Tuesday, September 26, 2006


I recently had a meeting with my metropolitan and I have been scheduled for ordination to the Holy Diaconate sometime at the end of November/early December. I new this day would come and I have been preparing for it a long time, however, now that I have a definate idea of when and where, it seems even more a serious matter. Already so many warnings and teachings come to mind. Namely the words of Chrysostom, Basil, Ignatius, Timothy, and Paul. All offer words of wisdom as to what a Deacon, Priest, or Bishop should be; how they must act, how they must live, how they must believe. An especially poignant verse is one that my lovely wife emailed to me today. It's an excerpt from the epistle of Timothy. Chapter 3:1-16

1 This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth
a good work. 2 A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife,
vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; 3 Not
given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a
brawler, not covetous; 4 One that ruleth well his own house, having his children
in subjection with all gravity; 5 (For if a man know not how to rule his own
house, how shall he take care of the church of God?) 6 Not a novice, lest being
lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil. 7 Moreover he
must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach
and the snare of the devil. 8 Likewise must the deacons be grave, not
doubletongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre; 9 Holding the
mystery of the faith in a pure conscience. 10 And let these also first be
proved; then let them use the office of a deacon, being found blameless. 11 Even
so must their wives be grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things. 12
Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own
houses well. 13 For they that have used the office of a deacon well purchase to
themselves a good degree, and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ
Jesus. 14 These things write I unto thee, hoping to come unto thee shortly: 15
But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself
in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and
ground of the truth. 16 And without controversy great is the mystery of
godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of
angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into

Reflecting on these words, I realize, now more than ever, how important it is for priestly candidates to live pure and blameless lives. Now, by "pure" I don't mean perfect. I mean that they should not have committed any of the "Big" sins; those sins that will attack the credibility of their ministry. Sins such as fornication, backstabbing, lying, cheating, stealing, etc. Namely, sins that have public as well as personal consequences. I'm not saying that it is therefore OK to sin privately, however, it is much harder to minister when your name is not clean. For example, how will people seek advice about marriage from a priest who is divorced, advice about chastidy from one who fornicated before marriage, advice about fidelity from one who cheated on his girlfriends in his youth. It just doesn't work.

It is for this reason that throughout all of our Holy Tradition we constantly find warnings that a priestly candidate must be free from all public blame. He must be an example to all so that his ministry can be effective. The sheep will not follow a sheppherd who acts like a wolf. And it does no good for someone to be a wolf all their lives and then suddenly attempt to play the sheppherd. Many think in this way; that they can engage in all types of immoral behaviour in their youth and then change when they get ordained. This is absolute nonesense. If we have learned anything from studying 2000 years of Church history, it is that sanctity and holiness take years to master and is a constant process. Furthermore, ordination is not some magical event, as some would think, that suddenly makes someone a holy leader of a community. In essence, I believe that ordination should confirm that which one already is. If one is to become a priest, one must possess the characteristics way before his actual ordination. This is why the canons outline, as does Timothy above, the type of person a priest must be before he is ordained.

Many of us believe that the past will be forgotten and that youth is meant for experiencing all types of things, good and bad. They believe that their past sins will not affect their future lives. This is our greatest dillusion. Spiritually, we are the sum of our moral decisions, with very few exceptions. What we do everyday of our lives affects the next day, just as every step in a climb determines which way we are heading on the mountain; up or down. Those who would seek ordination, including myself, must always remember this truth. The truth that if we want to be sheppherds of the flock of Christ, then we should be living that lifestyle way before our odination. Skeletons in the closet always come out, just as evil cannot evade the light forever.

1 comment:

Roland said...

And, more imporatantly, it shows how important the Joanna's of the world are in making sure that the axios is for real.

Any metaphor can be stretched too thinly. I think one we have a tendency to overplay is the penitent sinner (/wounded healer). Certainly it's a great part of our faith, but so is virtue. Damnit, I will write something about the relationship of the two one of these days...