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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An eternal reminder

H/T: Fr. Ted’s blog (here) on the rich man and Lazarus:

“Just as, when God expelled Adam from paradise, he settled him opposite the garden in order that the continual sight might renew his suffering and give him a clearer awareness of his fall from the good, so also He settled the rich man opposite Lazarus in order that he might see the good of which he had deprived himself. ‘I sent,’ he says, ‘the poor man Lazarus to your gate to teach you virtue and to receive your love; you ignored this benefit and declined to use his assistance toward your salvation. Hereafter you shall use him to bring yourself a greater punishment and retribution.’ From the poor man we learn that all who suffer curses and injustice among us will stand before us in that other life.

Indeed Lazarus suffered no injustice from the rich man; for the rich man did not take Lazarus’ money, but failed to share his own. If he is accused by the man he failed to pity because he did not share his own wealth, what pardon will the man receive who has stolen others’ goods, when he is surrounded by those whom he has wronged? In that world there is no need of witnesses, accusers, evidence, or proof; the deeds themselves just as we have done them appear before our eyes. ‘See the man,’ He says, ‘and his works: indeed this also is theft, not to share one’s possessions.’”

St. John Chrysostom

Don’t Judge Priests

H/T: Pravoslavie.ru (here)

Criticism is allowed, but passing judgement upon priests isn’t. As the saying goes, to criticize someone or someone’s work is to put a wreath upon it [and that is a good thing]. But to judge a person belonging to the clergy, to judge in a context where everyone tends to criticize precisely because the clergy are the ones who emanate the power and Grace of God and everyone points at them all the time… well, let us not forget they are human, too. Moreover, they have the possibility to save themselves more easily than you, because they have the Grace and the Church mysteries and works/duties than have been given to them — and last but not least, they must have some conscience, too!, don’t you think?

And let me tell you this – no clergyman becomes so without the will of God. God directs such a person’s life.

But we are going back to our earlier point: we tend to criticize everyone else but ourselves!

Think about it – when you go up there and meet Christ and it is shown that you judged the priest – that he did that instead of the other, or whatever. Things of that sort… so what you did was to judge the priest’s deeds and movements through life and that is a big mistake.

I’m telling you this once again: no matter what sort of cup you drink your wine from – whether it’s crystal or pottery, it’s still wine that you’re drinking. One drinks wine from the Holy Chalice, which contains the Holy Blood and Body of our Saviour. Because it is not the priest’s worthiness that is responsible for the wonderful transformations that take place then, when the wine changes into the Holy Blood and the bread into the Holy Body of Christ — but God’s Grace!

So, whether he is worthy or unworthy, the priest’s work depends on Grace, not on anything else. So don’t rush to judge him, because you’re making an enormous mistake. And here I must get back to a previous question – you should not judge anyone, not even some terrible murderer – let alone a priest! Why should you intrude in his life so! You will be condemned much more seriously because of that. You have come to Christ? Pray to Christ, to help him.

My dear ones, I repeat: we are responsible for all the mistakes that are done in this world – we are personally responsible for them, every one of us. There. So we must have this attitude of sacrifice. Because the Mystery of man’s salvation, for everyone of us, is carried out on the Cross. What we should understand from that is that the Cross is the earth’s greatest gift, of the greatest utility.

So what should your “sacrifice” be? Sacrifice your judging the other one because of some mistake s/he has made. And if you go as far as judging people within the Church wherein dwells the Grace of God and you judge the priest, you are making a terrible, terrible mistake! Make it a habit, all of you, to see Christ when you look at the Church, because there’s a prayer that the priest reads before the Heruvikon, which goes like this: “because You are the One Who brings, the One Who brings Yourself, the One Who is received, and the One Who is shared.” So what is the priest if he is in charge with such things? …It’s like… “Yes, but without you, my priest, I cannot do these things”, Christ replies – not without the Grace of priesthood. And, ok, maybe that guy isn’t a terribly sophisticated person, as a priest, but he does have the Grace, and that is a divine thing. So you condemn yourself terribly if you judge him. He is responsible for his deeds; but you, on the other hand, you will be held terribly responsible for your deeds and his deeds, too, because you have judged him.

There was this great hermit who one day, received the visit of a believer from his village, who had come to see him in the wilderness. In the hermit’s village was this very sinful man. The hermit asked the visitor: “Has that X fellow changed his ways or he’s just as I used to know him?” The man answered: “He hasn’t changed, Father.” And the hermit uttered only an: “Oh!” The next day, an angel came to the hermit and asked him: “God has sent me to ask you: where should He put the soul of that man, who just died last night – in Heaven or in Hell? Because you have judged him.” The hermit lamented and repented for the rest of his life to receive a sign of God’s forgiveness and still had none. And the man that he had judged had been a big sinner indeed! But he had judged him.

