From the October 2023 edition of “The Light”
The priesthood is exemplified by certain traits of ministry that one would need to constantly live and practice. Among these most important characteristics is the ministry of a life of service. It is not just serving the people of God and it is not just serving God. It is appropriating the Gospel message and Christ’s life in general in the context of the parish and the faithful. On the other hand, a ministry of service cannot just be quoting the Bible but should lead to fruitful results; for “when He saw a fig tree in the way, He came to it, and found nothing thereon, but leaves only, and said unto it, let no fruit grow on you henceforward forever. And at once, the fig tree withered away.” It is meeting parishioners where they are and bringing the Church’s theology to a level they can understand, without compromising the Church or the Faith.
If one in the priestly office solely serves his flock, he will end up with the feeling of sentimentality or disdain. However, when we only serve God in our ministry, we will deduce the wrong conclusion that people are not important. Therefore, a balanced approach is in order through prayer and contemplation of God.
It is worthy to note that “those who are in the Priestly Office” are not restricted to those who are in the ordained Priestly Office but it includes all those who belong to the Royal Priesthood. That is to say, all those who are baptized in Christ, so that we can affirm “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Furthermore, being in the “business” of service is not only having faith in the Christ, but also believing in Him. For believing in Christ goes beyond the mere words of faith “I have faith in Christ” to the action of putting faith to work through service, confirming that “faith without works is dead.”
This process of faith and works needs a third element for it to be sustainable and diligent. It is daily prayer! Prayer in the Orthodox Church is one of the fundamental pillars of living an Orthodox Christian life since it draws us closer to God and helps us acquire His attributes that are enumerated in the list of Christian virtues. Prayer is a tool to develop a true relationship with God as we, through His grace, strengthen ourselves on all fronts. St. Ephraim the Syrian wants us to take notice of how we draw closer to God and acquire His attributes: “Virtues are formed by prayer. Prayer preserves temperance, suppresses anger, restrains pride and envy, draws down the Holy Spirit into the soul and raises man to heaven.”
Furthermore, prayer improves our outlook on life as it helps us to concentrate on the important aspects of our existence, God. Please note what St. Isaac the Syrian affirmed about prayer, “Prayer heartens the conscience, invests the mind with power, strengthens one’s hope, fires one’s confidence. Thus, a man is able to withstand the tribulations and evils of this world, for when he compares them with the glorious things he is to inherit, he can defy torture and all manner of affliction.”
Shifting gears to other matters that have taken place in DOMSE. The Fall Retreat was an astounding success with a multitude of faithful in attendance and illustrious speakers. The fruits of such retreats are self-evident in the parishioners’ lives as they apply the concepts they learn and form fellowship with others. On another note, we are deeply saddened to report that Deacon Sidney Elliot of St. John Church, Memphis, TN has reposed and passed on to life eternal. May God rest his soul.
In addition, we have already started planning for the Clergy and Winter Retreats in January that will be hosted at St Ignatius Church, Frankly, TN. I look forward to seeing you all at the retreats.
May God bless you and may the Holy Trinity protect you all!