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On the Priesthood

by St Symeon Archbishop of Thessalonica

Introductory Note.
St. Symeon served as Archbishop of Thessalonica for the last 13 years before the capture of the
city by the Turks in 1430. Born in onstantinople! the city he loved "ith passion and e#alted as the
seat of $rthodo#y par e#cellence! he became a hieromonk before he "as elected Archbishop of
Thessalonica %141&'(). *e "as a +alamite in theolo,y and had close ties "ith the hesychasts St.
-allistos and St. .,natios /anthopouloi. *e "as an ardent follo"er of $rthodo#y and $rthodo#!
monastic ideals
and fou,ht the 0enetians! to "hom the city "as entrusted by the By1antines on
account of the threat of the Turks! and the Turks themselves! before he died in 1423. The *oly and
Sacred Synod of the 4cumenical +atriarchate formally reco,ni1ed him as a saint of the 4astern
$rthodo# hurch in 1351! and his memory is celebrated on September 16.
St. Symeon has been acclaimed as the ,reatest litur,ist of By1antium and defender of
$rthodo#y. $ne of his typical mottos "as the follo"in,: 7This is truly ,ood for the people! to be
$rthodo#! and if not! to die is better.8 *e is most famous for his ma9or "ork! A Dialogue against the
Heresies and on the Only True Faith of Us Christians, as Well as on the Sacred Rituals and
Sacraments of the Church,
"hich is re,arded as a classic. This "ork! alon, "ith several others! "as
first published by +atriarch :ositheos of ;erusalem in ;assi! <oldavia! in 1&53 and "as reprinted by
;. +. <i,ne in his Patrologia raeca %+= vol. 166)! +aris 15&&.
Subse>uent editions of ne" "orks include: .oannes <. +hountoules! Arch!isho" Symeon of
Thessalonica#s $iturgical Wor%s &' Prayers and Hymns, Thessalonica 13&5?
:. Balfour! Politico@
Historical Wor%s of Symeon Arch!isho" of Thessalonica %141&'1( to 1423)! critical =reek te#t "ith
introduction and commentary! Aiener By1antinische Studien! Aien 13(3? :. Balfour! Symeon
Arch!isho" of Thessalonica#s Theological Wor%s, Analecta Blatadon 34! Thessalonica 1351.
1 See Archimandrite Gerasmos Makrs' recent doctora dssertaton, I I y
2c6 OcAiq (=(onasticism According to St) Symeon of Thessalonica), AIIAc
HcnIq OcAiq 2002.
2 The =reek title is: KI cm nci q Iq 0q Im I6 q6 niIcm, Im
Ic c6 IcAcI6 uIqim Iq 'EAqi AAy.
3 Acnnu 2uc6 OcAiq I AcIuy 2uyyI I: E' "Y,
OcAiq 1968.
4 2uc6 Acnnu OcAiq (1416/7-1429) ty OcAy, AAcI BAIm
34, OcAiq 1981. Bor a complete list of St. SymeonCs "orks! see .. +hountoules, "i cnIc: 550
Iq n I 0Iu I cnnu 2uc6 =An Anniversary: 660 Dears from the :eath of
Archbishop Symeon %t September 1429)," Iqy HA, 62:Icq 674-5 (1979) . 291-298;
and :. Balfour, "2unAqmI IAy cym, nccIm I y I 2uc6
Acnnu OcAiq=omplementary atalo,ue of <anuscripts! ontainin, the -no"n Aorks of
Symeon Archbishop of Thessalonica/' KAq, 6 (1974) 133-144.
St. SymeonCs treatise on the +riesthood!
"hich is presented here as the first! patristic te#t! s
addressed to a newy ordaned monk as "a word of remnder" (Ay
of "hat the +riesthood is all about and of its importance in servin, the savin,
<ystery of hrist to humanity. The +riesthood is! indeed! a basic theme in St. SymeonCs "orks and
has been the sub9ect of intense studies.
Symneon's Discourse on the Priesthood.
After a profound! introductory para,raph! "hich deals "ith the love of hrist and the love that
binds to,ether hristCs disciples and especially the priests! St. Symeon provides his first! ,reat
description of his understandin, of the priesthood.
What a Priest Is.
A prest, he says, has been deemed worthy to be a "mnster" () of
Chrst and a "turgst" (AcIuy), a "guardan" (nIIq) and a
"behoder" (0cm) of the Mysteres, who draws near and communcates n
them, and aso a "preacher" (qu) of the =ospel. There are no veils any more interferin,
in this "ay! says St. Symeon! because a priest can behold the divine Ei,ht directly "ithout any
obstacle. *e is no lon,er in need of a Seraph in order to receive the <ysteries! because he takes
them "ith the tongs (Ai). Indeed, he hmsef s now the Seraph, by vrtue of
hs consecraton to the presthood. He s the one that cas others to draw near
to God, because he now hods n hs hands the dvne Mysteres and addresses
the fathfu, admonshn, them to be attentive and offers them to hrist! and is actually the
"ay and the ,uide of others to"ards the Ei,ht. .ndeed! a priest is both a 7herub!8 because he can
see fully throu,h the <ysteries the $ne! "ho sees all thin,s! and a fire bearin, 7Seraph!8 because he
holds the livin, oal. Burthermore! a priest is a 7throne!8 because throu,h the Eitur,y and the
ommunion! he has the $ne! "ho is present every"here restin, on himself? and he is also an an,el!
as =odCs servant and litur,ist.
