A Recipe for the Priesthood

The following is taken from The Hidden Man of the Heart by Archimandrite Zacharias.

Priesthood is a difficult task, and it is a marvel to see a priest dying in the same state of inspiration as the one which he began. Normally, priests die in states of much less grace, because all their ministry is to take upon themselves the death of their people.

Whatever a priest gathers when he is alone before God, he spreads to the people when he is with them. He takes upon himself their death and he gives them his life, the life of God which he receives.

But how are we to do this? When we inspire the people to love the salvation of God and to fight against sin, when we give them a word which comes from the eternal kingdom, and when their hearts receive that word, it provokes in them desire for eternal life. In fact, everything we do is done in the hope of regenerating the people.

I often say to the faithful who come to our monastery on Sundays: ‘Do not burden the priest unnecessarily with the trivialities of this life. Go to them and ask for a word for your salvation and be very attentive to what they tell you, because then you will make them prophets, and your life will be enriched.’ I do not have a recipe for that.

I remember once, a spiritual father from Cyprus came to our monastery and he said to me, ‘I have been made a spiritual father, but I do not know how to deal with people. Can you please give me some advice?’ I said to him, ‘There are no recipes for this ministry. When you become a spiritual father it is as if you have been thrown into the ocean. You have to swim and come to shore.’ That is to say, you have to cry to God continuously and hope for the best.

I always feel pity for priests because I know how difficult this ministry is. We are priests, in other words, we are partakers of the Priesthood of Christ, and if all the reproaches, all darkness, all evil fell upon Christ, threatening to annihilate His life if it were possible, as the Prophet said, the same happens to every priest who partakes of the Priesthood of Christ. This means that the priest has to assume the suffering and difficulties of his people, and to bring to them consolation from above, and give wings to their hope.

There is no recipe, only this attitude of wanting to help, to promote Christ in their lives, that Christ be magnified in their lives. And I am sure that there is a great reward for the priest whose ministry is done with fear, because he is on the receiving end of every evil and the attacks of the enemy finally concentrate on him. That is why it is a marvel not to be content with the reality of this present age, and not to abandon the inspiration and hope we had when we started our ministry. We all started with great furvour, and we must not let that life of the heart die away, or else our hope will be stolen from us. We must rather be like Simeon the Righteous who waited steadfastly until the last moment to receive Christ in his arms, and then said, ‘Lord, now lettest thou they servant depart in peace’ (Luke 2:29).

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