The Orthodox Leader

The Priestly Calling

A couple of excerpts from Orthodox Pastoral Service (alternative source here) by the late Archimandrite Kyprian Kern (1899-1960).Archimandrite Kiprian Kern

On the priestly outlook on life and salvation:

Man in whose society the priest is called to serve, was, is, and will always be, in spite of all his sins and degradations, God’s beloved creation. For this reason, the Orthodox priest must be inspired by faith in man, his predestination in the everlasting assembly, communication with God Incarnate, his kin in the flesh, according to the words of Symeon the New Theologian. To that end, the priest’s most important means of communication must be based upon the Good News of salvation, universal faith in this salvation and worship, instead of upon the premise of the promise of fire and brimstone. (p. 35)

On the priestly “calling,” by way of engagement with Metropolitan Anthony Khrapovitsky of Kiev:

Archimandrite Anthony Khrapovitsky, subsequently Metropolitan of Kiev, expresses a harsher more explicit view on [the subject of priestly calling]. He simply and categorically denies the very possibility of a calling. He regards the sensation of God’s voice in one’s heart nothing more than the result of self-deception, “Catholic theologians assert that every priesthood candidate must hear this voice, but we believe that this voice can be heard only by those candidates who are instructed by the Church. Self-appraisal, self-evaluation for those preparing for priesthood are of no importance. Therefore, all discussions of pastoral calling are to be dismissed by our leading pastorate and replaced with the teaching of pastoral preparation” (Lectures). The question of this preparation is to no small extent initiated and covered in theological courses, yet it does not replace the very fact of the inner voice, which is sensed by some and is complete absent in others. Of course, self-deception is always possible, and an inner restraint is especially necessary in any discussions of the “spirit,” but here Metropolitan Anthony differs: he completely denies any mystical feelings in a person’s spiritual life. Metropolitan Anthony’s extreme denial regarding all mysticism, even the very word “mysticism,” regardless of its frequent usage by such writers as Maximus the Confessor and others, was completely beside the point to him. Theologically, he was an extreme rationalist and minimalist.

So to what exactly could we attribute the valid signs of a calling or a non-calling? And generally speaking, do such objective traits as a person’s calling for priestly service really exist? … Here, then, roughly is what must be considered an absolute sign of a non-calling:

1 – Seeking the priesthood for materialistic gains.

2 – Political or  national considerations; in other words, preparing oneself for the priesthood for the “salvation of Russia,” for the restoration of “Holy Russia,” as well as one or the other political system in one’s homeland, or for the sake of implementing a known national propaganda which happens to be convenient and convincing. The Church and the priesthood have more important problems to solve than these national and political impulses, no matter what their colors may be.

3 – Ambitious motives. A desire for a ruling position, a wish to make a career out of the priesthood, to become a member of a higher order, to be a leader of the people, society, or to belong to a well-known and respected order of society.

4 – Aesthetical motives. A young man’s attraction to the beauty of the Divine Liturgy, the singing of hymns, the splendor of the rituals and so on and so forth. Such enthusiasm quickly vanishes, leaving only but dust in their wake. This sort of a “calling” soon becomes simply a passing emotion.

5 – As pointed out earlier, the very fact of enrollment in a theological school or belonging to a theological social class represents a purely formalistic sign and in no way signifies a genuine calling.

6 – It must not be taken as the heart’s calling if the causes are: aversion to life, disappointment and antipathy for all things that earlier delighted. This state of mind and fervor are clearly fleeting. Disillusionment about one thing cannot serve as a sign of calling for something else. L. Blue had put it exceptionally well when he stated: “There is one romantic foolishness, the thought that antipathy, aversion to life is a sign of a religious calling.” God requires not an exhausted soul, nor a disenchanted and weakened spirit, but a heart full of enthusiasm, heroism, sacrifice, constructive impulses in the very holy service of the building of the Body of Christ.

Here, then, are signs that a person has been called, or, according to the words of the Apostle, has a taste for pastoral service:

1 – First of all, there ought to be a free inclination to the great and holy priestly service.

2 – A desire to create the Kingdom of God, the Body of Christ, rather than an earthly realm, its undertone notwithstanding.

3 – Readiness for sacrificial service to one’s neighbors and a perception of pastoral service as a yoke of Christ.

4 – Readiness to exhibit compassion for the sinful and the sick, the sorrowful man.

5 – Readiness for persecution at the hands of the world and its principalities, a fearless denial of all conformity to the world.

6 – Consciousness of one’s unworthiness and a striving for a Christ-like humility, rather than denunciation, condemnation and disparagement of non-conformists.

7 – To experience faith, live a scriptural life, and submit oneself to the worshipful service of God. (pp. 43ff)

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Written by Fr Basil Biberdorf

June 19th, 2013 at 8:33 am

Posted in Vocation

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