PRIEST, ORDINATION OF. When a person is chosen as a candidate for the priesthood, a document testifying to the candidate's aptitude and good character is drawn up by the clergy, deacons, and people of the church to be presented to the bishop. If he is not already a deacon, he must be ordained reader and deacon before the day of ordination.
The service of ordination of priests takes place during the Sunday celebration of the Divine Liturgy, immediately after the Prayer of Reconciliation, before the beginning of the anaphora. The candidate, wearing the vestments of the diaconate, is presented to the ordaining bishop, metropolitan, or patriarch before the altar, in the presence of the assembly of the faithful.
The bishop first ascertains from the congregation that no one has any objection to the candidate's being ordained a priest. Then he proceeds with the prayer of morning incense and, facing the altar, says:
Lord, God of hosts, who has brought us unto the lot of this ministry, who searches all hearts and reins, listen to us according to Thy tender mercies, cleanse us of all sins of body and soul. Scatter like smoke the mist of our transgressions and fill us with Thy divine power, the grace of Thy only-begotten Son, and the efficacy of Thy Holy Spirit, that we may become worthy of this ministry which is unto the new covenant, to carry Thy Holy Name, to stand and minister to Thy divine mysteries. Suffer us not to be partakers of other men's sins, but blot our own sins, and grant us, O heavenly King, not to stray from the right path. Endow us with the true knowledge to say what is proper and to approach Thy sacred table. Accept the priesthood of Thy servant [name], who is here kneeling before Thee, awaiting Thy heavenly gifts. For Thou are righteous, full of compassion towards those who call upon Thee, and mighty is Thy dominion, together with Thy Son and the Holy Spirit, now and forever, Amen.
The deacons respond by saying the Kyrie eleison three times. The archdeacon says:
May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ which perfects our shortcomings through the good pleasure of God the Father and the Holy Spirit, descend upon [name] who has come to the sacred altar with fear and trembling, kneeling and lifting the eyes of his heart to Thee, who dwellest in heaven, awaiting Thy heavenly gifts, to pass from the order of the diaconate to the rank of the presbytery in the Church of [name] and its pure altar. Pray that the gift of the Holy Spirit may descend upon him. Amen.
The deacons say Kyrie eleison thrice.
Facing east, the bishop prays, "Yes, Lord, make him worthy of the calling of the presbytery, that he may be worthy of Thy Holy Name, worshiping Thee and serving Thy holy altar, and may find mercy in front of Thee, for mercy and compassion are only from Thee, O God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, now and forever. Amen."
The deacons say Kyrie eleison thrice.
Facing west, the bishop lays his right hand upon the candidate's head and recites a prayer similar in content to the following original prayer stipulated by the Constitutions of the Holy Apostles (1951, pp. 491-92):
O Lord Almighty, our God, who hast created all things by Christ, and dost in like manner take care of the whole world by Him: for He who had power to make different creatures, has also power to take care of them, according to their different natures; on which account, O God, Thou takest care of immortal beings by bare preservation, but of those that are mortal by succession—of the soul by the provision of laws, of the body by the supply of its wants. Do Thou therefore now also look down upon Thy Holy Church, and increase the same, and multiply those that preside in it, and grant them power, that they may labor both in word and work for the edification of Thy people.
Do Thou now also look down upon Thy servant, who is put into the presbytery by the vote and determination of the whole clergy; and do Thou replenish him with the Spirit of grace and counsel, to assist and govern Thy people with a pure heart, in the same manner as Thou didst look down upon Thy chosen people, and didst command Moses to choose elders, whom Thou didst fill with Thy Spirit. Do Thou also now, O Lord, grant this, and preserve in us the Spirit of Thy grace, that this person, being filled with the gifts of healing and the word of teaching, may in meekness instruct Thy people, and sincerely serve Thee with a pure mind and a willing soul, and may fully discharge the holy ministrations for Thy people through Thy Christ, with a pure mind and a willing soul, and may fully discharge the holy ministrations for Thy people, through Thy Christ, with Whom glory, honor, and worship be to Thee, and to the Holy Ghost, forever, Amen.
The bishop signs the candidate's forehead with his thumb, saying, "We ordain thee for the Holy Church of God, Amen." Here the archdeacon announces the ecclesiastical name of the candidate, and the bishop says, "We ordain thee [name] priest for the holy altar of the Orthodox, in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen," and makes three signs of the cross on his forehead in the name of the Holy Trinity.
Clothing the new priest with his vestment, the bishop says, "Glory and honor unto the All-holy Trinity, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Peace and edification unto the Holy Church of God, Amen." Here the deacons chant the hymn of the descent of the Holy Spirit, beginning, "The Comforting Spirit who descended upon the Apostles on the Pentecost, when they spoke with many tongues."
Then the bishop (or a priest) reads the catechesis, which is an exhortation giving emphasis to the essential features of the priestly vocation:
Brother, it behoves you to realize the importance of the calling which you have merited, namely, priesthood, the great mysteries of the New Testament entrusted to thee, and edification. It is necessary that you should teach by means of good example more than by precept. Remember the words of Peter the Apostle [1 Pt. 5:1-4]: "The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed. Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly, not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; neither as being Lords over God's heritage, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away?" Therefore turn to good use the talent entrusted to thee, that you may repay it multiplied and deserve the reward of the wise, honest steward [Mt. 24:45; Lk. 12:42].
In token of obedience, the newly ordained priest kisses the book of the ordination service and the cross in the hand of the bishop. He then enters into the sanctuary, kisses the altar, and stands at the right hand of the bishop, who proceeds with the celebration of the Divine Liturgy. The bishop invites him to take active part in the fraction of the Holy Body and to repeat after him the words of the confession.
At the end of the Holy Communion, the bishop insufflates the newly ordained, saying, "Receive the Holy Spirit," to which he responds, "I opened my mouth and panted, for I longed for Thy commandments." The bishop also lays his hand on his head, saying axios (worthy) three times, to which the deacons and the congregation respond, "Axios."
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