A priest is all the above! says St. Symeon! not in an ima,inary "ay! but really and truly! because
he does not serve the divine <ysteries 7in a merely iconic or merely typical %symbolic) "ay!8 but
truly serves the very <aster! "ho is escorted in the heavens above by the immaterial po"ers.
7.ndeed! a priest does on earth "hat the immaterial po"ers do in heaven! because this is "hat the
6 Bor the ori,inal te#t! see += 166:363@3(&.
& .bid. 36&A.
( See Athanasos D. Papankoaou, 1 nci icmq Ai I Ayiu 2uc6
OcAiq (=The Teachng on Presthood of St. Symeon of Thessaonca), Doctora
Dssertaton, Arstote Unversty of Thessaonca, pubshed by the Sacred Metropos of Ierssos,
Hagon Oros and Ardameron, Thessaonca 1985, p. 9. See aso, Archmandrte Symeon
Kragopouos, "A nci icIq nnc I yiu 2uc6=The Vews on the Presthood of
St. Symeon," n
! %16@3@51) F +roceedin,s of a
Eitur,ical onference in *onor of our Bather amon, the Saints Symeon Archbishop of Thessalonica the <iracle@"orker!
published by the Sacred <etropolis of Thessalonica! Thessalonica 1353! pp. 163@1&0.
5 += 166:36&AB.
:esi,ner of all "as pleased "ith and "anted to establish! namely! that one and the same Eitur,y
should be observed both above and belo".G
learly! this description has t"o basic characteristics! both of "hich are tied to the Eord ;esus
hrist. The first one is strictly connected "ith hristCs person! inasmuch as a priest belon,s entirely
to hrist throu,h receivin, his priestly identity from him! bein, constantly connected "ith him and
havin, his reference al"ays to him. The second characteristic is that a priestCs service has a direct
link and reference to hristCs "ork! "hich "as accomplished for all creation! the realities above and
the realities belo". This close link of the priesthood "ith hristCs person and "ork is spelled out in
the ne#t para,raph! "hich e#plains ho" the priestCs service truly reveals "ho hrist is and "hat he
has done for the entire! created "orld in ,eneral and mankind in particular.
Christ's Work Extended Throuh the Priesthood.
The priestCs service! says St. Symeon! reveals "hat hrist himself did for us "hen he appeared
to the "orld as a man like us. This "ork can be described as follo"s:
*avin, procured his union "ith us! i.e. havin, "illin,ly put on matter! hrist! "ho alone is
immaterial! united himself "ith human bein,s! "ho are endo"ed "ith material senses. .t is crucial
here that *e! "ho is by nature uncreated and "ithout be,innin,! in his desire to be united "ith
creation! "as not united "ith the immaterial and creaturely nature of the an,els H for an,els "ere
created out of nothin,! immaterial and immortal by ,race and participants of his =lory accordin, to
the measure of ,race that "as allotted to each of them. Rather, Chrst put on our
creaturey body and was unted personay (nII6) wth us, wthout
beng separated from the Godhead and wthout bein, confused "ith the human nature! to
"hich he transmitted the ,lories and benefits of the =odhead H *for in him,+ he says! *d,ells the
entire fullness of the odhead !odily+ %ol. 2:3).
Io"! all this is related to the +riesthood! because 9ust as hrist ori,inally appeared to the
"orld! accordin, to his ,ood pleasure! so no"! he reveals himself throu,h the sacred <ysteries
%Sacraments) to the priests and throu,h them to the "orldJ hristCs ama1in,! divine "ork! "hich
escapes the ,rasp of human reason! has been entrusted to the priest! "ho serves the Eitur,y and
initiates others to it. Ahat a priest does is to reveal hrist a,ain! i.e. to present him truly and fully to
the "orld of his time throu,h the sacred <ysteries! "hich he handles accordin, to the divine
ordinance. .n other "ords! a priest represents hristCs perpetual and savin, ,race ,ranted to the
"orld throu,h the celebration of hristCs mysteries.
*erein lies! accordin, to St. Symeon! the ,reat di,nity of the priesthood! "hich is ,reater than
that ,iven to the an,els. The <ysteries! "hich priests handle! have to do "ith the fact that the
<aster! "ho contains all thin,s and is himself incomprehensible! becomes for us locali1ed. Thou,h
he cannot be touched! human hands uphold him. Thou,h he is invisible! he submits to the senses and
become visible. Thou,h he is inconceivable by the human mind! he is received by human bein,s
throu,h our humble and fallen nature! by means of the priesthood! "hich has been instituted by him.
This is the miracle of miracles! that hrist appears throu,h the <ysteries? that he is ,iven! carried!
communicated? that he ind"ells in us and brin,s us peace! e#piation and sustenance.
