The 20th Biennial Clergy Symposium for the Antiochian Archdiocese was convened by His Eminence Metropolitan Joseph July 16-20, 2018 at the beautiful Antiochian Village in Bolivar, PA. The theme was The Holy Priesthood - Our Life and Calling. Plenary talks were given by each of the bishops on the following topics:
Metropolitan Joseph - The priest as administrator: Let all things be done decently and in order. St. Paul to the Corinthians (1 Cor. 14:40) and The priest as a husband and a father to his family.
Bishop Basil - The High Calling of the Priesthood.
Bishop Anthony (for Bishop Alexander) - The Integrity of the Priesthood.
Bishop Thomas - What It Means to Call the Priest Father.
Bishop Anthony - Priesthood and the The Meaning of the Apostolic Succession.
Bishop Nicholas - The Priest as the Servant of Christ and His Church.
Bishop John - The Priest As Minister of the Sacraments, the Holy Mysteries.
The Right Reverend Bishop Anthony: Thank you everyone once again. My topic today is the apostolic succession. I will concentrate more on the theology of the apostolic succession; the practical application of it will be secondary, but it will be part of it. The apostolic succession, then, is the foundation of our priesthood, so I will talk about that.
I want to begin with answering a few questions that I had after I left yesterday to what questions you have that you didn’t ask. First, it had to do with when I said about Jesus as the real Archpastor. He led no social movement, he didn’t create any change in the world, nor did he even advocate a change from the tyranny of the Roman Imperium or any of that. Someone asked, “Well, how do we deal with the world? Do we have this concern? because I have these worldly concerns about the Church addressing different cultural phenomena that we would say assault the Church, or the change in culture that concerns us.” I believe I have a certain perspective on that, because I’ve been studying the Western culture since the 12th century. I will just review it again. That doesn’t give me a complacency in answering these questions, but I would like to place it in an eschatological or kingdom context, if I could put it that way.
I think I said as an aside yesterday that in the Western European Christian experience, you have St. Augustine in the fourth century, saying, “I believe, therefore I am.” You get to the post-Renaissance and the scientific revolution of Descartes, and he says, “I think, therefore I am.” Move 600 years forward, and it’s: “Who am I?” Not only “Who am I?” but “What am I?” These are fundamental existential questions that the world is responding to in almost a rapid-fire machine-gun way. I would like also to say that I do not believe it’s completely negative. The world is looking for answers, and the only place it knows to look, because of its secular scientific bias is itself: the world. So it’s trying to find, I would say, a utopian solution to a spiritual problem. Can I say that again? I guess I can. It’s a utopian solution to a spiritual problem. That’s the fundamental situation that we find ourselves in as priests, and that’s why, in my view, there’s a danger in responding to every incident that happens in the world.
People—this is interesting to think—are looking to replace theology with a temporary ideology. They want, as soon as we make a response in any of these worldly directions, to put us within a category of ideology. “Oh, that’s what the Orthodox Church thinks. Oh, they agree with the Catholic Church or the Protestant Church or whatever conservative or liberal group will be.” So you face a big problem when you take the fullness of the experience of the Holy Spirit in the Church and try to explain on terms that the world can understand. They’re going to put you in a framework that you should never be in, and I’m not saying this as you; I’m saying it in a parenthetical you: We should not be there.
We must concentrate on the kingdom that is come. “Thy kingdom come”: that’s how thy will is done. “Thy kingdom come” is the way God’s will is done, and in that regard, that’s why it seems like the Eastern Church doesn’t have that kind of preoccupation with the world that the Western Church does, or that the Western Church is perceived to have. Having said that, I personally admire when they do speak out on certain issues. But they kind of have more of an affinity for it anyway, since they taught the world how to be the world, since the whole educational system was founded on the great 12th-century Renaissance and university life, especially in northern Germany. So I did some of this history before I got to my lectures. I really want to make a point about it. We must really see the eschatological kingdom reality. Christ has come, Christ is still here with the Holy Spirit, Christ will come again in a second and glorious coming. The kingdom of God is already inaugurated and initiated through Divine Liturgies, especially in the gathering of the Divine Liturgy around holy Communion, which is the raison d’être, the very purpose, of the apostolic succession, referenced already by all our hierarchs, in particular His Eminence Metropolitan Joseph.
