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THE PRIESTHOOD


 


 

THE ART OF INCISING A SOUL  

We have a problem. If we use the knife too gently, thus removing only a part of the cancer, a part of the cancer remains. But if we incise deeply, the suffering could drive the patient to desperation and make him throw away bandage, remedy and all. Giving the exact medicine could cause spiritual damage; giving less can also cause ineffectiveness of the medicine. Effectiveness of the cure does not depend only on the doctor and medicines but in the disposition of the patient.

The disposition of the sinner is important, lest, whilst wishing to mend what is torn, the rent is made worse and, in our zeal to restore, the ruin might be greater. For weak and careless characters, addicted for the most part to the pleasures of the world and having occasions to be proud on account of birth and position, may yet, if gently and gradually treated, be brought to repent of their errors. A full discipline may deprive them of this slight chance of amendment. For when a soul is badly handled, it lapses into a callous condition, yielding neither to kindly words nor threats nor susceptible to gratitude.

And so, a priest must have a thousand eyes to see all these nuances. Otherwise, his zeal is in vain. When a shepherd sees his sheep go astray, a loud shout suffices to bring him back. But not so for the shepherd of souls. The right faith, great exertion,  perseverance and patience are required. For the patient cannot be dragged back by force, nor constrained by fear; he must be led back by persuasion to the truth from which he originally swerved. 

The priest must not despair for the salvation of such wanderers for it is God who gives repentance to the acknowledgment of the truth. To be saved, one needs self-discipline; to tend Christ's flock one needs more than self-discipline.

St. John Chrysostom: Treatise Concerning the Christian Priesthood

 

 

 

 

 

(08-24-03)

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