In the context of the Feast which we keep these days, the Incarnation of the Son of God who came into the world to save all that were lost, who, in order to do this, gave His own life, all the years of His life among men, and also His death upon the Cross for the salvation of all, it is a particularly significant event to have an ordination to the diaconate; because the Lord, not only in deed but also in word, has said to us that He had come into the world not to be served, but to serve others, to give His life that others might live; to be the truth, not only in words again, but in the wholeness of His life and therefore to be for others the way in which they could reach life eternal.
When someone is called, commanded by God, to come and surrender to Him unreservedly, never knowing what the Lord will expect from him except this total surrender and this readiness to serve, to be a witness by the totality of his life, and the totality, if necessary, of his death, indeed of his dying day after day to everything which is alien to God — how great is this event!
To-day we have made a new servant of God — no, we have not done it — God has; God has called, God has nurtured; and in the ordination it says so clearly that it is not in the laying on of my hands that grace comes down upon the servant of God, Joseph, who has, in a new way, given his life to God and to (?). And again, in the context of Christmas we see what love is. I mentioned this on the Eve of the Feast. Love is surrender; love is gift of self; love is helplessness; love refuses to protect and defend itself; love is gift. But to whom? And again we see that to God every person is worthy of His total sacrifice. In the Incarnation we see the greatness of man. Man is so great that God can become man, and so our deacon will have to learn, because it is not something that one learns at once. One knows it theoretically, but one experiences it only gradually. I am only beginning to understand what I am speaking about. He will have to learn that every person around him is a living image of God. One of the Fathers of the Desert said, “Who has seen his brother or his sister has seen his God”. It is with this attitude that our new deacon will have to fulfil his service; to serve every one of us, knowing that by doing this he is worshipping God through an icon. May God bless him on his way. It takes a whole life to become a servant. May God grant him throughout his life to descend step by step into the depths of understanding, of humility, of compassion, and from this depth to serve every one, however low we are fallen, however unworthy we be of being icons of the living God.
May God bless also his wife, because wife and husband are one, and the ordination of a husband is bound to take his wife into these very depths of service and surrender, of compassion and love, of a generous, unlimited gift of self, which is that of their common calling. In a moment we shall pray for them, but also for the parents who bore them, who brought them up, who made them what they are, and who indeed, will hold them before the Face of God in prayer and love. May God bless this day for them and for all of us, because we need the compassion and the understanding and the care and love of each other, and now one of us has been singled out to perform this function of Christ in a peculiar way.
May divine grace be with him and with his wife, that grace which fulfils that which is lacking, which heals what is imperfect; that grace of which Christ spoke to Paul when He said, “My grace sufficeth unto thee; My power is made manifest, deploys itself, in thy weakness”; and later, having experienced this, Paul said, “All things are possible unto me in the power of God that sustains me”. But what humility, what surrender, what forgetfulness of self, and what love of others this requires!
Let us pray for them. Let us be their support. Let us be those who are prepared to stand by them in the moments of agony, of pain, of doubt, of hesitation, because we are all one body and the members of each other. Amen.
Published: Newsletter № 280, 1995 January