CHRIST'S SACRED MINISTRY
by Rev. Robert E. Lucas
The sanctity of Christ’s Throne here on earth is wholly dependent upon His Sacred Priesthood. It was immediately after rising from the dead that our Saviour concerned Himself with the eternal Church; that it might never be orphaned, that it might not be without Him even though He would return to His rightful place with the Father.
The enthralling splendor of having Christ with us forever! Imagine the magnanimity of God condescending to be with us forever; close enough for all of us to call upon in time of need. And this only through the glorious priesthood of Christ’s Orthodox Catholic Church! It becomes a great deal easier now for us to understand why St. Catherine thought herself unworthy to kiss the hands of priests so that instead she kissed their feet. St. Ambrose, that pillar of the see of Milan writes that kings and lords “fall at the feet of priests in order to give them the proper respect, and kissing their hands implore the blessing of God.” Rudolph, the founder of the Hapsburg dynasty which ruled the Hungarian Empire for centuries until the beginning of World War I, was enjoying the scenery one day while leisurely astride his horse. Immediately he noticed a priest who was on his way to pay a visit to the sick. Without a second’s thought, he dismounted and insisted the priest ride and then in deep mud, he led the horse to the home of the sick individual. He felt that it wouldn’t be dignified if he rode his horse and the priest was forced by circumstances to walk on foot — and yet carrying the Sacred Species!
Well known pagans also regarded their priests very highly. Plutarch bears witness to this in his writings when he says that among the Egyptians an individual could not become king unless he had previously been a priest. In ancient Greece the priests were regarded and respected on the same scale as kings and other sovereigns. Xenaphon writes that Agezilias, the great warrior, upon conquering a city always gave strict orders to his soldiers not to desecrate the temples or to show disrespect in any manner towards members of the clergy. It is a well known fact that among the pagans if a thief or a criminal should petition a pagan priest for mercy, the civil courts or magistrates would not punish him on that day so as not to show any disrespect or dishonor to the priests.
Counts, lords, princes and dukes have always respected the Sacred Ministry of Christ. That is how the practice arose of kissing the hands of bishops and priests. These individuals thus showed their love for the Son of God Who during the Sacrifice of the Holy Liturgy reposed in the hands of the priest. Many even did deep bows before the person of Christ’s ambassador. This was in deep respect for their office and in recognition of their great powers from heaven.
After having thought about the great love and respect others, and even pagans have for their priests, the Orthodox Catholic realizes much more why his priest deserves his love, respect and honor. Those members of the pious faithful who love and adore their Master in heaven will love, respect and obey His servants and representatives here on earth. When we express our respect for our priest, we show him our personal love, and above all, the love that lives in our hearts for the first High Priest, Jesus Christ, comes to the forefront.
Every Orthodox Catholic realizes that he cannot love Christ who does not love His priests. And if we all love our priests, we should not hesitate in letting them know it. A kind expression of thanks for something they may have done for us, a sincere compliment, financial and moral support all mean so much to our priests. These certainly don’t cost our faithful very much and can give the needed incentive to our clergy to prod along in their lonely battle with the enemies of the world.
In everything the priest does and becomes involved, he tries to show and make obvious to us all how available Christ is to all of us. What an exhilarating thrill crosses our spine as we ponder the thought of awesome privilege the priest has in making the altars in our churches thrones on which the Son of God joyously reposes among us. In cooperation with God, the priest invokes the Holy Spirit to accept our offering during the Liturgy and to transform it into Christ’s Body and Blood.
Working jointly with God to keep Christ physically with us, the priest is certainly worthy of our reverence, honor, love and respect. May the glorious feast of Christ’s Resurrection ever remind us of our good fortune in possessing priests who make it possible for us to have Christ in our midst and to be able to accept Him as often as we ourselves choose.
From Word Magazine
Publication of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America