And let me bring out some of the things in the Liturgy, to hear exactly why we are concerned with a dynamic movement of moving from glory to glory in a never-finished communion with God for all eternity. Salvation is not a static thing; it’s not a finished thing, and that’s why I said the priesthood is that prolongation of opportunity for redemption and renewal. I said that as powerfully as I could last time. We must know, then, that it is not the movement of history, it is not the movement of temporary history that the Church is really concerned with; it’s the dynamic growth of each individual soul, the saving of souls, that the Church is interested in. This mystical unity is already taking place. Saints are everywhere in the Church at this moment, and they’re being formed, they’re being born into the other world. It’s very, very important that we see ourselves as priests and as all of us, we are giving birth to people for the kingdom of God, especially in the mystery of holy baptism, the sacrament, but we continually form them. Didn’t St. Paul say, “I am in travail until Christ be formed in you”? That’s our main preoccupation; that’s our main occupation.
This is really shown in such a beautiful way in our St. John Chrysostom Liturgy, which puts all the events of Christ’s life—the cross, the grave, the resurrection, the ascension, the sitting at the right hand, and the second and glorious coming are all done in that moment of the anaphora we have. Isn’t that true? And we pray for patriarchs, apostles, prophets, evangelists, martyrs, confessors, ascetics, and every righteous spirit made perfect, especially the most-holy and glorious ever-Virgin Mary and Theotokos? Isn’t that wonderful? Even we can see she’s the plethora or the completion of all holiness, more honorable than the cherubim, more glorious beyond compare than the seraphim. Even then we still pray, especially in the eucharistic service, even for her, because she is in a dynamic state of ever getting closer to her own Son, and that is a huge mystery, if I may borrow President Trump’s favorite word, “huge.” I wish I didn’t do that. That’s a not a political motive by any means. It’s good to not watch too much of the media. That’s a huge problem. I hope I didn’t distract from what I was just saying.
That is the most important thing: the kingdom of God with us. I hope that answers people’s questions about those things that happen every day and that are important, that we need to respond to. But let’s keep that in order. That’s the first thing I wanted to mention.
I also wanted to finish a little bit of what I said in regard to the Scriptures about the sacredness of the priesthood in its absolute beauty. Let me state it clearly: I want to look at it more in its mystical sense. I know that Bishop John just talked about it in its broadest sense, which includes the laity, but if you would I want to concentrate just on the exclusivity of that priesthood the way it was yesterday. And I want to use the fifth chapter of Ephesians, the epistle to marriage, and make a direct connection between the priest and the marriage, the mystical marriage, to the altar, Christ being the first High Priest, and we reflecting that marriage in our life. The altar of Christ is the spouse of Christ; it’s the bride of Christ. It’s in Scripture itself. When we celebrate the divine mystery, we are celebrating the marriage of heaven on earth. We are giving our total and complete devotion and love to Christ, the High Priest. I think this is the mystery that St. Paul talked about in the fifth chapter of the book of Ephesians even more than in the marriage itself between man and woman on earth.
As the Church is subject to Christ, so let women be subject to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that he might present the Church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing (the bride walking down the aisle)... He who loves his wife loves himself.
Because the priest gives in himself and with himself to this altar, to this mystical marriage. Then, this is it:
This mystery is a profound one, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the Church.
Can everyone hear me, that it refers to Christ and the Church? Now I’ll go to Revelation 19:6ff.
We hear “Alleluia! The Lord Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and exalt and give him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. It was granted her to be clothed with fine linen, bright and pure, the linen of the righteous deeds of her saints.”
It’s an interested reference to linen, scarlet and fine stuff. It’s the tabernacle construction in the Old Testament, as they left Egypt and went to the promised land. This is the marriage that’s really talked about. Once again, I’ll repeat what I said: At our ordinations, we are sort of elevated out of the world. We’re from the world, but we’re out of the world. We have a divine and celestial place at the one, eternal throne in heaven. There are innumerable earthly altars, but it’s that one altar that really draws our identity and the reflection of Christ to the world.
Do you have any questions on that? Was I clear on that? So there is a real exclusivity, in my view, about the ordained priesthood.
Now for the apostolic succession itself. I also want to do a Bible study first on the apostolic succession, if I could, because I think it’s very interesting, and I want you to follow the sequence and the chronology according to the synoptic gospels and all the way through in the gospels. I may be using a surprise number of passages that you wouldn’t necessarily have connected. Of course, we have his genealogy, his birth, and then we have his baptism. Immediately after his baptism, he has a very short exhortation or hortatation that says, “Repent, for the kingdom of God has come to you” or “has come upon you,” whichever translation you use from the Greek, “repent” or “change.” He is immediately saying not to the world to change, if I may preface what I said earlier, but to each person to change.
