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For the Third Monday in Advent: Gregory Nazianzen on the ordained ministry

December 14, 2015

For the Third Monday in Advent, here is a thought from St. Gregory Nazianzen on being fit for Holy Orders, from Faith and Life:

I felt shame on account of all who, being no better than the many,—it is much if they are not even much worse,—with unwashen hands, so to speak, and uninitiated souls, introduce themselves into the Holy of Holies, and before they have become worthy to approach the sacred things, lay claim to the altar, as if they considered this office not to be an example of virtue, but a means of livelihood,—not a responsible ministration, but an authority for which no account will be required. One must first be cleansed, and then cleanse others; first be instructed, then instruct; become light, then enlighten; draw nigh to God, then lead others up to Him; be sanctified, then sanctify; have hands, then lead by the hand; have prudence, then give counsel. No one is worthy of our great God, both Sacrifice and High Priest, who has not first presented himself to God, as a holy, living sacrifice, nor exhibited that reasonable service which is well-pleasing to Him. How could I assume the garb and name of priest before I had consecrated my hands with holy works; before I had accustomed my eye to take a healthy view of God’s creatures, so as to honour the Creator and not injure the handiwork’; before my ears were fully opened to the Lord’s instruction, and there were given to me an ear which could not be dull of hearing; before my feet stood on the rock, strengthened like harts’ feet, and my goings were ordered in the ways of God, neither almost nor altogether slipping; before every member had become an instrument of righteousness, and had cast away all deadness? Who could assume this office, until his heart had first been set on fire by the holy and fire-proved oracles of God, while the Scriptures were opened to him, and he had got those oracles written down thrice on the tablet of his heart, so that he should have the mind of Christ?

–St. Gregory Nazianzen, Apologetic Discourse.

From my perspective, he is saying those who would minister should have themselves already known the saving work of Christ in their own lives.

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