“God, please, have mercy for him. God, please protect him.”, he should have said instead. I repeat and I stress this, and please forgive me for being repetitive: WE are guilty for the other people’s mistakes. The whole tragedy of humanity depends on the mess in our own lives.

Because if one talks about love, it’s love! There is no going around it. Look at things as they truly are. It’s like: I am a human being, with hands, fingers etc, there is no question about it whatsoever. With a heart, too! One cannot go around these things. The Christian teaching is about the integrity of the human being. So we are not to negotiate a whole series of things that can pull us behind – or stall our lives. I’m telling you – this judging of others that we do is so serious that (I think I have written it somewhere, too) I believe that most of the souls who are in hell are people who have badmouthed others. They all excuse themselves by saying: “But I’m not the only one who badmouths.” or: “Doesn’t s/he deserve to be judged?” No. If someone is guilty, you, too, are guilty for his guilt, because you haven’t prayed for him – and, of course, if you have judged him, you have made an even bigger mistake.

Valahia
Archimandrite Arsenie (Papocioc)
21 / 07 / 2011

Cain’s Father

Alice C. Linsley on her blog Just Genesis always offers interesting posts. In this one taken from here she speaks about the father of Cain:

Genesis appears to present contradictory views about Cain’s father.  In one view, Cain is Adam’s son, born of Eve.  Genesis 4:1 says, “Adam knew/lay (yadah) with his wife Eve, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Cain.”

It should be noted that the Hebrew and the Greek versions do not explicitly name Adam in this verse.  Instead they read, “The man knew his wife Eve, and she conceived and bore Cain.”

Contrast this with Genesis 4:25 which says “Adam knew his wife again, and she gave birth to a son whom she named Seth.”

Why is Adam not named as Cain’s father in Genesis 4:1 while Adam is explicitly named as Seth’s father in Genesis 4:25?

It is likely that the biblical writers were aware of another tradition which suggests that Cain lived long after the first created Man and Woman. This tradition is supported by the kinship data in Genesis, the etiology of Cain’s name, and the technology attributed to him. We will consider each of these separately.

The Kinship Data

Analysis of the Genesis 4 and 5 King Lists reveals that Cain married a woman who named their first-born son Enoch.  No etymological etiology is given for the name Enoch since such explanations are offered for the names Cain (Gen. 4: 2) and Seth (Gen. 4:25).  This seems strange since the name Enoch appears in both the Genesis 4 and 5 king lists, so the name pertains to both Cain’s clan and Seth’s clan.  Enoch appears to be a Semitic form of the African name Nok. The Nok civilization extended from northern Nigeria into Niger, Chad and the Sudan.  Here we find the ancient settlements of Nok and Kano. Kano is likely the African version of the name Kayan/Qayin.

What is the significance of Cain’s wife naming their first-born son Enoch or Nok?  If she named her son after her father, as did Naaman, a later descendant of Cain, we may conclude that she was Cain’s cousin or niece wife.  It was the cousin of niece wives who named their first-born sons after their fathers. This would mean that Cain’s father-in-law was called Enoch.  Enoch the Elder would have been Cain’s father’s brother.  This could not be Adam, since the Bible insists that Adam represents the first human created. As such, Adam would have lived millions of years ago.

So according to the information in Genesis, Cain was either the son of Adam and Eve and lived millions of years ago, or he was the son of Enoch’s brother and lived around 3400 BC.

How are we to resolve this apparent contradiction?  One approach is to investigate the meaning of the name Cain and its related cognates.

Etiology of the name Cain

As E.A. Speiser noted that the name Cain –  Qany(ty) or Qan itti – shows close affinity to the Akkadian itti (as in itti šarrim which means “with the king” or possibly “against the king.”) Akkadian was the language of the empire during Nimrod’s time (BC 2290-2215).  There is evidence that biblical Nimrod is the historical Sargon the Great.  Genesis 10 tells us that Nimrod was a Kushite, so it is not surprising to find that Akkadian shares many words with Nilotic languages. Among the Oromo of Ethiopia and Somalia, itti is attached to names. Examples include Kaartuumitti, Finfinneetti and Dimashqitti. That itti is associated with Nilotic rulers is evident in the name Nefertitti.Cain as warrior and metal worker