Then after the change, he goes into what? The temptation scene. I want to go through that temptation scene. The two most detailed ones are St. Matthew and St. Luke, but I want to use St. Luke because there is a part of it in regard to the kingdoms of this world that’s more elaborate than in St. Matthew’s. It says:
And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit for 40 days in the wilderness, tempted by the devil, and he ate nothing in those days. And When they were ended, he was hungry, and the devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” And Jesus answered in complete alacrity and calmness, the peace that he had from his Father, “It is written: Man shall not live by bread alone.”
And the devil took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and in a moment of time, and said, “To you I will give all authority and glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I will give it to whom I will. If you then will worship me, it will be yours.” And Jesus said, “You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve” (Deuteronomy 6:3-8).
Perfect exact quotation of our Lord to the devil, with complete clarity, without any sign of tiredness, startling the Adversary’s spirit.
Now I would like to just tell you a little theology, which you may know, to put this in context, because my belief is Jesus is going to take these apostles, because he will call the apostles next, after the temptation. He will call these special people to take them out of the world. The world as is described now by the Adversary’s spirit: bread, which means prosperity; of popularity, of jumping off the Temple peak; also of power, which is ruling the world—of plenty, of popularity, of power: all that the world can give us, Jesus has now officially, purposely, consciously rejected in himself.
Then what is the purpose of all of this? He comes then to call the apostles in a special way to leave the world. St. Maximus the Confessor—sometimes we just aren’t reading the Fathers in complete, because they’re not easy. There’s a lot of semicolons in the prophets. It’s big sentences. Today we’ve even reduced the language to one letter in our text messages. So this text is bulky and ponderous, but it’s full of beauty. As St. Maximus the Confessor was thinking and reflecting on the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in paradise, I think he said something that’s just so outstanding and balanced and beautiful when he said Adam and Eve ate from a tree that was good, but they had a bad motive for eating a good thing. Because it was a good tree, but because man was made both spiritual and material, it was more immediate to the gaze, it was more essentially beautiful, it didn’t take as much work to see that God was the Giver of this gift, just to take it as an autonomous thing of its own.
What he did was, he took that apple for itself, and then they were trapped by the pleasure it gave him, the passions, and once he was trapped by that, he became imprisoned by the present satisfaction of that thing. St. Maximus says God would have eventually allowed him to take pleasure in the material world, but only after he could detach himself from that by thanking God—eucharistos—and then appreciating it from a distance. Was that clear?
And then St. Basil the Great—and we celebrated the feast day of St. Macrina, his sister, and St. Emilia, his mother—said man became so casual in the gifts that God gave him that he was lazy. Because he was lazy, he ate of the tree. Both those things have to do with this: It developed in man an unusual desire to have the things of the world, to think that those things could make him happy. But, as we all know, “I can’t get no satisfaction.” This is the impossible part. This is why he had to leave, on Forgiveness Sunday, paradise itself.
How does that relate to what I just said? I want you to all keep that in mind. Now, Jesus was rejecting that order, that reverse order that the Adversary spirit had said. He wasn’t looking at the bread first; he was looking at his Father first. He was looking at the word before the bread. He was looking at obedience before the popularity of his own gifts. He was looking at God’s authority, and preferably he wanted to be a servant rather than a master. All of that was the complete thing that the first Adam had missed. So that’s why it really happened.
Then we get to when Jesus takes them to the Sermon on the Mount and teaches them. It says the disciples were around him. It doesn’t say the content of all the disciples, but there’s a certain exclusivity to the apostles hearing the Sermon on the Mount. We can certainly say that the Twelve were there, and even beyond that, the Twelve were there: they were given certain prescriptions of how to live that life. Immediately, Jesus tells them they must pray, they must fast, and they must give alms in the sixth chapter, on the Sermon on the Mount. He was introducing them—listen carefully—to the ascetical struggle, to the struggle to reverse the love, the misdirection of affection, the misfire of desire. (I’m going to resist a self-compliment on that: the misfire of that desire.) So he had to reverse that whole process.
