By Metropolitan Philaret (Voznesensky)
Originally entitled “Refresher for a Russian Orthodox Pastor”
1. Having accepted the grace of ordination, bear in mind of what a gift and of what mercy the Lord has found you worthy – and what responsibility you now bear. A priest is an apostle to his flock.
“I do not belong to myself, but to others,”
said the great Russian pastor Fr. (now St.) John of Kronstadt.
2. Scripture says,
“The priest’s lips should keep knowledge, and they should seek the law at his mouth: for he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts.”
Mind these words, Orthodox pastor. You must be a herald of God’s Law and the truth of God’s Gospel for your flock, which will turn to you for this very thing.
3. Fear as fire negligence in the holy work of ministry, more so in your service before the Dread Altar of the Lord of Glory.
“Cursed be he that doeth the work of the Lord negligently,”
sternly warns the Holy Bible. Be a good example of the fear of God and piety for those who co-serve with you and assist you in your service. Be gone from the holy altar all you who enter it impiously.
4. Constantly pray to the Lord for help and understanding in running parish affairs. May the Lord grant you a spirit of chastity, humble-mindedness, patience, and love… One must have all of these virtues for work in a parish. Treasure the advice of older and more experienced brethren, and the wise counsel of laymen, pious and faithful to the Church. Hold fast the helm of your parish ship, but at the same time, before deciding an issue firmly and by pastoral fiat, first pursue the guidance of people who have earned your trust – although everything in the Church is decided by spiritual leaders – the pastors, it is first discussed in conciliar wisdom – in the spirit of catholicity, universal unity must imbue the parish’s life and work.
5. Holding firmly, I repeat, the helm in your hands, also try to attract good, pious church people to the living work of the parish, creating one harmonious, spiritual family with your assistants. Do not forget the children. Try diligently to teach, instruct, and raise them in the spirit of the Church, always and firmly demanding this of them and their parents. May your true helper in this be your God-given partner in this life – your Matushka. In the life of parishes, there have frequently been miscommunications and conflicts due to priests’ wives involving themselves in pastoral matters and the work of their husbands – this must be avoided. But at the same time, there are aspects of parish life in which a pastor’s wife can be his best helper, in large part in the work of the Christian education and upbringing of the children.
6. Laboring in the parish, do not stop laboring on your own soul. One must merge with the other. The Holy Apostle Paul instructs his disciple, St. Timothy:
“Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity. Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine… Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.”
May the Lord be your Helper in everything. Having twice accepted the grace of ordination – to the diaconate and the priesthood – forget not to pray constantly for the hierarchs who laid their hands upon you.
Translated from the original Russian by Rdr. Gregory Levitsky
Media Office of the Eastern American Diocese