You are a Priest Forever


In the 1st Letter of St. Peter chapter 2 and verse 9 we read these words, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”  This passage is making reference not only to those of us who have been called out of the community and ordained to serve at the altar, but the community as a whole, all of us, we are all priests.

When we were baptized we were anointed with the grace of the kingdom of God, a spiritual kingdom and a spiritual priesthood.  This is different from the grace of the ministerial priesthood in many ways but at the same time it is the same.  As the body of Christ, we have a priestly ministry to the world that is fulfilling the very intercession and priesthood of the Lord Himself; we are to be the ones to bring light into the world.

The ordained priest is called from the community and ordained for a special ministry with the community.  The ordained priest is to offer prayers along with and for the people.  It is not his Liturgy but the Liturgy of the people, there is no such thing as a private Liturgy in Orthodoxy since the very nature of Liturgy is communal, the community must be present.

It is not the sacrifice of the ordained priest but he is simply the one who brings the sacrifice, he stands In Persona Christi at the altar and bring the sacrificial offering before the eternal High Priest, the simple elements of bread and wine that will be sanctified and become the actual Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, not by anything that the priest does, but by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

I mentioned in my sermon yesterday that the priest faces the same direction as the people to show that we are all worshiping together, we, the entire community, brings these gifts together.  During the Great Entrance, the gifts are brought out amongst the people and then the priest return them to the altar.  In a way he is gathering up the prayers of the people and placing them all on the altar of sacrifice, not a bloody sacrifice, but a perfect sacrifice not only for himself but for all the people present, and those, as the Liturgy of St. Basil makes clear, those absent with good cause.

Pay close attention also to the words “a holy nation.”  No longer is the kingdom of God here on earth, the chosen people are those who follow Jesus Christ, not an earthly kingdom but a spiritual one all of, are the members if you will, of this nation that knows no boundaries.  In the kingdom of God there will be no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female.  The new nation of God, the Commonwealth that we pray for during the service of the matins and in the Troparion of the Feast of the Holy Cross, is the spiritual kingdom that reigns inside of each of us.

There is a shift that takes place from the priestly ministry of the Tribe of Levi to the priesthood of all believers.  No longer is this ministry just for a select few but it is for all, and with that comes a tremendous responsibility that we must take serious.  We are all called to be witnesses of the light in a word of darkness.  We are called bring that light into the darkened world by our actions and by our words.  How we live our lives should be an example to this fallen world that because we are a holy nation we have risen above the darkness and are sons and daughters of the light.

Let us be attentive to the important work that needs to be done.

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