Because what did he teach them? Blessed are the pure in heart. Blessed are those that hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be [filled]. I think those are the two main, in my own mind—you can’t really discriminate; they’re all great, but those are the two beatitudes that I think directly apply to the priesthood. “Blessed are the pure in heart” and “Blessed are those who seek after righteousness.” St. Symeon the New Theologian said that there are three levels of priesthood. I think it was him, but maybe even St. Isaac the Syrian said it before him. There is the carnal level, there is the righteous level, and there is the spiritual level. The spiritual level is the state of deification and sanctity that you can even achieve to some degree on earth. The righteous level is doing the commandments of God with dutifulness and willfulness, even though all our thoughts are not conforming with our actions. And the third, the carnal, is not even knowing what to do.
I think we should all be striving in humility for the righteousness of the priesthood.
Illumine our hearts, O Master, with the light of thy Gospel teachings. Implant in us also the fear of thy blessed commandments, that, trampling down all carnal appetites, we may enter upon a spiritual manner of living, both thinking and doing such things as are well-pleasing unto thee. For thou art the illumination of our souls and bodies.
The illumination of our bodies comes through the brightness of our souls, which comes through the purity of heart, which comes from prayer, fasting, and almsgiving: the final chapters before chapter seven in the Sermon on the Mount. Am I giving too much information? Too quickly?
This is how he began to discipline his own apostles to be taking their place next to him all the way through his ministry. I wanted to make that connection: baptism, temptation, where Jesus himself illustrated the need to have self-control in all these areas, introducing that by preaching it in the Sermon on the Mount, and then commissioning the apostles to “Come, follow me,” in absolute obedience. Do you have any questions? Okay, I will go forward on that.
Then I can get specifically to this preaching of who the apostles were as such and what their position was. Before I begin to go into it in depth, I want to make sure that in our Church we do not believe there is a super-hierarch, even though there are discriminations of who the hierarchs are, for example. We have Peter, James, and John that were very trusted by our Lord, so even within the hierarchy of the Twelve, they were close. Sometimes Andrew was included in that group, and especially the beloved disciple John was given to take control of his mother at the crucifixion, and what more can you say about that? My belief is the belief of the Church: you cannot conflate or coalesce personal relationships with Christ with the apostles within an institutional order of superiority.
Of course, there were no vicars; there were no substitutes. Neither was St. Peter, although he was a spokesman for the apostles, which was very apparent, and maybe had an elder position among them, because when he asked them, it says in the Scripture, “Who do men say that I am?” and Peter said, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God,” but he was speaking, of course, for them. So it wasn’t a prerogative of the one; it was a consensus of the whole. Even the grammar shows that the proper noun, o os: Peter cannot be the rock, eas, feminine, cannot modify the proper noun as the object of the confession. Well, anyway, I’m not going to get into polemic, I promise, at least in this five minutes here.
We have this understanding that the Twelve are really equal in their love for the Lord, and that’s the basis for the hierarchy as they go forward. What did he say to be with them? He sent them out to preach and have authority in the same way that he had authority (Mark 3, 10, 11, and the other synoptic gospels). For this reason already when Christ was here with us, he gave the apostles over the future community because they were the ones that gathered the crowds actually. They were the ones who discovered who had the bread, who had the fish. They were already active members in the ministry even before they were invested with the power of the 20th chapter of St. John, with that special power to bind and loose, and even invited to the Last Supper, which was a radical change in that Seder meal of the Passover, more radical than anyone can think, the change there.
Therefore Jesus confers upon them his own authority.
All authority on heaven and on earth has been given to me so that you can make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And I am with you always, even to the close of the age.
I am with you and with everyone that’s with you until the close of the age. The apostolic succession itself is a guarantee of Christ’s ever-presence in the community. I think that’s really what that last sentence meant: “I am with you always, even unto the ends of the earth.”
This kind of close relationship is remarkable. “He who receives you receives me, and he who receives me receives him who sent me” (Luke 10:16). Indeed, the light of that resurrection was given to the apostles in all that Jesus did. Their mission was not theirs; it was Jesus’ mission, and that’s why he took them from a state where, if I may say, they were always obedient. Remember, they were obedient to their father, the sons of Zebedee, and he said, “Come, I will make you fishers of men.” Immediately, they left the boat of their father, and they followed him, because they were already trained in that kind of obedience, because, as we know in that 17th chapter of St. John’s gospel, they were ready, prepared by the Father to be received by the Son, already providentially prepared by the Father himself, that when Jesus came to them, they were already known, in a very charismatic call from the Father.
