Christ’s priesthood, of which we are partakers, is a great and marvellous gift of the Holy Spirit, and the reason for this is ‘difficult to explain’ for us poor ones. It is seen in the world as a ministry of reconciliation of the world with God the Saviour. Those who receive this gift, have as the main task of their life, to be ambassadors to the world for the salvation which Christ grants unto the world and to labour for the spiritual rebirth of the flock which the Lord in His goodness has entrusted to them.
As for every deed and step in our life, we have a perfect ‘example’ and true ‘way’ in the Person, life and word of the Almighty Jesus, so likewise in our priestly service, apart from His Revelation, there is no other light to direct us towards fulfilling it in a manner pleasing to God and for eternal redemption, both ours and that of the whole world.
The Apostle Paul says, ‘God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself’. In other words, as Christ is for us the only Teacher, in the same way, He was also the Priest par excellence, Who gained sure ‘access’ for us to the Heavenly Father of lights whereby we inherited from Him the grace of adoption. We became the friends of Christ, His brethren and co-inheritors.
However, how did the Lord accomplish this supernatural work for our sake, by which He ministered as a priest for the salvation of the world? Certainly by His unspeakable self-emptying and the incomprehensible humility of His sacrifice.
In order for us as priests to recognise of ‘which spirit’ we are, or ought to be, I shall try to mention two points which characterise the Lord’s Appearing and conversation among us.
No one can measure the extent of the Son of God’s self-emptying, of His uncreated divine nature being joined to the created human nature. Neither can one describe the depth of His humility when He assumes the endless tragedy and infirmity of the world’s fall. He put Himself underneath all to save all. He did not come as one exercising authority, or as a ruler or potentate. These are the characteristics of the estranged idolaters, as He Himself said. He, however, became the servant of all. ‘I am among you as he that serveth’. He taught us a paradoxical lesson, that the one who ‘serves’ is ‘greater’ than the one who ‘sits at the table’. And He gave us the commandment to learn the same humility from Him, and that whoever of us wishes to ‘be greatest’ must first be as ‘the younger’ and as a ‘servant’ in ministering to others. He manifested an unspeakable and supernatural perfection in the weakness of the flesh which He assumed.
The great Apostle Paul, who was the perfect imitator of Christ and who heard the ‘unspeakable’ words of Paradise, was at the same time taught to prefer nothing in this temporary life, to knowing ‘Jesus Christ and him crucified’. Any divergence from this model renders us ‘foolish’, that is, heedless, unmoved by the love ‘unto the end’ of God Crucified. Having the suffering Lord of glory as his example, the Apostle did not hesitate in his ministry, but ‘though he was free from all men, yet he made himself servant unto all, that he might gain the more’. He is initiated into the mystery of godliness and has the ‘spirit’ and ‘mind of Christ’, which he expresses in Philippians as follows: ‘Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus. In other words, what matters is the other, whom we should serve in the supreme work of his reconciliation with God. The salvation of the least of our brethren ‘for whom Christ died’ comes before our own.
We, therefore, as priests and imitators of the Great Apostle Paul, will only honour our ministry, when we put ourselves beneath every person who comes to us. By our humility without dissimulation, we shall bring him to a sense of honour so as to accept the word of the Gospel, and thus we shall contribute to the regeneration of even but a few. If during our priestly service to our fellow men, we add a portion of humble love to everything we do and to every word we utter, then, to be sure, the good Lord will bless, first ourselves and then the others, so that we may inherit the great portion of grace which flowed from the Cross and Resurrection of His Beloved Son.
Another characteristic sign which shows the fullness and unattainable perfection of Christ’s sacrifice, is His ‘suffering without the gate that he might sanctify the people with his own blood’. In other words, Jesus Who is merciful unto all, patiently endured the Passion in utter humiliation. As the Apostle says in another place, Christ accepted that all the ‘reproaches of them that reproached him’ fell upon Him, not in order to please Himself, but to benefit and console man in his devastation. The Apostle exhorts us also to do the same in order to meet Jesus Christ and come into His living Presence, ‘raised from the dead’. To come out of the camp of this world, ‘bearing the reproach of Christ’ and ‘seeking for the city to come’. Then our worship will be pleasing to God and beneficial to others.
According to the above, for a priest’s ministry to be honourable and blessed, it must be distinguished by his devotion and dedication to ‘Jesus the author and finisher of our faith’. The world should not tear him away from seeking the saving grace of the Lord for himself and his brethren, neither should it beguile him with the vanity of its nice things. He must not be influenced by its ways which are an ‘abomination in the sight of God’. He should prefer the hard sayings of the Gospel and not try to make His truth compatible with the love of this world which is ‘enmity against God’.
Therefore, being initiated in the divine mind of Jesus, sympathetically placing himself below the other and preferring the reproach of Christ outside the camp of the opinion of this world, the priest will be able to place himself on the humble way of the Lord. Since He is the way, as He said, He then finds Him as his travelling companion. That is, he enters His life-giving Presence, and as with Luke and Cleopas who were journeying to Emmaus, the words of the Lord Jesus are rekindled in his heart. Bearing the word of God alive within him, the priest fulfils his task with an incredible authenticity, which alone is lawful, and with which he is loaded on departing from the divine Presence. He does not lean on the authority conferred on him by the ordination according to the institutional priesthood. Then his own word, in the perspective of the word of God, becomes creative because it is a vehicle of Divine Revelation. When he utters it, he convinces and informs the hearts of his hearers with grace. He justifies the title ‘Father’ with which the faithful address him, because as a spiritual father he regenerates the people with his word. His ministry becomes a ministry of the word of God, so as to comfort the suffering souls of people. He fulfils the two great commandments because he loves God and man. He has a great reward from the Lord and is respected by His fellows.
‘Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine’.
by Archimandrite Zacharias
Monastery of St John the Baptist
 Hebr. 5: 11.
 II Cor. 5: 19.
 Rom. 5:2; Eph. 2:18; 3:12.
 Lk. 22: 26-27.
 I Cor. 2: 2.
 Cf. Gal. 3:1.
 Jn. 13: 1.
 Cf. I Cor. 9: 19.
 Phil. 2: 3-5.
 Rom. 14:15.
 Cf. Hebr. 13:12.
 Cf. Rom. 15:3.
 Cf. II Tim. 2:8.
 Cf. Hebr. 13:13.
 Cf. Hebr. 13:14.
 Hebr. 12:2.
 Lk. 16:15.
 Rom. 8:7.