This is! says St. Symeon! the most novel of all happenin,s! the ,reatest ,ift to humanity! the
hi,hest po"er! authority and ,race. By this! the priests! "ho are human bein,s! made of soil and clay
and resemblin, "orms of the earth! appear as heavenly Authorities and +o"ers %An,els). .ndeed! the
po"er of the priesthood makes human bein,s ,reater than these heavenly hosts. +riests are partakers
3 &!id. 36&.
10 &!id. 36&:@36(AB.
of a mi,htier creation throu,h the administration of holy Baptism and the other <ysteries. They
become fathers of sons of =od! or fathers of those! "ho become ,ods by ,race. They act in a "ay
that cancels out the effects of sin and! thus! deliver the souls! unlock the ,ates of paradise! dissolve
eternal bonds. +riests are empo"ered to perform divine acts! as =odCs collaborators for the salvation
of human bein,s.
This bein, the case! it is obvious that priests have been ,ranted the ,reatest charismas and ,ifts
and! as such! are the ,reatest debtors to =od. And it could not be other"ise! for they are compared to
the heavenly +o"ers. These many@eyed orders of An,els behold =odCs ,lory all the time. They
tremble and shudder at this si,ht! and yet! they are in ,reater a"e "hen they observe the manifold
Aisdom of =od! "hich they come to kno" throu,h the hurch! as St. +aul says. These an,elic
orders are in a"e! because of their creaturely nature and immeasurable ,oodness of =od! but they
are also ama1ed and fearful at the a"esome! divine <ysteries performed by the priesthood.
The Problem of !n"orthy Priests and its #emedy.
And yet! says St. Symeon! the priests! "ho are entrusted "ith such a hi,h and most divine task
and "ith such an a"esome authority! often fail to offer a "orthy service. They use their hi,h office
as an e#cuse for passions and as a basis for sinnin,. They often fall into the deceit of the evil one
"hen they bear their office "ith its authority as if it "ere a rulin, or secular one. They are sei1ed by
a kind of madness "hen they attribute this character to their office and e#ecute such impious "orks!
for the denouncement of "hich it "as instituted. They are deceived in thinkin, that by usin, their
authority and offerin, their service arbitrarily! they actually fulfill their office. .n fact! they are
further removed from achievin, this and! indeed! follo" the opposite direction.
*o" can priests avoid such deceptionK *o" can they make sure that they do not fall into such a
terrible dishonestyK St. Symeon finds a first concrete ans"er in the saints! especially in their attitude
to and manner of life! but he ultimately looks to =odCs ,race as the ans"er to the intrusion of evil in
human bein,s! includin, priests.
The priests that are included amon, the saints are ,uides to true authority. Before they "ere
entrusted "ith the priesthood! they understood its divine and lofty character and! like the Seraphim!
shriveled "ith shyness and timidity and put off any thou,hts of claimin, it. $nce they "ere ,ranted
it! ho"ever! their "orks and manner of life clearly sho" ho" they maintained their ri,ht attitude to it
and ho" they mana,ed to fulfill in themselves its true character. The sainted priestsC manner of life!
then! is a first! realistic ans"er to the >uest for a pure and "orthy priesthood. All priests! say St.
Symeon! are called to become by divine ,race sharers in the "orthiness of the saints. All of them are
bound by duty to order their lives accordin, to the e#ample the Saints provided. They can amend the
problem of diversification from the inte,rity of the priesthood follo"in, the e#ample of the saints!
i.e. by measurin, their ministry and life a,ainst that of the saints. The reason for this bein, the case
lies in the fact that "hen priests turn to the saints! they find another! even ,reater! ans"er! "hich is
,iven by the saints themselves. They find =odCs sanctifyin, ,race overcomin, all evil.
.n the last analysis! says St. Symeon! the true character or inte,rity of the priesthood does not
rest on the priests themselves! nor is it achieved by them? nor even by those saintly priests! "ho have
been cleansed and delivered from earthly passions and live the an,elic life? indeed! not even by the
an,els themselves. Lltimately! it is =od alone! "ho achieves this. Because =od alone! says St.
Symeon! has brou,ht into bein, out of nothin, all thin,s that e#ist! and *e alone can uphold and
sustain them and! indeed! alter and chan,e them. Thus! priests! too! bein, human! are in need of
transformation and recreation! inasmuch as they too! like all human bein,s! have been involved in
11 &!id. 36(:@3&0A.
7the terrible crash of the fall? they have lost their true and ,ood shape! their ori,inal beauty! by
disobeyin, the eternal! immortal and unchan,eable =od and obeyin, the rebellious devil! "ho hates
all ,oodness and deli,hts in all evil.8 Ahat St. Symeon says here is that 7un"orthy priests8 mean
un"orthy human bein,s! "ho fall into evil and are in need of =odCs ,race in order to be delivered
from it. But "hat is the nature of evilK And ho" do human bein,s fall into itK This is "hat St.
Symeon e#amines ne#t so that he can elucidate ho" divine ,race ultimately restores an un"orthy
priest to the inte,rity of his office.
