Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh

Sermon on the occasion of the ordination to the priesthood of the deacon Patrick Hodson and to the diaconate of reader Elias Jones

8 January 1984
Theme: Sacraments, Pastoral care   Place: London Parish   Period: 1981-1985   Genre: Sermon

In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost.

Two men chosen by the people of God, agreed upon by the presbytery, have today crossed the most awesome threshold there is; the threshold in the church that leads from the nave, which represents that part of the world where God has come and has been recognised and accepted, to the part which is still separated from the earth by a line which only the Second advent will erase, that is God’s own land. Both men have crossed this line. Christ is the only one who can rightfully, through His passion, His death, His descent into hell and His Resurrection enter through these doors, and it is only in Christ and with Him that we can cross this threshold. To cross it one must go at least with all one’s will, with the fullness of one’s intention and determination, and also with an ample and complete surrender to God. Only thus can one cross this threshold and be able, when celebrating the Holy Liturgy and the Service of Preparation, to cut the Holy Lamb saying that the Lamb of God is slain. It is only if we have crossed this threshold with Christ, have accepted His death to be ours and have accepted to die to every­ thing which is alien or contrary to Him, that we can safely say those words; otherwise are we not guilty together with those who indeed did slay the Lord, though not in unity of intention, in faith and in love with Him.

So let us pray steadily, day after day, particularly now for Father Patrick and Deacon Elias that this should gradually become a reality; to die as we are called to die in our baptism to everything which is not God’s, and rise again by the Resurrection of Christ, by the power of life eternal to be on earth witnesses of eternity, not in words only but in all our life. In one of the prayers in the laying on of hands upon the sub-deacon we ask God to grant him purity of life, and we ask the Lord to make him blameless; the deacon in the image of Stephen the Martyr and of Christ who chose to be a servant among us sinners, and the priest who like Him must lay down his life that others may live.

It is given to the deacon to read the Gospel. We are so used to the Gospel, so often we do not perceive what it means to read it with our eyes and our lips, and yet it is the very words which Christ spoke that we repeat, not in His language but in their meaning. How wonderful! And how carefully we must pronounce these words not to let our own sinful attitudes, our own awareness of self flow into them and cor­rupt them and corrupt their sound and lessen their message. And the priest is called not only to read these holy, these wonderful words of God Himself, but to preach. Words which have reached his soul he will now proclaim to us in his own way, but his own way must be God’s own way. Purity of heart, purity of life and a true, devout love of God are necessary. And he will be, together with the deacon, the instru­ment which God uses to perform those miracles of life eternal on earth which we call the Sacraments, acts of God occurring within the people of God and nowhere else, and mediated by men commissioned by the living God to speak words, which are His and perform actions which are His.

Let us therefore faithfully, lovingly pray for those whom God has entrusted with-this ministry, and again particularly for Elias and Patrick, because the beginnings of a ministry are usually easy, but it is only too soon that the weight of the cross becomes heavy. We are one body; what is the destiny of one person is the destiny of all of us. Let us carry their cross together with them with love, generously, and not make this cross heavier. May the blessing of the Lord be upon them and upon you always, now and forever and world without end. Amen.

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