by St. Nikolai Velimirovich
“And when they had prayed, they laid their hands on them”
– Acts of the Apostles 6:6
By laying their hands on the chosen faithful, the apostles consecrated bishops, priests and deacons.
It is apparent from this that the Christian Faith is not only a teaching, but also a power. It is not only necessary to know but also to have power. It is not only necessary to be chosen by men but you should be confirmed by God. If power were not necessary for the priestly vocation, neither would the laying on of hands be necessary, but only the teaching from mouth to ear. The laying on of hands, therefore, signifies the transferring of authority and bringing down power on the chosen one.
The power is in the Grace of God Who strengthens man, sanctifies and illumines him. Truly, the Grace of God is that which teaches, leads, shepherds and through the Mysteries [Sacraments] strengthens the flock of Christ. A priest is the vessel of this inexpressible, awesome and all sufficient power of Grace. Blessed is that priest who understands what kind of precious treasury he has become! Blessed is he if the fear of God does not leave him day and night until his last breathe!
There is no greater honor on earth, no greater responsibility than the calling of the priestly service. By the laying on of hands by the bishop, the priest has come into contact with the heavenly and eternal source of Grace and with the authority of the apostles. By that, the priest has become a companion in Grace and co-celebrant with all the Orthodox priests from apostolic times until today with the great hierarchs, with the countless number of saints, confessors, miracle-workers, ascetics and martyrs. He is gently adorned by their dignity but he is burdened by their merits, their examples and their reproaches.
O my brethren, great and most great is the shepherd over Christ’s spiritual flock. He is responsible to pray to God for all and all the faithful are required to pray to God for him.
O Lord, Supreme Hierarch, sustain the Orthodox priests in strength, in wisdom, in purity, in zeal, in meekness and in every apostolic virtue by the Grace of Your Holy Spirit. Amen.
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