Evil% the De&il and the 'uman (all.
4vil! says St. Symeon! is primarily connected "ith the trans,ressor! "ho appears to live and to
thrive! althou,h he is really deprived of true life in =od. .t is he! the devil! "ho "illfully adopted his
evil transformation by standin, in opposition to the <aster! "ho created him. Thus! by reason of this
opposition! he became the cause of perdition to himself first and then to us human bein,s! "ho have
been persuaded by his ,uiles.
There is! ho"ever! an important difference bet"een the devil and us human bein,s as far as evil
is concerned. *e al"ays remains rebellious! and his evil al"ays remains unchan,eable and
unalterable. Ae! on the other hand! can rise up a,ain! because "e have received ,race after our fall
on account of the e#treme ,oodness of our <aker. The devil remains unchan,eable! because he did
not fall throu,h deception! but! bein, immaterial and free from material perple#ities and the density
of the flesh! fell voluntarily from that ,ood! to "hich he had direct access. .t is because of this that
he has no room for repentance! but rather drives himself "illfully to evil and remains in it and
e#pands himself throu,h it.
*uman bein,s! on the other hand! have fallen! because they have been deceived by the devilCs
deceit. Therefore! they have received the ,race of repentance so that! even thou,h they tasted evil!
they can look do"n on it and trample over it. *uman bein,s are able throu,h the divine ,race of
repentance to feel and lon, a,ain for those true and divine ,oods! from "hich they "ere deprived!
and also to rise up and to become recipients of =odCs mercy and compassion and partakers of divine
and blessed ,oodness.
.t "as precisely for this purpose that =odCs economy "as revealed in the +rophets! in the Ea"!
in every reli,ious ordinance and fully and finally in the .ncarnation of =od. All of these means "ere
,iven to man that he may understand his fall! depart from it and from him! "ho corrupted him and
led him astray! and return to "hat he ori,inally "as and even ,o beyond it to a better state. The
,reatest of all these manifestations of =odCs economy is the SaviorCs love for mankind! "hich "as
concretely revealed in his union "ith the human nature! as already noted. The .ncarnation or
.nhomination of the man@lovin, <aster has become the cause of raisin, man up a,ain from his fall.
.t is precisely in this that the solution to the problem of un"orthy priests is provided. Ahat Symeon
su,,ests here is that a priest needs first to heal himself before he heals others. *e himself needs to
be restored and recreated before he becomes instrumental in the restoration and recreation of others.
12 += 166:3&0B (AAA' cci c nIIq c, q i Im nAqI...I cci
nIq nnImc...cuim ... EIc0c 0cA6 AA c, i Iq nqi
The #estoration of (allen 'umanity.
*o" e#actly has the .ncarnation achieved manCs restoration and recreationK St. Symeon points!
on the one hand! to the Mesurrection and the Ascension of hrist and! on the other hand! to the
hristian +riesthood! "hich "as set up by hrist. The former constitutes the basis and the latter the
means for the implementation of this achievement. *ere is ho" St. Symeon e#plains it all.
When our humanty, he says, receved n Chrst a new ease of fe (
mq) after the penalty of Adam and became immortal throu,h death! it could no lon,er appear
a,ain to mortal human bein,s. .t "as impossible to try a,ain to induce to repentance and recreation
especially those impious and sinful human bein,s! "ho "illfully persisted in their sin. .ndeed! it
"ould be un"orthy of that deified! incorruptible and untouchable body to suffer a,ain! or to be
re9ected and defied a,ain H althou,h it does endure such sufferin,s a,ain throu,h the holy martyrs!
"ho are members of it! and al"ays suffer on account of it.
hrist! therefore! ascended into heaven! and he did this for us! not for himself! since he al"ays
remained inseparable from the bosom of his omnipresent Bather. *e did this for our humanity! our
body! for he brou,ht it to the Bather as a ,ift and paced t on the throne above, .e. n
the heavens, above every Prncpaty and Authorty and Power, as St. Pau sad.
He made t defed (0), gorfed, worshpfu to a creaton and set t up
as a perpetua sacrfce for us that s perpetually offered to the Father and s our
consoaton (nAq), expaton (iA), absouton (AuIq), gft
(6), prze (c) and genera fruton (nAu).
Since! ho"ever! the Savior accomplished all of this and sits on the throne above on the rght
sde of the Father, and we human bengs are st on the earth and n need of
the Savor, he gave us agan the grace of savaton (Iq I mIqiu)
out of neffabe compasson, because we wear the same human nature and are
sub|ect to the same passons; and |ust as when he wanted to save man, he
became a man, rather than an ange, so now he gves ths grace to men and
not to anges, because he was not unted wth anges except ony ntegenty
(c6), nasmuch as they dd not need recreation. The Eord! then! ascended and
,lorified! established the priests as saviors to act in his name! to be shapers of souls! ,uides to
heaven! li,hts to life! fathers! shepherds %pastors) and ,uardians? and he endo"ed them "ith his
po"er! so that they can be "hat "e said above first for themselves and also for othersJ
This hi,h callin, of the priests! says St. Symeon! and the hei,ht of the mystery! it entails the
duty of all priests to be proven "orthy of it. .t entails nothin, less than bein, ,ranted the po"er and
,race of =od and becomin, their distributors "hile bein, on the earthJ +riests are duty bound! then!
to be described above for their o"n benefit! but also for the benefit of the many! to "hom they
should be ,ood e#amples until death. Their archetype is the very hrist! "ho! as he himself said!
