Make a Vow
As soon as they are consecrated, new priests acquire a new life. Similar to the Sacrament of Baptism, which restores the purity of God’s image in a human being, the Sacrament of Priesthood also revives the image of God. When a person becomes a priest or a monk, he crosses the threshold of a new reality and declares that it is God who is the purpose of his life. The vows that the person takes demonstrate that the Lord becomes the reference point of his entire life, and that there aren’t any values of this world that could undermine his desire to come closer to God and to serve Him.
The Spiritual Code
If we look into it carefully, we’ll see that the vows taken by a priest or a monk in front of God and people imply his acceptance of a certain spiritual code of conduct. It is an oath that he has to abide by till the end of his days. Finally, it’s an examination of his decency and courage, accountability and honesty, and his allegiance to his cause.
It brings to memory Moonzund, a novel by Valentin Pikul, which describes the last months of the First World War and underlines how important it was to preserve one’s honor, courage, and allegiance to one’s cause in the wake of various difficult and contradictory circumstances. First Lieutenant Artenyev who serves on a destroyer, maintains the qualities of a true naval officer in spite of the difficult situation. He is a brave and resolute man, who is also capable of compassion and who becomes sad when his crew faces a tough luck. As an officer, he cannot yield to the destructive tendencies on the warship, and doesn’t want to placate rudeness, knavery, and cowardice.
He does everything he can to prevent anarchy and lawlessness. Letting go of the reins and backing down is fraught with peril, judging by the example of another officer who was in charge of the engine room. Afraid for his life, he started appeasing the sailors as soon as the riot broke out on the ship. He tolerated humiliation and mockery. He broke the code of honor and smeared his dignity, at which point he lost the other officers’ respect while not becoming a comrade for the rank-and-file sailors. He was openly despised and later blamed for disorder and collapse of the engine room.
Once a Priest, Always a Priest
Nowadays, there are priests who cannot withstand external pressure of the hateful society, agitated by the slanderous and misleading mass media accounts, which love to spit out libel about the Church, as well as internal provocations of other clergymen, who are unqualified for this sacred calling due to a number of factors, including their personal qualities. Those priests fail the test, betray the Church and the vows that they promised to God, and infect other priests with their rebellious “revolutionary” talk.
They find it hard not to kowtow to those who, in their opinion, possess power and wealth. They do their best to demonstrate to the outsiders that they are “good fellas”, accommodating and harmless.
It is a great personal tragedy for those priests. Trials must make us stronger, unite us, and help us to find out what is the most important for us. They must make our souls free from debris. That is something every Christian, especially a priest, must remember. A priest’s heart requires constant purification to be a worthy container for God. Self-improvement is key for a successful priest. Abba Isaiah instructs, “If you want God to dwell in your heart, keep it spotless.” You must always remain honest and sincere with yourself, the Lord, and other people.
If there is just a bit of an unrepented and hidden sin in your heart, all your efforts, your ministry, and your achievements will be null and void. You won’t be able to resist temptations. You won’t be able to walk down your path till the end. You won’t be able to respect yourself. One has to be true to his calling in every aspect. Spiritual life in general has no trivial or less important details.
It is not accidental at all that the Church puts special clothes on her priests. Those clothes must ensure their proper functioning. One must never be shy of wearing the priestly clothes under any circumstances! Obviously, clothes don’t make us any better ipso facto. At the same time, they have been known to shield priests from many temptations. Aside from that, the appearance and prudent behavior of a priest or a monk serve as a guidance for our contemporaries. It isn’t easy to defy the pressure of the ever-changing world and not to get caught under the millstones of popular trends and tendencies. Christianity is for the strong in spirit.
Every person who chooses this path must be aware of the high dignity of a Christian, and especially of a priest or a monk. When you break these vows, you betray yourselves first of all. The Church was, is, and will remain forever. She is like a ship in a turbulent sea. She resists all storms and torrents. She saves and protects everyone who is inside.
Only those who don’t forget the vows that they’ve made before God and stick to those vows, will be saved.
Translated by The Catalog of Good Deeds