The writings of the Old Testament were even synonymous with this. The Scriptures report, then— I want to tie this, the idea of stone and rock and foundation of the apostles, I want to do this consciously by using an Old Testament reference. The Scriptures report on the liturgical garments and adornment of the Aaronic priesthood, laying particular weight—if you think about this, fathers, and read it and reflect—on the stones that are placed on the shoulders of the ephod worn in the service for the most holy place, and particularly on the Day of Atonement (Numbers 16 [Exodus 39]). I hope you follow me on all of this.
The onyx stones were prepared, enclosed in settings of gold filigree, engraved like the engravings of a signet, according to the names of the sons of Israel. And he set them on the shoulder-piece to be stones of remembrance…
Anamnesis, which means to bring before God—remembrance isn’t a past event, but actually to bring before God the presence of all these people remembered, which goes to our proskomedia in an interesting way.
...and the sons of Israel, the Lord commanded Moses.
Certainly this has the meaning within the statement made by our Lord to the apostles in the famous verses of Matthew 16:13-16: “Upon this rock I will build my Church.” I will build it on my own high priesthood, on my own sacrifice on the cross, on my own blood that I offer to the Father on behalf of all and for all. The Church is built on Christ who is the rock (1 Corinthians 10:4), as St. Paul declares. St. Peter says in his first letter:
Come to him, that living stone, rejected by men, but God’s chosen and precious vessel, and like living stones be yourselves built into a spiritual house, to be that holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God.
This is his messianic mission, and really there are so many Scriptures that emphasize this. I’ll give you a few. Isaiah 28:16, Psalm 118:22, 1 Peter 2:4-6 that we’re quoting. The foundation stone, the corner stone, spreads out like a concrete floor that includes the apostles, who are made in the same composite aggregate, if I can extend the metaphor, as the Son. You are fellow-citizens with the saints, members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and the prophets: Jesus Christ, being the corner stone, in whom the whole temple is held together, being built up to the glory of God in the Spirit. That’s being grafted into Christ directly, the city of the true and spiritual Jerusalem, the city of God, the kingdom of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
And one more verse: Revelation 21, to tie it all together: “And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lord.” There cannot be a king unless there’s a kingdom. There cannot be a kingdom unless there’s a city, the heavenly Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven to the earth, the Church of the living God, the pillar and bulwark of truth. Do you have any questions with all those Scriptures? I guess you’ll have a chance to look all of them up—in your spare time.
Then I’m going to go through these Scriptures, just as a reference for you. “I am the vine—”
C1: Your Grace?
His Grace Bishop Anthony: Yes?
C1: There’s references to these stones in Revelation, right? In the foundation of the city of Jerusalem.
His Grace Bishop Anthony: Very good. That’s directly connected to that, because once those stones in the golden city of Jerusalem, Revelation 21 and 22, are of course the apostles themselves. But the main thing is, brothers, and you’ll have to know, this is a kind of a basis for the priesthood, that the apostles are being looked at by Jesus as his brothers, as having an equal access to the Father (Romans 8), “Abba, Father,” and then the Holy Spirit comes to teach them prayers, how to pray, because we do not know how to pray as we ought. Just put that together. Then in Galatians, that same “Abba, Father” called for them. That’s specific to the apostles, that they can teach us. In a way, they’re taught the Lord’s Prayer first so they can teach the people. And how do we know? That’s preserved beautifully in the Orthodox Church, in the liturgy itself, where the hierarch leads: “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.” That’s why Orthodoxy has kept it resplendent and pure. Just as Jesus gave the prayer to the apostles, he gives it to the apostolic succession, and we lead it.
It’s not diffused or diluted or neutralized in a kind of vague priesthood of everyone, although there’s nothing wrong with that, but that’s not the main thing. It has to come through the font of grace that’s delivered to the apostles, to the hierarchs, to the priests, to the people. Isn’t that interesting? He calls them friends in the 15th chapter. He’s getting them ready to take his ministry. “Truly, truly, I say to you: greater works than these will you do, because you have loved me, because I send you the Spirit.” The possibilities of power on earth, for the ordained clergy, I think are far greater than we envision, because we are enclosed by this tent of scientism that says, “Okay, you’re a material thing. You may have a soul, but it’s so vague.” Christ spends all his time building up the spiritual power of the apostles before he invests them with the breath of life that’s renewed in the 20th chapter of St. John’s gospel.
