THE REVERSED COLLAR
Ninety percent of the criticism of the clergy comes from people who have never made an effort to comprehend the position of the priesthood in the Church of Christ, or understand that the priesthood is Divinely established. The indifferent Orthodox Catholic who finds constant fault with the priest is often the one who resents any kind of authority over him; perhaps he takes out on the priest his repressed antagonism towards his physical parents. Many persecutors of the clergy are frustrated salesmen who love to play priest in their spare time. Many criticizers of the clergy have made no effort to get to know the heavenly powers the priest has received from God Himself. The indifferent Orthodox Catholic stands a long way off from the daily activities of the Church and just criticizes and condemns what is being done. You are an indifferent Orthodox Catholic then, if you constantly refuse to accept the authority of the priest and if you oppose his plans for the good of the parish. Any man would discipline his child or any child for opposing the authority of its father. But yet the same men oppose the authority of their spiritual fathers — who are far more important in life. You are an indifferent Orthodox Catholic and must admit a kind of a neurosis that the less personal power you have, the more sacrifices will be asked of you. You are indifferent and very strongly liable to lose your soul if your only contribution to the parish is criticism of the priest. Remember what Christ said: “And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, going forth out of that city, shake off the dust from your feet as a testimony against them, Amen, Amen I say unto you, it will be more tolerable in the day of judgment for Sodom and Gomorrah than for that house or city.” (Matt. 10:5) “Obey them that rule over you and submit yourselves for they watch your souls and they must give an account, that they may give the account with joy and not grief over you; for that is not profitable to you.” (Hebrews 13:17).
I am an average priest, a pastor, a much misunderstood individual. People suspect me of being a little more than human, but continue to invite me to eat their dinners and drink their wine. If I partake of the latter, they call me a “dear” and a “good fellow.” If I refuse, they claim to be edified.
They expect me to have no faults, but keep on searching for them and having discovered a few — OH BOY! When through “money talks”, I meet my parish obligation, I am a “grafter”; but when I do not plead for money and my parish goes into debt, I am a poor business man.”
When my liver is put out of order and I am physically ill and mentally tired, they say I look pious and saintly. When I am well and bubbling over with joy and zeal, they criticize my frivolity. If ill health besets me because the parishioners upset me and I appear worn out, they accuse me of trying to look saintly. They think I should love everyone in the parish and when I try to do my best, no matter how difficult it might be, they call me a hypocrite, but when I admit there are some I am not crazy about, they call me a snob. The wealthy parishioners find fault with me when I do not call upon them, the poor ones if I do.
Some people in my presence pretend to be keenly interested in all things religious. They minimize my intelligence and exaggerate their own histrionic ability. The stingy souls who contribute a very, very small proportion of their income to the church pity me because I have such a difficult time raising funds. Those who contribute generously think I have a very nice job. Some wonder what I do with all my time; others pity me because I have so much to do.
They want me to be more of a layman and to represent them in civil and public affairs, but they are forever praising Father So-And-So because he is so “quiet and retiring”. “He is such a holy man.” If I use a forceful and catchy phrase in my sermons, they say I am sensational. If I don’t, they will not come to hear me.
They would never think of insulting their own father or anyone they respect, but they don’t hesitate to say whatever enters their minds to the priest.
They forget the priest can get to heaven without others, but they can never get to the throne of God without HIM. Love and respect your priest; it may mean the difference of a Heaven or Hell in eternity!
From Word Magazine
Publication of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America