Saturday, August 29, 2009
Pray for Your Priest(s)
I received this from a brother priest who served in the Navy for many years. It was intended primarily for priests, but it is good reading for all Orthodox (and other) Christians. I pray that you will find it profitable.
I was reading portions of a new book this evening, "Experiences During the Divine Liturgy" by Protopresbyter Stephanos K. Anagnostopoulos (ISBN 978-960-92117-5-8). I commend this volume to you; it is a running commentary on the Liturgy with vignettes taken from the experiences of the saints, other holy men and women, and contemporary fathers...[this book] is a wonderful pious read.
Knowing how difficult the life of a parish priest can be, and especially the discouragements felt by many of us in late Summer following the Dormition Fast, I found the following excerpt (pages 96-97) most relevant. Commenting on the petition, "For our Archbishop, the honorable presbytery, the diaconate in Christ, ...," Father Anagnostopoulos writes:
"The devil fights each member of the clergy furiously and when he does not manage to vanquish him morally, he will not cease to fight him to his death. He will try with slurs, slanders, false accusations to diminish his weight; he will even attempt to turn hatred and hostility against him, sometimes coming from the priesthood. Church history witnesses that hatred against the clergy has even ended up in murder!
"That is why the faithful Orthodox striving Christians, who take their cue from the ethos of the good shepherd's (i.e., the bishop's, priest's, geronda's) self denial, love him and support him in every way. However, when he reproves and brands sin, and the divergence from ethics, the distortion of faith, heresy, deception, and our society's countless evils, then he definitely makes enemies who slander and accuse him falsely. Therefore it is the devil's primary goal to tarnish the good shepherd's honor, through all kinds of insinuations, barefaced falsehood, etc.
"Hence it is imperative to pray for the priests, something which is done in every Divine Liturgy, Mystery, matins, vespers ... when we say: '"For our Archbishop, the honorable presbytery, the diaconate in Christ, and all the clergy and the laity ...,' however, in the privacy of our own nightly prayer, we ought to pray for our celebrant priest, our spiritual father, for all the priests."
It is common for each of us to become discouraged. The attacks we endure are often motivated by the evil one precisely because we are "doing our job," or, more appropriately, "doing what we believe in, or what we are called to do." Many of these attacks are actually evidence of success, not failure. Let us not be discouraged, but pray for one another.
It's not supposed to be smooth sailing in a parish. Quite the opposite. We are in the trenches, on the front line: it is uncomfortable and dangerous, even miserable. I remember being on my third ship, at General Quarters, in a dicey situation: my overwhelming feeling was that I didn't want to be there. Kind of like the way we feel after a miserable parish council meeting or an uncomfortable personal encounter in the parish: "I want out of the parish" (or even "out of the priesthood").
Off that hostile coast several decades ago I also thought to myself, "But, this is precisely why you joined the Navy." I guess it's the same in the parish. We became priests to fight the "good fight." When it's miserable is often when we are doing what we are called to do.