ORDINATION AND VOCATION
by Paul Moses
A vocation is a calling; and the vocation of Holy Priesthood is a call from God. Something deep, inside tells one that he must follow Him. The voice from within leaves him no alternative.
“Ye have not chosen me,” Jesus said, “But I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit. The Comforter, even the Spirit of Truth will abide with you forever. Verily, verily, I say unto you, that whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, He will give it you.” Jesus chooses us, and we take on the greatest responsibility that a person will ever have … the care of souls.
The great theologian John Chrysostom, in his treatise on the Priesthood, said, “If we cannot inherit the Kingdom of heaven unless we eat and drink of the flesh and blood of Christ in the eucharistic feast, and if this is possible only through the blessed hands of the Priest, … then how shall we be saved and earn our heavenly reward without these holy persons … I mean the Priests?
When the day of Pentecost was fully come, the disciples were all in one place with one accord. Suddenly … there came a sound from heaven ad of a rushing, mighty wind, and filled the house where they were! … and they were filled with the Holy Spirit.
The disciples understood then: that the Church of Christ was given into their keeping, so that the word of God might be carried from generation to generation. They recognized the direction and the mission of the Holy Church: (that is) to increase the word of God! They knew that if the Church was to grow and remain strong, it must have good and faithful persons willing to dedicate themselves and all their lives unto Christ our God.
And so the Book of Acts, Chapter VI, records the twelve called the multitude unto them and said to them, “Brethren, look ye among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint.” And the multitude chose seven whom they set before the Apostles: and when they had prayed, they laid their hands upon them, and the word of God increased.
The Role of the Laity In Ordination
THE MULTITUDE CHOSE! We today also have a choice whether a person shall be ordained; because at the ordination we sing out, “Axios”, “Worthy”, “Mus-ta-hik”; By our cries of “Axios”, we are giving approval as members of the faithful, saying, “Yes, we agree that this person be ordained to serve God, the Church, and us. We will accept his prayers and his blessings. We will accept his ministry. We will call him “Father”.
The laying-on-of-hands is that mystery in which there is a calling upon the Holy Spirit from those empowered to give it, to those who are chosen to receive it. It is a transference which has been handed down for two thousand years in an unbroken chain of descendency, from Christ Himself, to us.
“Come, follow me!”, Christ said to His disciples. This is what He says to His Priests. “Come, follow me!” Every Priest is called by Jesus. And when it comes, the Holy Fathers of the Church, today as in ages gone by, take an ordinary man, call upon the Holy Spirit, and grant unto him the mystery of Holy Orders. They pray: “Lord, fill with the gift of the Holy Spirit this man whom it hath pleased Thee to advance to the degree of Priest: that he may be worthy to stand in innocency before Thine Altar.
A Personal Response
We say that the Holy Priesthood is a calling. If you hear the call … how will it sound? I cannot say how it will sound to you. I only know how it sounded to me. It did not come in words that one can hear with the ears; but rather in words that one can feel with the heart. I know that I trembled with fear, for I was sinful and unworthy. I was afraid, afraid that my friends would laugh me to scorn. I was full of apprehension about my family. I was stunned by the call! How could I ever be a Priest?
But the Holy Spirit rushes in like a mighty wind. He not only transforms one from ordinary man to Priest, but also changes those who witness this transformation. No one ever scoffs, and no one ever laughs to scorn, for the Holy Spirit is working His wonders!
From the moment of the laying-on-of-hands, every person seems to look upon you differently. The layman they knew just a moment before is GONE!! In their minds and in their hearts, the people feel and see a new person, a Priest, newly dedicated, newly revered, sprinkled with hyssop and cleansed, washed, and whiter than snow (cf. psalm 50)
And from that day of ordination, that glorious day in his life, he is helped from every side by every member of the faithful for the rest of his life in the ministry.
For the past 24 years of my life I have thanked God with every breath for my ordination to the Holy Priesthood. I thank God for being granted the honor of serving Him. I thank God for the beautiful people I have met, and served, and learned to love.
There is nothing more wonderful, no career more beautiful, no vocation more rewarding. Nothing can compare to the complete satisfaction found in the Holy Priesthood.
The Priest … Girded With Strength
And, if sometimes the Priest feels unworthy to hold the blessed Sacraments in his hands, he knows that someone must gird himself with strength (through the grace of God). Someone must bring the good tidings! He knows that our children are not born with knowledge of Christ and His great glory. Someone must consecrate, bless, baptize, and feed the lambs. And so … he is chosen.
Jesus, in his words to Simon Peter, indicated that His Church will live forever. “Whom say ye that I am?”, He asked. And Peter answered, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God!” Jesus said, “blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jona; for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church; and the gates of HELL shall not prevail against it.”
I ask: “What is this Church of Christ?” Is it stone and mortar? No! It is people! The people who follow Him! The Church will live forever! And in every age on earth, His Church must be fed and nurtured. Places must be provided … places wherein we may come to worship Him, to receive of the seven mysteries, His life-giving Sacraments. Some of us, as the laity of the Church, shall provide for these places. Others of us bow our necks and receive the yoke of the ministry, feeding His flocks and tending to their needs.
And if it be the will of God, you may be chosen to receive the grace of the Holy Priesthood. I pray that God will open the hearts of many of our young men, inspiring them to put on the mantle of grace, to stand in innocency before His holy Altar, and to increase the word of God.
Archpriest Paul Moses is the pastor of the Cathedral of St. George in Worcester, Mass., and will soon celebrate his 25th year in the Holy Priesthood.
From Word Magazine
Publication of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America