7laid do"n his soul for the sheep8 %;ohn 10:16)! or! as +eter said! 7suffered for us8 %. +eter 2:21)! or!
as +aul said! 7"as not spared by his Bather even thou,h he "as *is o"n Son! but "as delivered up
for us all.8 These archetypal specifications of hrist are the common herita,e of all priests! "hich
the ,race of =od communicates to them.
The Priesthood and *hristian Asceticism.
*avin, spoken about self@offerin,! vicarious self@denial and sacrificial service as the archetypal
specifications of the hristian priesthood! St. Symeon turns ne#t to the "itness of hristian
13 &!id. 3&012@3&1.
14 &!id) 3&1:@3&6A3.
asceticism in order to elucidate further his understandin, of the priesthood. Ahat he implies here is
that the ascetic model is basic to that of a priest. The ascetic is he! "ho loves the Eord above all
else. The priest is he! "ho loves the Eord and accepts his callin, to feed his sheep.
Is t not true, he asks, that the dvne and cross-bearng, ascetc vesture (I
q) s the sgn of the poverty of hristK .s it not the si,n of the cross! the icon of death! the
study of all that lies above and beyond the "orld! the layin, off or the re9ection of all thin,s that lie
belo" and are earthlyK .t is indeed so! he says. And yet! there have been so many ,reat! spiritual
masters! "ho fully understood and honored this ascetic vesture in their lives! but avoided assumin,
the hei,ht of the sacred ,lory of the priesthood. This "as not! he e#plains! because they thou,ht that
the priesthood is somethin, to be avoided! but because its hei,ht re>uires a soul that is very ,reat
and capable of dispensin, sacred deeds. .t re>uires a soul that is as pure as is possible for man? a
soul that is totally ea,er and tireless to be of benefit to the brethren! for the priesthood is =odCs "ork!
loved by *im and undertaken out of love for *im. This is e#actly "hat hrist stressed to +eter three
times! and "hat hristian asceticism is basically all about.
<any of the ,reat! spiritual masters! "ho "ore the ascetic vesture "ith true humility! shrunk
from enterin, the ranks of the priesthood! because they considered it much hi,her than their
capability. These ,reat and true ascetics "ere in fact much more eli,ible for the priesthood than
those others! "ho openly sou,ht it! instead of avoidin, it! re,ardin, themselves most "orthy of it
because of the hei,ht and purity of their monastic values. There is no doubt! says St. Symeon! that
the monastic ideals fit perfectly "ith the lofty and pure callin, to the priesthood. .ndeed! the hurch
kno"s this and has! therefore! entrusted her protection to the holy ascetics. .t has become customary
to have ascetic priests promoted to the hierarchy of the hurch! and it is demanded that those priests!
"ho are to become hierarchs! should first assume the ascetic habit.
Accordin, to St. Symeon! the linkin, of ascetic priests "ith hi,her ranks of the cler,y
represents the hi,h vie" of the faithful and divine protectors of the hurch. Det! it often happens
that ascetic priests themselves corrupt and render useless such a lofty vie"J Ahat is the cause of
such a problem! and ho" can it be curedK
The problem in this case! says St. Symeon! is the departure of such priests from their monastic
ideals. By corruptin, their ascetic vesture and habit! they fail to dispense their priesthood "orthily.
Such ascetics are usually only interested in ac>uirin, this most divine authority. Thus! they employ
all their po"ers and sacrifice everythin, they have in order to achieve this. Det! as soon as they ,ain
it! they prove that they are un"orthy of e#ercisin, it. They do the opposite to "hat they are supposed
to do! to the detriment both of themselves and of the priesthood itself.
Io one! says St. Symeon! should aspire to ac>uire the priestly vesture in order to climb up to
the ladder of hierarchy. Anyone! "ho is elected to the priesthood! should first consider the divine
and lofty purpose of it! so that he may humble himself alon, "ith the <aster! "ho humbles himself!
and "hose ima,e he puts on. Bailure to do this often leads ne"ly ordained priests to turn this divine
order into a source of conceit and blindness. This is not due to the priesthood as such! but to the
priestsC choice! "hich does not turn their mind to the divine truth! but makes them ya"n in idleness
and become attached! or literally nailed to! thin,s that lie belo" and pertain to selfishness.