“I am the vine; you are the branches”—to the apostles. “He who abides in me and I in him, it is he that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” They’re a part of him; they can’t be apart from him. Bishops are connected to this vine as well, as additional branches that fill out the tree. If bishops stay in grace, they are like the apostles and possess the power of the apostles. “If you abide in me and my words abide in you, ask whatever you will and it shall be done for you.” Those are powerful words: “Ask whatever you will,” because by the time Jesus starts his chance of leaving this earth, he has to leave them with the confidence that he leaves. They have stayed with him through everything.
Remember in the sixth chapter when he talked about the manna of heaven, when he said, “I am the bread of life. No man comes to the Father except by me,” and other areas. He said, “You cannot live without this bread. Unless you eat of my body and drink of my blood, you have no life in you.” Many of the disciples who had followed him up till that time could not follow him any more. They said, “This is a hard saying. Who can do it? Who can hear it?” But the Twelve stayed, so by the time they got to this point, they were completely for him, so he could open to them the confidence that they could go to the Father: “Whatever you ask, it will be done for you,” because he already knew they only are there for him. “It could be done for you,” because the apostles were there for him.
In Christ, the apostles have a direct relationship and access to the Father. “You have received the spirit of sonship. When you say, ‘Abba, Father,’ it is the Spirit himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God (the Father), and if children, heirs: heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:15-17). As such, the words of Jesus reveal an ever-deepening relationship with the apostles. “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you, that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should abide. So whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it unto you” (John 15:16).
After this, Jesus expands and broadens this authority, universalizing it—and it’s hard to say this—making it identical with his own, as long as they remain in the Holy Spirit. The Consecrator of their spiritual gifts, the Counselor to make sure that they remain in Christ, the Comforter, that when they suffer for Christ he will be in their midst. It’s so beautiful to think about the life of St. Peter himself. I had read somewhere—I’m not exactly sure where I read this—but when, because of the denials that Peter had made, Jesus so beautifully returns him in the gospel of St. John, but then it says—I don’t know where I read it, but somewhere; I think in The Medicine of Repentance or something; there’s a book like that. It said that whenever St. Peter heard the rooster crow in the morning, he cried all over again, for the rest of his life, but he never stopped trusting that the Lord had called him back in communion and as the elder and leader of the Twelve in that setting. And also that when they were bringing him in Rome to the crucifixion, he insisted on being crucified upside-down, “because I do not deserve to be crucified like my Lord.” So he is both: he is the consecrator, he is the counselor and the comforter.
Later on, in St. John’s gospel, chapter 20, when they receive the Holy Spirit, now this I find very fascinating: Listen, fathers: He re-creates them. He re-creates these people. Then God formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living being (Genesis 2:7), and in the 20th chapter, even before they get to the fullness of chapter 1 and the Pentecost event, he breathes on them and says, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” In that sense, maybe in a very literal sense, they’re re-created, for the new man to develop in them. Let me go back: the ascetical back that is now not going to let the things of the world dominate, that’s not going to let plenty, popularity, and power be the touchstones of his identity, but is now going to look to a heavenly life first. Now they’ve established that, and because they are prepared as new men, he gives them a new spirit.
Let me quote 1 Corinthians 15:45,47 to complete this thought.
The first man, Adam, became a living being, and the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. As is the man of heaven, so will those be who are of heaven.
“Those” being the apostles.
Now I have seven minutes, and I’ve given you a lot. I’ve given myself a lot. I have studied it very deeply, because I wanted to do something to fulfill the trust of His Eminence and my brothers and all of you. I thought, too, that you all have your particular families. I felt that I should use my time to study, because maybe you can’t always have those times with your children to study, but when I go home I don’t need to use the media: I have become the medium. I couldn’t resist that. “Bishop Anthony will use another alliteration any chance he gets.” But isn’t that just a beautiful thing? I won’t be able to finish everything out here, but let me… I always need to move…
Here it is. This is the grace for these apostles; then the line of succession is given to the Church: this power and authority, to create new men and women in Christ, by being ourselves ushered into the very throne room of God in that mystical way, but holding the glory that he has before all the ages, even seen in the vestments of the bishop and the priest. When the bishop makes his entrance prayers, he brings his cane, his staff, the worldly staff. When he comes out, it’s golden. Before he goes in, he’s in the garments of penitence and sacrifice on the cross. He is Isaiah 53. When he comes out, he is Daniel 7, the son of man coming from heaven, and Isaiah 11, the Messiah, conquering hero, the real, if I may repeat, superman. The real superman, the image of him: that’s the great thing. That’s the apostolic succession, to bring that to the people.
