role is to “rightly teaching the word of your truth.”
That same prayer we spoke of above is the only prayer in the Divine Liturgy designated for the priest to read for himself. This beautiful prayer emphatically teaches us a great lesson:
“….make me worthy, your sinful and unworthy servant,
to offer these gifts to You. For You are the Offerer and
the Offered; the Accepted and the Distributed, O Christ
Fr Alexander Schmemann in his wonderful book Eucharist reminds us that we enter the church as individuals to be formed by His Holy Spirit into one body, the Body of Christ, with Our Lord at our head. Together, we ascend to God’s throne to worship the Lord. As we approach the Holy Chalice for communion, we must know that we are being given communion by Christ, we receive Christ, His body and blood to become one with Christ and with each other. As the above prayer teaches us that it is Christ the Priest that is offered and is the offerer. As a new priest in His Holy Church this is the greatest lesson that I must always keep in my heart. I ask that your prayers strengthen me and that our Lord grant me His peace each and every time I stand before His Holy Altar. God Bless…..fr.g