+riests! says St. Symeon! should never think or behave in this "ay. *e even blames himself for
havin, many a time been mastered by similar logismoi %thou,hts) of pride and blindness. And yet!
he does not on this account shrink from spellin, out "hat he kno"s to be divine and proper. .t is this
that ou,ht to be clearly set forth! he says! so that priests should be convicted! in case they are self@
deceived by unseemly logismoi. Besides! bein, reminded of "hat behooves priests and "hat
thou,hts are truly ,ood for them! incurs true benefits to them. To allo"! then! unseemly motions and
16 Accordin, to the late +rofessor ;ohn Momanides! this tradition be,ins "ith Symeon the Ie" Theolo,ian.
attacks of logismoi is unbecomin, to priests! i.e. it is not proper e#ercisin, their free "ill. To be so
deceived! on the other hand! is the conse>uence of the adoption of passions. Det! it is the priestsC true
freedom! i.e. it is up to their free "ill! to come to ackno"led,e their true interest and to return to
"hat is ,reater and true. To fail to do so is to be responsible for condemnation. $n the contrary! to be
"illin, to submit to self@e#amination for the purpose of recoverin, inte,rity is! indeed! a sacred duty
and privile,e. +riests need to e#amine themselves as to "hose servants they are! "hose "ork they
do and "hose ima,e they bear. Ahat! then! is the true ima,e of the priest in li,ht of all thisK
True% Priestly Imae.
+riests are servants of the reator of all thin,s! "ho are to serve in the restoration of those! "ho
"ere alienated by their o"n free choice and fell into bein, evil. +riests are ministers of the ,reatest
and most divine "ork! throu,h "hich earthly and heavenly bein,s are reunited! enmity is dissolved!
=od makes peace "ith human bein,s! every deceit ceases! the dominion of the demons is
e#tin,uished! and human bein,s become e>ual to the an,els! sons of =od and ,ods by ,race. This is
the "ork that priests perform in an ineffable "ay throu,h their litur,ies! the ,ifts they disperse and
the truths! into "hich they initiate others. They bear an ima,e! "hich is truly divine! and the hi,hest!
each one accordin, to ho" "orthy he is.
The Bishop! more specifically! is an icon of =od "ar e-cellence! but so are the +resbyters after
him on account of the charisma they received and especially of their offerin, of the <ystical
Sacrifice. The Bishop is an icon of the Bather of Ei,hts! from "hom every ,ood ,ift and every
perfect besto"al come! and "ho is! therefore! considered to be an illuminator or an enli,htener. The
+resbyter also stands as a type of the superior orders and serves as a second li,ht that transmits and
operates the <ysteries and is on this account called an administrator and dispenser. The :eacon is
the third order and stands as a type of the ministerin, An,els! "ho are al"ays sent to those! "ho are
to inherit salvation. This is "hy he is called a preacher! one! "ho prepares! and one! "ho also
adminsters and dspenses. A three are guards (nII) of the One God
and of the one sacrfca vctm. They partake of *im and become one body "ith *im!
,lorified "ith *im and transmitters of divine ,race! althou,h this last function occurs in accordance
"ith the order that has been ,iven to each of them from above.
The Sa&ior as the -ey to the Priesthood.
Thus! St. Symeon ,oes on to stress "hat can be called the key to the priesthood. This key is
;esus, who he s and what he became for our sake. |esus s true God, the Word
(Ay) from a Mnd (Nu), who aways s and has had no begnnng, from
whom a thngs were made! the Aisdom! the +o"er! the Aord! throu,h "hom all e#ist. *e is
the Eord of all po"ers! immaterial! invisible! ineffable! incomprehensible! inconceivable!
indescribable! untouchable! immortal. Det! the same $ne has become a man for all human bein,s!
visible! describable! passable! mortal! poor! "ithout citi1enship! "ithout honor! sold by his o"n!
condemned! reviled! ridiculed! tortured! crucified. All these he endured for the sake of humanity.
Ahat else could be more divine! asks St. SymeonK Ahat other si,n of ,reater ,oodness could
e#istK Ahat else could reveal more clearly the abyss of the divine compassionK Ahat else could
better manifest the ,lory of =odCs humilityK Iothin, could surpass the fact that the reator has
become a creature! that the <aker has become a bein, that is made! that suffers in the hands of the
creatures for these creatures? i.e. that the <aster endures sufferin,s in the hands of the servants for
1& += 166:3&6 A3@3.
these servants! for servants! that is! "ho are unfaithful! "ho took the side of the enemy! "ho did not
reco,ni1e the reator! did not think to kno" him! did not search for him! did not run to"ards him!
but rather attacked him! paraded him! blasphemed a,ainst him and! finally! put him to death. *is
ama1in, ,oodness is demonstrated in his achievement for them. *e ,ave himself for them! suffered!
died! rose a,ain! raisin, them all "ith himself! ascended into heaven and e#alted them "ith himself
and united them "ith himself as his o"n members! "ishin, to remain inseparable "ith them forever.
The Duty of the Priests. To Ser&e the /ord.
