HOW TO KEEP A PRIEST HUMBLE


Here is a Holy Week article by an Orthodox priest, Fr. Ernesto.  It will give insight as to the life of a priest, especially when celebrating Divine Services. Think twice before taking Holy Orders. It is not to be done lightly. Could you pray this prayer without trepidation?

By the way, lest you think Lent and Holy week place too much of a burden in the numbers of services you must lead, consider this. An orthodox priest(s) must (are required to) perform during Holy Week every service for every day, usually at least two, beginning the Saturday before Palm Sunday, ending Easter day. If you are a single priest in a parish, you will not have the help from brother priests who take turns in leading the services. Divine liturgies are generally much longer than Catholic Masses or Protestant services. Fr. Ernesto is alone in his parish.

Now Fr. Ernesto –

HOW TO KEEP A PRIEST HUMBLE

Do you want to know how to keep a priest humble? Make sure to have him read the Fifth Prayer that comes after the Fifth Gospel during the Service of Holy Unction that takes place on Holy Wednesday evening. Do you want to know what the priest must pray about himself?

[Praying to God, the priest says] . . . who also hast called me, thy humble and sinful and unworthy servant, entangled in manifold sins and wallowing in the lusts of pleasures, to the holy and sublime degree of the Priesthood . . . who hast counted me worthy to minister thy supracelestial Mysteries . . . Remember that the thought of a man inclineth constantly toward evil from his youth up, and that none is to be found sinless upon earth.

Catch what the prayer clearly says. Does it sound as though there was any good reason for God to choose to call any man to the Priesthood? The calling of Priest is a work of pure grace on the part of God. But, just like my post on wanna-be-monk(s), there are priests who can easily come to believe that God was so impressed with them that He just knew that He had a future priest on His hands. Hopefully the Service of Unction on Holy Wednesday will, at least once a year, remind all of us priests that it was not particularly on the basis of anything we have done that we have been called to be a priest.

This prayer is one of the ones in Orthodoxy that comes the closest to expressing a notion of imputed worth as versus earned worth. The priest says that God, “counted me worthy.” Given the prior description of the priest as, “wallowing in the lusts of pleasures,” the phrase about being counted worthy most certainly is based on nothing other than the sheer grace of God upon the man who is called, the sheer election of him by God to the order of Priest.

But, this long prayer, of which I have only quoted part, should also lay to rest any rumor that the Orthodox believe that it is possible for a person to lead a perfect life upon this Earth, even after salvation. We most certainly believe that it is possible to tremendously improve in holiness, and that, in fact, we must attempt to tremendously improve in our holiness. We will even say that Our Lord Jesus Christ would not have called us to be perfect, even as Our Father in Heaven is perfect, if it were not at least theoretically possible. But, as best I know, there is no claim that any person outside Our Lord Jesus has led a perfect life upon Earth. [Note: there are some back and forth arguments about the Theotokos, but a lot of them revolve around definitions of sin, perfection, etc.]

To return to my first statement, should you meet an Orthodox priest who is having humility problems, take him quickly to this prayer. That should begin the cure of his problem.


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About Fr. Orthohippo

The blog of a retired Anglican priest (MSJ), his musings, journey, humor, wonderment, and comments on today's scene.
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