The Priest and His Ordination

I’ll post one final excerpt from Fr Kyprian Kern. This time he takes up the matter of ordination.Bishop laying hands (cheirotonia) to ordain a priest

It is now time to put aside these matters [of how priests and bishops are chosen] and turn our attention to the most important matter – ordination – its meaning and substance. The priest, whether chosen or appointed by the personal power of his future diocesan bishop, still has to face, at a certain moment of his life, this mysterious and awesome hour of ordination. Symbolically speaking, the following parallels may be drawn: election by the flock is somewhat akin to a courtship, but ordination – that is his wedding with the flock. This symbolism is fortified by common rituals and by one or another sacrament: walking around the lectern or Altar, singing the psalms (“Rejoice, O Israel,” “Holy Martyrs” …) (in reverse order). [Editor's note: Kern here refers to three hymns that are included in both the marriage service and in the ordination service: "O holy martyrs who fought the good fight and have received your crowns: entreat ye the Lord, that our souls may be saved." "Glory to Thee, O Christ God, the Apostle's boast, the Martyr's joy whose preaching was the consubstantial Trinity." "Rejoice, O Isaiah! A virgin is with child, and shall have a son Emmanuel, both God and man. Orient is his name, whom magnifying we call the virgin blessed."] At this point, certain conclusions can be drawn: the union of the priest with his flock is a lasting union, just as the principle of marriage; neither can be dissolved. Therefore, the transfer of a priest from one place to another should have no place in the principle of this union, as well as, or, if not to a greater extent, the transfer of a bishop from one cathedral to another. In essence, the priest is irremovable. But there is yet another, a more important characteristic to this sacrament: priesthood, as taught by the Roman Catholics, is indelible. The Greek theologians held the same opinion. Metropolitan Filaret had a different view. Essentially, the grace bestowed by the bishop to perform the solemn sacrament of liturgy cannot be removed by any power on earth. To consider that any conservatory act could deprive a person of the grace of the Holy Spirit seems to be a theological aberration. Neither baptism nor priesthood are removable or indelible. Even the sin of apostasy does not erase the grace of baptism. The most frightful sin that can be committed by the priest, which leads to disenfranchisement from the Holy Orders, cannot, by itself, deprive the priest of grace. It would seem to be necessary, in case of some judicial error in defrocking a priest who is subsequently found to be innocent, to re-ordain him, which action, of course, even the strictest and most inflexible person dare not suggest. What should be declared as being even more frightening and blasphemous is the so-called sacramental de-frocking, practiced in the Russian and Serbian Churches. [OL: Those deposed from the priesthood according to this practice would be taken to the entrance of the church, faced west (i.e., opposite the Holy Table), and declared "anaxios" (unworthy) as each of the clerical vestments were removed from him.] ….

With these preliminary considerations in mind, we may now turn to the main theme of this chapter – the priesthood itself. In addition to everything else mentioned in the previous chapters about the calling, pastoral gifts and the multifaceted preparation for his future service, a candidate for the priesthood should never forget about the endurance of the gift of priestly service, which separates the ordinary layman from the blessed celebrant at the Altar; the one who performs the sacrament, the theurgist, the intermediary between God and the world, who, by the grace of the Holy Spirit leads his flock to spiritual perfection, to worship. After ordination, he is no longer merely a man, but a clergyman. He is no longer the chosen one, chosen by his flock – if such choosing took place – but the bearer of grace.

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