.n li,ht of "hat the Eord has offered to humanity! St. Symeon raises the >uestion! as to "hat the
priests should offer in returnK Their debts to him for his ma,nificent benefits are countless. Their
return! therefore! should be to offer themselves to him totally? to stand beside him stayin, the "ords
and doin, the deeds of his humiliation? to be humbled before the $ne! "ho humbled himself for
them. They should shudder at the thou,ht of "ho the Eord is before "hom they stand? especially at
the thou,ht that he al"ays stands invisibly in their midst supremely throu,h the <ysteries of the
divine Body and the holy Blood! "hich sho" forth his passion! namely! that he "as slain! "as
nailed! shed his blood! endured death. They should shudder at approachin, him and seein, him
bein, divided or partitioned! bein, eaten! havin, his blood bein, drunk and bein, shared by others
by ,race after he is imparted to priests.
This is also "hat makes the herubim and Seraphim shudder. 4very divine and an,elic +o"er
shrinks as they see "hat takes place! and they stand before it "ith fear and tremblin,! reali1in, the
creatureliness and limitations of their nature and! thus! ,lorify "ith utter astonishment the
immeasurable ,oodness of =od. Ahen the priests stand before hrist! they are surrounded by
an,elic orders! "hich encircle the altar and shrink from fear as they try to fathom the <ystery. They
do not stand there inactively! because they receive the ray of the same Ei,ht! from the source of
Ei,ht! "hich brin,s out of this <ystery the "armth of their fiery e#istence! "hich is kindled by this
Ei,ht. .t is! indeed! this Ei,ht that also ,ives life! "isdom and kno"led,e.
=iven the "ay the incorporeal +o"ers approach the <ysteries of hrist! "ho are free from all
passion! says St. Symeon! priests! "ho are of soil and clay! ou,ht to approach "ith much ,reater
preparation! full of a"e and lon,in, for servin, this loftiest of "orks. Since the cause of all this
marvelous "ork is nothin, else but =odCs Eove! priests should also approach it "ith "holehearted
love. They should first love the Eord! "ho loves them all and all humanity! "ith all the po"er of
their soul. They should approach "ith fervent prayer seekin, =odCs help so that they can serve in a
"ork that can only be accomplished by him. They should strive to be fully united "ith him! because!
as he said! 7"ithout him! they can do nothin,8 %;ohn 16:6). They should also approach "ith
humility! bearin, in mind that only 7he! "ho humbles himself! is to be e#alted8 %Euke 14:11)!
imitatin, the Eord! "ho adopted human poverty and re9ected the evil $neCs obstinate attachment to
hau,htiness. .f the <aster ,ave himself for all and became everythin, for all! then priests should at
least offer themselves to him! so that they can participate "orthily and truly en9oy his divine
1( &!id. 3&5A4@3&3B&
15 Accordin, to :avid Balfour! Symeon 7derived the hesychastic and +alamite doctrine and outlook! "hich is reflected
in much of his "ork!8 from the holy /anthopouloi! -allistos and .,natios. This is clearly indicated in chapter 236 of his
Dialogue .On Di/ine Prayer0! "hich is entitled 7oncernin, our Blessed Bathers! -allistos the +atriarch and .,natios
%+= 166:44AB:). See BalfourCs 7Saint Symeon of Thessalonike as a *istorical +ersonality!8 ree% Orthodo-
Theological Re/ie, 25 %1353)! p. 63 Npp. 66@(2O and especially in his article! 7St. Symeon of Thessalonica: A +olemical
*esychast!8 So!ornost 4 %1352)! pp. &@21.
+riests should desire to serve hristCs <ystery every day if possible! bearin, in mind ho"
desirable this is to the Eord himself! "ho said: 7"hat a ,reat desire have . had to eat this +ascha "ith
you8 %Euke 22:16). .ndeed! the Eord ordered that this <ystery should be constantly or unceasin,ly
celebrated in Hs memory. He sad, "do ths contnuousy" (nciIc), not "do ths
once and ony" (nqIc) "n my memory" (i!id) 13). Ahat ,reater "ork! asks St.
Symeon! can be rendered than this one! "hich commemorates hrist! his sufferin, for us and his
perpetual sacrfce for our sakes? "Ths s my Body," he sad, whch has been gven
for you, namey, whch s aways broken. And, "Ths s my Bood, whch s
constanty shed (uc) for you," (i!id. 30), not "whch was shed once"
(u0), but whch s aways shed. Io other "ork! then! is more profitable for us and more
pleasin, to =od than this Sacrifice! because this "ork is =odCs and entails the rene"al of humanity
and the restoration of =odCs communion "ith human bein,s! as hrist *imself e#plained at the time
of *is passion! in sayin,! 7that they may be one! even as "e are one8 %;ohn 1(:22). That human
bein,s actually become one "ith *im throu,h this "ork is declared by the Eord *imself! "ho says!
7*e! "ho eats my Blesh and drinks my Blood! remains in <e and . in him8 %;ohn &:64).
The Duty of Priests to *elebrate Worthily.