Shalom E. Holtz (Yeshiva University, New York) has demonstrated, itti can mean “against” as is evidenced from its appearance in numerous cases of adversarial relationships in the Old Testament.  Since the meaning of Cain is “spear” and he is associated with metal work, we might take Cain to be a metalworking warrior. Genesis 4:22 indicates that his clan forged various implements of copper and iron, although the iron mentioned here was beja (bja), the ancient Egyptian word for meteroric iron (metal from heaven). Beja corresponds to the Sanskrit word bija, meaning semen or seed. Meteoritic iron was used in the fabrication of iron beads in Nubia 6000 years ago. These beads were likely perceived as seeds from heaven which brought divine power to the wearer.

This certainly places Cain in history before the bronze age and long after the first humans tread the verdant hills of Eden. This resolves the problem of dating Adam and Eve and Cain.  The first are ahistorical representations of the first humans created by God, made fully human and in the divine image.  These would have lived at least 3.4 million years ago.  Cain and Seth, on the other hand, can be placed in history between 4000 and 3000 B.C. This corresponds to the Copper Age (3500 -2300 B.C.) During the Copper Age the warriors were of high social rank. Copper mining and the fabrication of copper tools and weapons gave rise to new a social hierarchy. At the top, were the warriors who protected their communities.

Conclusion

So who was Cain’s father?  Clearly not Adam.  Given the period in which Cain lived, his social rank as a ruler, and his place in the ancestry of Abraham, we must assume that he was a Kushite.  His father was likely the brother of Enoch the Elder, Cain’s father-in-law.  This would explain why Cain’s wife named their first-born son after her father, as was the pattern for cousin wives among Abraham’s Kushite ancestors.

On the eternal office of the priesthood

H/T: The Orthodox Church (here)

Jesus Cried out:”It is finished”

I received the following questions from an Internet writer for my comments. I am sending it to you for posting in the site because it relates to the fundamental doctrine of our church.

Quote.”Do we need a priest?

But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.(1 pet 2:9)

God is equally accessible to all the faithful, and every Christian has equal potential to minister for God.

1 Corinthians 4:1: “No one should regard us as anything else than ministers of Christ and dispensers of the mysteries of God.”

When the thick temple veil that covered the doorway to the Holy of Holies was torn in two by God at the time of Christ’s death (Matthew 27:51), God was indicating that the Old Testament priesthood was no longer necessary. Now people could come directly to God through the great High Priest, Jesus Christ (Hebrews 4:14-16). There are now no earthly mediators between God and man as existed in the Old Testament priesthood (1 Timothy 2:5).The Epistle to the Hebrews calls Jesus the supreme “high priest,” who offered himself as a perfect sacrifice (Hebrews 7:23–28)”

Unquote. It is finished. Yes, the redemptive process of earning salvation by blood sacrifice is finished by the Calvary crucifixion of the Lamb, but dawned the age of the Holy Spirit to continue the same . It doesn’t mean that the priesthood is abolished and deleted. But the procurement of salvation is a continuous process. Therefore, He abolished the first in order to establish the second covenant, Heb.10: 9. Thus a second covenant of worship is established to continue under the shadow of the first. 1.Pet.2: 9 has a connecting reference to Exo.19: 6 and Rev.5: 10, where it says that Israelites `is a kingdom of priests and a holy nation’. It is a group, old and new Israel(church) , not one individual or every individual. He formed the church as the “kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on earth”, Rev.5: 10, certainly pertains to the church(holy nation, and its royal priesthood’ (spiritual church hierarchy). They(church hierarchy) will have to reign on earth till His second coming. Though it was a kingdom of priests, only the Levites were chosen as their priests, not from any other tribes in OT period; similarly only the anointed one from any tribe or place in the world is allowed to be the priests in the second covenant. Therefore, a way for everyone is opened for serving the Lord in a general sense and also in the liturgical order, 1.Cor.4: 1, but not in the way as the non-Episcopal churches preach and practice. Mt.27: 51 signifies that the wall of separation between the Father and His children is torn apart by the sacrifice of Jesus who opened the way to the Father, Jn14: 6.

