Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015, has produced two books, “Let All Creation Rejoice: Reflections on Advent, the Nativity and Epiphany”: “https://amzn.to/2t1rXwh and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.” https://amzn.to/2WAcfG0
Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent Me, even so I send you.” And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” John 20:21-22 Monday of the 2nd Week of Pascha
Good morning Prayer Team!
Christ is Risen!
In all of the Gospel accounts, Jesus “commissions” the Disciples to go out into the world and spread the Good News. In the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, this “commissioning” takes place at the time of the Ascension, when Jesus went up to heaven forty days after the Resurrection. In the Gospel of John, this “commissioning” takes place on the day of the Resurrection, at the first encounter the Jesus has with His Disciples.
After appearing to them through closed doors, and sharing their joy with them, Jesus “got down to business” again, so to speak. He again offered them His “peace”. And then He commissioned them: “As the father has sent Me, even so I send you.” God the Father sent His Only-Begotten Son into the world to do a specific thing—“For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.” (John 3:17) Jesus now has a specific task for the Disciples, to bring His message to others, and to bring others to Christ.
The “commissioning” includes the bestowing of the Holy Spirit on them. This verse is the “genesis” of the Orthodox Sacrament of Ordination. Because when a man is ordained into the Holy Priesthood of the Orthodox Church, the ordaining Bishop invokes the grace of the Holy Spirit upon Him so that he can become a deacon, priest or bishop. The words of ordination are as follows:
The divine grace, which always heals that which is infirm and completes that which is lacking, ordains the most devout (Subdeacon, Deacon or Priest) to the office of (Deacon, Priest or Bishop). Let us, therefore, pray for him, that the grace of the All-Holy Spirit may come upon him.
The word “grace” in Greek is the word “Haris”. “Haris” is closely aligned with the word “Hara” which means “joy.” Thus, grace and joy are closely related. Grace is the God-given quality bestowed on someone or something that “heals what is infirm and completes what is lacking” in that person or thing. In the case of Holy Communion, “Grace” comes upon bread and wine, two ordinary materials, and transforms them into the extraordinary Gifts of the Body and Blood of Christ. In the case of ordination, the Holy Spirit comes down on the person being ordained and “completes what is infirm and heals what is lacking” in that person, to allow them to step into the lofty office of deacon, priest, or bishop, whatever they are being ordained to do.
One of the Traditions of the Orthodox Church, is our Tradition of “Apostolic Succession.” This means that the Bishops of the church can trace “their lineage” back to the Apostles, who received their commissions from Christ Himself. If the Bishop stands as the “typos Christou”, or “type of Christ,” in order to do so, the Bishop must be connected to Christ through the Apostolic Succession. There is no way that one can proclaim himself a bishop, because a Bishop must be related to all other Bishops through the tradition of Apostolic Succession.
The bishops then ordain the priests and deacons, who represent the Bishops in their respective parishes. An interesting side note, only one bishop is required to ordain a deacon or priest, but at least three bishops are required in order for another bishop to be ordained, which along with Apostolic Succession, preserves the authenticity of the Bishop.
“Apostolic Succession” is established through the commissioning of the Disciples as told in these verses. Because Christ bestowed the Holy Spirit on them, and they in turn bestowed the Holy Spirit on others, who continue to bestow the Holy Spirit through the sacrament or ordination to the bishops, priest and deacons who serve to this day.
While the text of the sacrament of ordination is not found in scripture, and while the word “ordination” itself is not used in this passage, this is where the idea of ordination comes from. Our “Traditions” then are all based in scripture, “codified” or accepted by all Orthodox Churches through “Tradition” and “Canon Law.”
O Life, You rose from the sepulcher, even though the tomb was secured with a seal, O Christ God. And though the doors had been bolted, You came to Your disciples, O Resurrection of all. Through them You renew a right spirit in us, according to Your great mercy. (Apolytikion of Thomas Sunday, Trans. by Fr. Seraphim Dedes)
Receive the Holy Spirit as it comes upon you at the Divine Liturgy today, and pray that He heals what is infirm and completes what is lacking in you!
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