This bein, the case! it is obvious that this "ork should be pursued more ea,erly than any other
+rayer or +raise! since every supplication "as ,iven for this as the final purpose of all. This is "hy
"e ou,ht to try and do this on most days of our life. All divine thin,s that are ,iven to the "orld!
says St. Symeon! are active! "hether "orks or "ords. 4verythin, divine that has been ,iven is active
and effective. This supremely applies to this divine "ork that is active and effective. This supremely
applies to this divine "ork that is active and effective to the ,reatest de,ree. The effectiveness of the
divine ener,ies is revealed in the constant movement of heaven and the creatures that operate there!
in the unceasin, ,ro"th of plants on the earth and in the creatures that operate in the middle space!
each in its o"n "ay. The most effective revelation of this! ho"ever! is ,ranted in the operation of the
priests! "ho "ere appointed to serve this most divine and loftiest <ystery.
.f all visible thin,s operate unceasin,ly! says St. Symeon! as this is also demonstrated by this
,reat microcosm that is called man! "ho is fed and develops! ,ro"s and chan,es alon, "ith all other
visible thin,s! and at the same tme operates and moves on the ntegbe or
sprtua (c) eve through hs mnd and the powers of hs sou; and f the
dvne and ntegent or sprtua powers are aways n moton, as we nfer from
the movement of man's mnd, how much more should this supreme "ork of =odCs service
be operative! bein, a "ork that takes place for the sake of the entire creation! throu,h "hich all
bein,s are led into "ell@bein, as they are united "ith =od and become divine! especially human
bein,s before and above all else! "hether dead or alive. Io indolence and no pretense of reverence
can be e#cused for priests! "ho fail to en,a,e in this "ork.
.t is no reverence to abstain from the celebration of the <ysteries. .t is rather an obstacle to the
savin, sacrifice and to the benefit that results from it. So! St. Symeon concludes that if there is no
real obstacle for understandin, this celebration! the savin, Sacrifice should be celebrated "ithout
ceasin,. .n this case! the priest becomes a truly sacred instrument. $ther"ise! by remainin, inactive!
he "ill have to ,ive an account to the Eord! as St. Basil pointed out to a certain =re,ory! "hom he
rebuked for litur,ical inactivity and sloth. St. Symeon paints "ith the darkest of colors the failure of
priests to celebrate these sacred and savin, <ysteries "ithout any due reason. To be a priest! "ho
fails to celebrate the <ysteries as often as possible! is to be a priest! "ho deprives people of the
benefits of the sacred Sacrifice! of the commemoration of the Savior and the communication of the
rene"al that sprin,s from the EordCs sacred passion. +riestly inactivity should only be associated
"ith those penalties that the Bathers instituted for un"orthy priests. Ln"orthy priests should avoid
celebration as un"orthy hristians should avoid communion.
.t is a paramount duty of priests! to "hom =od entrusted the sacred "ork of the divine
<ysteries! to en,a,e in them as much as they are able! makin, sure that they remain "orthy of them
throu,h imitation of the entire manner of hristCs life. By remainin, firmly established on the
pattern of hristCs life! they are al"ays active and effective! bearin, his sacred icon upon their o"n
person and procurin, throu,h their celebrations of his memory the union of =od himself "ith them
and of the An,els "ith =od and "ith them! and of all the faithful souls "ith each other. Burthermore!
participation in the <ystery leads the pious and faithful hristians to ac>uire the virtues! to advance
and to be stren,thened in their life in hrist. .t offers e#piation and purification to those! "ho come!
havin, confessed and repented of their sins.
The celebration of these <ysteries is a cause of sanctification of the entire creation and ,reatly
re"ards the pious and "orthy celebrant. As to the fre>uency of this celebration! St. Symeon brin,s
for"ard the e#amples of St. Basil %"ho celebrated the <ysteries at least four times a "eek)! the holy
Apostles %"ho broke Bread every day)! St. =re,ory the =reat of Mome! St. Apollonios and his
disciples! and St. ;ohn hrysostom! all of "hom favored daily celebrations. T"ice a "eek is the
minimum that St. Symeon prescribes for all priests! "hether celibates or married. They can prepare
durin, the five days that intervene. .ndeed! this habit "ill force them to follo" the Eord constantly
and be al"ays ready to serve *im in *is <ysteries.
+riests! "ho have been sei1ed by a passion a,ainst another brother! should not proceed to the
celebrations of the <ysteries. 4nvy! slander and spite! or any kind of vindictiveness! e#clude priests
from celebratin, the <ysteries of hrist. +riests! "ho arrive at this state of un"orthiness! have
succumbed to the ,uile of the devil! havin, forsaken the po"er and the authority that they "ere
,iven over him and his demonic po"ers. Such priests "ill have to ,ive an account before the
a"esome 9ud,ment seat of hrist! 9ust like those! "ho failed to celebrate because of indolence.
+riests should not for,et that everythin, lies "ithin the po"er of their free "ill. They "illfully fall
into the snares of the devil and "illfully can be delivered from them. They can and should cleanse
themselves from every passion throu,h repentance and by returnin, to the Eord! "hose e#cellent
characteristics they should strive to imitate: *is philanthropy! humility! compassion! love to"ards all
indiscriminately! peace! transmission of the divine ,ifts and above all! unceasin, communion "ith
=od and pursuit of sanctification. Attachment to the Eord and imitation of his virtues is the key to
every priestCs achievement of a "orthy and blessed service.