December 13, 2021

Homilies on the Holy Mysteries - The Mystery of the Priesthood (Metr. Hierotheos of Nafpaktos)

The Mystery of the Priesthood

By Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou

The mystery of the Priesthood, my beloved brethren, is the sacred ceremony through which special Grace is transmitted to some people to become Clergy in the Church, who are the ministers of the people for their salvation.

The Priesthood is divided into three degrees, that is, there is the Bishop who is in the type and place of Christ, there is the Presbyter, who is sent by the Bishops, as the Apostles were sent by Christ, and there is the Deacon, who helps the Bishops and the Presbyters in the performance of the Mysteries. All these three degrees have a special mission and special work within the Church. According to Saint Dionysius the Areopagite and others after him, such as Saint Maximus the Confessor, Saint Niketas Stethatos and Saint Nikodemos the Hagiorite, the work of the Deacon is to help people purify their hearts from the passions, the work of the Presbyter is to help people illumine their nous, and the work of the Bishop, along with the above, is to lead people to deification.

The work of the Clergy is twofold: one is to perform the Holy Mysteries and the second is to heal people so that they can participate in the mysteries in the proper way and, of course, a combination must be made between the two. This is because performing the mysteries without healing does not help people, and healing without the mysteries is impossible. And this is said because the Clergyman is not a psychologist, who guides people with psychological and dutiful advice, but he is the spiritual healer, who heals people so that they participate in the right way in the Holy Mysteries and thus the Grace of God through the Mysteries will be active.

To become a Clergyman you must have the necessary spiritual and canonical qualifications. The basic precondition is love for God and people, a love which is not of an emotional nature, but spiritual, which is the "fruit of dispassion". The candidate Clergyman, because he will be engaged in the performance of the mysteries and the healing of people, must know from experience the therapeutic healing method and science. It is not possible for one to practice the function of a doctor and cure physical illnesses if one has not studied this science for many years. The same happens with the Clergyman. The Clergyman must know from experience what is purification of the heart, what is illumination of the nous and what are the states of deification. He must know the way of deification in order to guide people in this way, because otherwise the words of Christ "physician heal thyself" would apply. And because the proper Clergy are not usually found as the sacred Tradition of the Church wants, that is why the Holy Fathers of the Church set some basic preconditions for one to enter the sacred Clergy. When one has the so-called impediments of the Priesthood then one is prevented from becoming a Clergyman, because it shows that one has no experience of the spiritual life, that is, of purification, illumination and deification, and will not yet be accepted by the people to be their appointed healer. In order to be able to practice one's healing ministry, one must have a "guarantee of worthiness". One cannot approach the Holy Mysteries if their life is not in a proper perspective and condition.

It is a great honor for someone to be found worthy to become a Clergyman. In this way he expresses his love for God, but he also accepts the love of God. With the mystery of the Priesthood one participates in the Priesthood of Christ and performs a regenerative work for the people, that is, he performs the mysteries for the salvation of the people, heals people, prays incessantly to God, reconciles people with God and their fellow human beings, and sometimes also cures physical ailments. Because when man makes peace internally, then he becomes a factor of peace and tranquility for the whole world.

We need worthy Clergy, who will guide people on the path of salvation. With this sermon I call on all those who have a small spark in their hearts to hear the voice of their Bishop and to desire to become Priests of the Most High God. It is a great honor and blessing.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.