The Priestly Service [1]

Below is a homily delivered by Bishop Joanikije (from here) on October 22 at Monastery Kosijerevo. Translated from Serbian.

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

To be a priest of God’s Church is a great honor because the priestly order is not from man but it is from God and it is from Heaven, according to a Divine and not human framework. When the priest is ordained, the bishop, as a man, reads the prayer over him, but it’s God’s grace which, according to the prayer of the bishop and priest and people of God is collectively extolled to God, descends and makes the priest a priest and remains on him for all times only if he remains faithful to God’s Church and the priestly vow. In today’s gospel we see briefly the grace of the priestly rank.  When the Apostles came to the Lord, after the preaching of which the Lord empowered and authorized them for, and they said to the Lord: “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name.” Therefore, it immediately clear, the demons, evil spirits would never submit to man but they submit to the fearful, mighty and powerful name of God. When the Lord says: “Behold I give you authority and power to trample serpents and scorpions and all the evil powers” here is also noted the grace of the priestly rank. It isn’t that important that man can grab snakes with his hands or that the snake’s venom can do him no harm. After all, there are medical means through which men are protected from the venom of snakes, rather it’s important that the Lord has given that power which rebukes even the most poisonous of animals.

It is the spiritual things which are referred to here, for the priest in his holy service has many beautiful and uplifting moments when his heart, enlightened through the grace of God, God’s mercy and God’s light, rejoices and sings together with the angels and glorifies the Lord. At the same time the priest also has difficult moments in his service and we mustn’t forget either one. At times he confronts such evil and human venom, such sins which cannot compare to the venom of snakes or scorpions with that venom which man bears in his soul. However, the priest is also there to help all of those who have difficulties. A person comes with the heaviest of sins, the greatest of sinful venom in their souls, perhaps they committed murder, perhaps they have other sins equal to murder, but if they have repentance they go to the priest to confess and cleanse their consciences. The priest reads the prayer to relieve them of their sins and, certainly, cleansing comes through intense repentance. The priest through his prayer erases many sins because the Lord descends to our human weakness and acts through the priest as through His faithful servant. And He also said to His Apostles: “Who hears you, hears Me” – and this should be understood verbatim; only if the priest, in his service to God, is truly sincere, dedicated and unreserved.

To be continued

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