A similar type of New Testament statute of priesthood, by the confluence of the Melchizedekan and Aaronite priesthood at river Jordan baptism, was established `to fulfill all righteousness’ , Mt.3: 15. This `all righteousness’ pertain to the eternal Melchizedekan and Aaronite union of priesthood. This was the reason for Jesus to receive the baptism from the Levite John the Baptist at the age of 30, just before commencing His public ministry to indicate that anyone who wishes to be a priest to be ordained by a bishop. The Pentecostals don’t understand or recognize that it was the occasion of the merger of the Heavenly and Aaronite priesthood, the reason for the certificate from the Father that `this is my beloved son’ and the instantaneous descent of the Holy Spirit in the form a dove. Jesus started his public ministry only after this recognition( High priestly consecration) from above.

Trampling over by this eternal truth of the Priesthood of Jesus who passed it on to the elect of the spirit, the Pentecostals don’t accept the infant baptism, thinking that the Pentecostal baptism in the creek at the age of 30, not at river Jordan, make a person of the highest priestly order and the member of a holy nation. Even Jesus the High priest received His baptism by a Levite priest. If God has to receive the Aaronite priesthood before His ministry in this world, there is no meaning in the charismatic groups’ shunning and scolding of the NT priesthood order, the essential ingredient for salvation. Jesus passed on the priesthood that he received from the herald to His apostles and the successive anointing of the elect of the spirit through the centuries.

The NT sacrifice is a bloodless sacrifice, the prologue of which was done by Melchizedek offering bread and wine to Abraham, Gen.14: 18; there by the Father of faith promising to give the tithes to Melchizedek. This bloodless sacrifice was offered by the High Priest Melchizedek Himself, celebrated with bread and wine in St.mark’s mansion during His last supper with His apostles, just before spilling His blood at Golgotha. Thus the OT sacrifice is conjoined with the new one at river Jordan, in st.mark’s building and on Calvary, culminating in the establishment of the second covenant. Jesus is our Eternal High Priest who gave His body as a symbol in advance during the Last supper, just before shedding Hid blood once for ever.

Key to the kingdom of Heaven

We need a priest because the priestly authority which forgives the sin of the repenting believers is the key to Heaven. This authority was first promised, not given, to His apostle Peter, Mt.16: 19 (I will give you…), then repeated this promise to all His 12 apostles, Mt.18: 18. A resurrected Christ gave it really to all His apostles by breathing on to them, Jn.20: 21-23, 27; and by blessing, Lk.24: 50-51, Mt.28: 18-20. The bestowing of this priestly authority was culminated on the day of Pentecost. The tongue by which this priestly authority of the forgiveness of sins confirms that the key to the kingdom of God is the tongue of the confessor who forgives our sins.

There was a mediator between man and God in OT period. Read Hebrew 5 to confirm this. ” For every high priest chosen from among men is appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God…., just as Aaron was.” Because of this he is bound to offer sacrifice for his own sins as well as for those of the people. Jesus is the only mediator between God and man, between the OT and NT. There is a spiritual hierarchy in Heaven, so also on earth. Then who is the mediator between Jesus and man? Because the Son of man finished His work on earth and given the overseering charge to the Holy Spirit who broods over the church from the day of Pentecost? If Jesus the Word Incarnate is the mediator between man and God, the mediator between the Holy Spirit and man is the anointed man, clerics like Aaron or the church hierarchy.

The anointed man is the priestly hierarchy, the reason for the apostles to elect Deacons and bishops to administer the sacraments to the people. Just as there was anointing in the OT, the Aaronite anointing continued from Moses and Aaron, the Levites, through the High priest Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist who passed it on to Jesus by baptizing Him at Jordan, and the Lamb gave it to His apostles and continuing till today by the successive generations of clerics by laying of hands and anointing with oil. These clerics are the empowered or authorized ones to work on behalf of the church to mediate between the Son of man and lay believers. The sacrifice served by the clerics is accepted by the Saviour for transmitting it to the Father.

This acceptance is notified to the Holy Spirit by the Father that He has reconciled to the sinful humanity. “…how much more will the Heavenly Father give the Holy spirit to those who ask him”, Lk.11: 13. The prayer or the liturgy offered by the clerics also go through the prayer of the incense of the saints, with golden bowls full of incense of the saints, 24 elders and living creatures, Re.5: 8., before it reaches to the throne of the Lamb. Thus the cycle is completed just like a prick of the skin by a pin is communicated to the brain which gives consent for the hand to give protection to that part or the body.

“The Epistle to the Hebrews calls Jesus the supreme “high priest,” who offered himself as a perfect sacrifice (Hebrews 7:23–28).”

Thus Jesus is the High priest who sits at the right hand of God to accept our supplications that are offered by His anointed representative for passing it on to the Father Almighty.

E.S.John, Australia
OCP MEDIA NETWORK