Friday, May 31, 2013

Criticizing Priests - By St. John Chrysostom

On one occasion David had Saul within his grasp within a double wall and was in a position to kill him, but he spared his life and this despite the fact those present were urging him to use his sword.  But neither the ease of the opportunity, nor the prompting of the others, nor his suffering many injustices, nor the likelihood of suffering worse ones allowed him to draw his sword, even though guilt for this murder would not be likely to be betrayed to the army; it was a cave, you see, and there was no one besides himself present. 

He did not say, as someone committing adultery said, "Darkness and walls surround me: what should I worry about?" Instead, he had the unsleeping eye before him, and he knew that the eyes of the Lord are infinitely brighter than the sun. Hence he did and said everything just as if he were present and making a judgement on his words; so he said, "I shall not lay a hand on the Lord's anointed."" I do not see his wickedness: I see his position instead.  Let no one tell me that he is a man of violence and blood: I am afraid of the Lord's verdict, even if he seems undeserving; his seeming unworthy of his office is not a charge for me to make.

Let all those listen who despise priests, let them learn the degree of respect he showed for a king.  The priest, in fact, deserves far greater honour and regard than a king to the extent of the greater responsibility to which he is called.

Let them learn not to judge him or call him to account, but be subject and give place to him.  After all, you do not know the life of the priest, be he lowly and insignificant, whereas this man had a precise knowledge of all that Saul had done; yet even in this way he respected the responsibility given by God.

Now, for proof that, even if you have a precise knowledge, you have no reason or excuse for despising those set over you or giving no heed to what they say, listen to how Christ also removed from us this pretext by what he says in the Gospels: " The scribes and the pharisees sit on the seat of Moses; so do everything they tell you to do, but as to their deeds, do not do them. "Do you see how he did not scorn the advice of those whose life was so corrupt as to be deserving of criticism by their disciples, nor did he reject their teaching?

Now, I say this, not out of a wish to criticize the priests - perish the thought: you are witnesses of their life and utter piety; rather, my wish is that we give them great respect and honour in abundance. After all, the benefit we bring is not so much for them as for ourselves: "The one who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet, then, will receive the reward of a prophet." I mean, if we are commanded not to pass judgement on the lives of one another, much more on the lives of the fathers.
Glory to God for all things! 

St. John Chrysostom


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