I recently had the idea to ask Orthodox Christian priests to give me a short sentence or two about the priesthood—something honest and anonymous. I was delighted at the responses I got, from experienced priests, from those ordained only a short time, and from those somewhere in between.
Some were heartening. Some were painful. Some were paradoxical. And some were a bit humorous. Some reflected the character of that particular man, while others were intended to be taken more universally. But all struck me as from the heart.
Here are the responses, in no particular order. Each is from a different priest:
As a priest there is a constant struggle between what you want to do, what you have to do and what needs to get done.
The priesthood is both the greatest blessing and the heaviest cross, sometimes simultaneously.
Remove the priesthood from the man and you may find a narcissist waiting for Christ to come along and save him. Add the priesthood, and the man becomes a shepherd.
Priesthood is a ministry that tests your faith and assures it to you several times, daily.
The priesthood is learning to live in the gray areas of life, to be engulfed in the divine drama as well as the human drama, the willingness to lose ourselves in the hopes of bringing salvation to others.
The priesthood is for me, both a tremendous source of joy and a surprising source of sorrow.
Sometimes you just gotta show up.
The priesthood is a type of martyrdom, with times of great joy and the awesome privilege of serving the Holy Mysteries and Divine Services thrown in to keep us priests from despair.
The priesthood is a job where you can both gain and lose faith in humanity in a single day.
We are professional witnesses, the beginning and end of lives, good and bad events, and our presence and attention makes hidden sins real, so that they may be remedied.
The priesthood is being privileged to stand in the presence of the Holy of Holies witnessing to the reality of Christ’s Holy Church while being reminded that you are unworthy to do so but you have been called AND chosen.
That part of the anaphora where we pray of the benefits we receive that are seen and unseen, known and unknown makes me think about the priesthood.
An awesome responsibility, and a source of great joy.
Your own from what is Your own, we (the priest, clergy, laity) offer unto You, on behalf of ALL, AND FOR ALL.
The priesthood is a white-collar job for a blue-collar heart.
The priesthood is God’s deep medicine to heal the heart of the man who is called to serve as a priest.
The priesthood is herding squirrels.
Not a profession, despite me, but a little theophany, despite me, and a tiny role in the universal deification, a shard of beauty, again despite me but moreso because of Christ through all of us.
The further along in the priesthood I go, the more I realize I really haven’t got a clue as to what it’s about let alone how to carry it out.
So how would you contribute to this list, whether you are a clergyman or a layman?