But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, that you may declare the wonderful deeds of Him Who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.
For the light of knowledge of Your only-begotten Son has shined in our hearts; since, for our sakes, He revealed Himself upon earth, and dwelt among men; and unto as many as accepted Him He gave the power to become children of God, granting us the adoption of sonship through the laver of regeneration, and setting us free from the oppression of the devil. And inasmuch as it has not pleased You that we should be cleansed by blood, but by holy oil, You gave us the sign of His Cross, that we might become the flock of Christ, a Royal Priesthood, a Holy Nation, purifying us by water, and sanctifying us by Your Holy Spirit. O Master and Lord, grant grace to this Your ministry, as You did to Moses Your servant, and to Samuel Your beloved, and to John Your chosen one; and to all those who from generation to generation have pleased You. In like manner, empower us also to be ministers of the New Covenant of Your Son over this oil, which You have secured through His Precious Blood; that putting away earthly desires, we may die unto sin and live in righteousness, being clothed with our Lord Jesus Christ, through the anointing with this sanctifying oil, which we are about to summon to our aid. (From the 1st Prayer)
There are two kinds of “priesthood.” One is the sacramental, ordained priesthood that most of us will not participate in. Only the ordained priest stands at the altar as the celebrants of the Sacraments of the Church.
However, by our entrance into the Christian faith, we become members of the “royal priesthood.” While the priest may be the one who calls down God’s grace in order to work through the sacraments of the Church, every person is able to access the Holy Spirit in order to make a difference in the world. The priest calls down the Holy Spirit in order to make a difference in the Church. The people receive this grace and then are sent out to make a difference in the world.
If the Church ends with the distribution of the sacraments, then it is self-serving. The sacraments are supposed to extend into the world through how we react to the sacraments we have received. In other words, it is the priest who calls the Holy Spirit down to make ordinary extraordinary. Ordinary people receive the sacraments and become extraordinary. And then the now extraordinary people are supposed to go out and help others become extraordinary.
Each person will do this in a different way. Years ago, there was a young man in my parish who had a desire to do missions work. Missions work is about spreading the Christian faith in other countries where there isn’t a large Christian presence, and also includes humanitarian aid, such as providing food and education. This person had no desire to become a priest. He wanted to extend God’s grace as a missionary.
Our parish was eager to support him. There was no one else in the parish who felt the call to be a missionary. However, there were plenty of people who felt the call to support his missionary efforts. I remember giving him some money for an upcoming mission trip and telling him to buy himself the shoes he would wear in the remote village to which he was going. I wasn’t going to go with him. In fact, I didn’t have the ability or interest to join him. However, in buying the shoes he would wear, I felt like I was on that journey with him. I didn’t walk in his shoes. I bought the shoes he walked in.
The overwhelming majority of people will not be ordained priests. However, we can still do a lot of work of the priestly ministry. We can still bring God to others. We can pray with others. We can encourage others. We can teach others about God. We can lead others to Christ through our own example of Christian living.
We can assist in the sacramental life of the Church, the primary role of the priest, by worshipping, encouraging others to worship, and assisting in worship by serving the various tasks associated with worship.
The prayer reminds us that there is one true priest, Christ. Through our baptism, we become part of Christ’s priesthood, part of His chosen flock, His Holy nation. The prayer asks God to “empower us also to be ministers of the New Covenant of Your Son over this oil.” This is not merely a prayer for the celebrating priest, because it is offered in the plural. It is a prayer for all people to be empowered to minister in some way, according to the talent God has given each of us.
To as many as accept Christ, He gives us power as His children. When we put away earthly desires, dying to sin and living in righteousness, that power becomes alive in us. As we pray for the healing of soul and body, part of the hope of that prayer is to awaken this power in us by healing our desire for sin and kindling our desire for God, so that we can each take our place as part of His flock, as an extension of Christ’s priesthood, and as the Holy Nation that is the Christian Church, seeking to make a difference in the world.
Having the Fountain of healing, O Holy Unmercenaries, you bestow healing on all who ask of it; for you were deemed worthy of exceedingly great gifts, from the perpetual Source of Christ, the Savior. For the Lord has said to you, as equals in zeal to the Apostles: “Behold, I have given you authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every infirmity and every malady. Therefore, having faithfully followed His commandments, freely you have received, and freely give, healing the ills of our souls and bodies.” (Hymn at Anointing)
Be the flock of Christ today. Follow the Shepherd, Christ. Share His message.