I want to say that in other Christian bodies—and you know what they are—this idea of priesthood in an exclusivity is so diffused and deluded that charismata can become emotion. It’s like taking a glass of water and spilling it on the ground and saying, “Well, there’s the water,” but it’s so thin, it evaporates before the sun goes down. But in the Church, there is a legal, institutional carrier of charismata in the sacraments themselves, given by the hierarchy, especially the bishops, at the consecration of the holy things, that really determines the future of the whole world. It’s only within this body that the charismata is maintained.
My Lord! because they lack the apostolic succession, over time, they came to believe that you did not really take the body and blood of Christ, that it was enough to accept him as your Lord and Savior, and you come just as you are, however you are. Now, I’m not making a value judgment on that, but when you are attenuated by this idea of the charismata through the apostolic succession, pretty soon the sacraments become so ethereal and unreal and invisible and without tangibility and palpability, availability, that it doesn’t matter: it’s all what you think, about him. How can that save?
How many of you may be doctors? Maybe somebody’s a doctor. Well, you’re spiritual physicians. We travel so much in hotels, don’t we, brothers, that we often get those bronchial colds? The whining and wheezing of the furnace becomes ever present, or the air conditioner. I try to forget them. People say, “Put earplugs in.” It doesn’t work. But then you get chest colds, and you have to take azithromycin, which is a great medicine. If you take five of them, you’re good. Sometimes I just go into the doctor… I don’t even have a full-time doctor now, because “foxes have holes, birds of the air have nests, but I have nowhere to lay my head”—you don’t have to be over-dramatic and feeling sorry for me… I now have a chancery, so that’s good.
But my analogy is this: The doctor can say to me, “If you take this antibiotic, you’ll be better.” I could say, “Okay,” but if I kept it on the shelf, I wouldn’t get better. I can say, “Christ is our Lord and Savior, and he has saved me,” but if I don’t take that body and blood of Christ, if I am not in the kingdom of God through baptism, if I am not being disciplined by the holy orders, if my marriage has not become sanctified and the two become one flesh, etc., etc., that is not really a partaking. That is a thinking of partaking. It’s not the same thing. So this is the guarantee of the apostolic succession, and the only way forward, it seems to me.
Now I’m going to end with a reflection on the epiklesis. Remember when Jesus said a startling thing in John 16. He said, “You no longer have to ask the Father”—listen carefully to this—“You no longer have to ask the Father in my name. Whatever you ask the Father, he will give it to you because you have loved me and he has loved me.” What did they ask for? “Send down thy Holy Spirit upon these gifts here spread forth, and make this bread the very body of thy Christ, and that which is in this cup the very blood of thy Christ, changing them by thy Holy Spirit. Amen. Amen. Amen.”
Amen. That’s my talk.
I’m not done yet. Sayidna, I have one request. I think that the icon of the apostolic succession is Orthodoxy Sunday. So if you would, would we all stand and you say it first in Arabic, the Synodikon of Orthodoxy? Then after that we will all say it in English, and that’ll be the end of my remarks.
The Most Reverend Metropolitan Joseph: Why not?
His Grace Bishop Anthony: Would you please pass that out?
His Eminence Metropolitan Joseph: Ready?
His Grace Bishop Anthony: We’ll do it in Arabic first, Patriarchate of Antioch, and then English.
His Eminence Metropolitan Joseph: No, first in English.
His Grace Bishop Anthony: Okay, first in English. His Eminence…
All: As the Prophets beheld, as the Apostles have taught, as the Church has received, as the Teachers have dogmatized, as the universe has agreed, as Grace has shown forth, as Truth has revealed, as falsehood has been dissolved, as Wisdom has presented, as Christ awarded: thus we declare, thus we assert, thus we preach Christ our true God, and honor his saints in words, in writings, in thoughts, in sacrifices, in churches, in holy icons; on the one hand worshiping and reverencing Christ as God and Lord; and on the other hand honoring his saints as true servants of the same Lord of all, and accordingly offering them veneration.
This is the Faith of the Apostles; this is the Faith of the Fathers; this is the Faith of the Orthodox; this is the Faith which has established the universe!
His Eminence Metropolitan Joseph: [Leads Synodikon in Arabic]
Who is so great a God as our God? Thou art a God who dost wonders!
Happy Orthodoxy Sunday!
His Grace Bishop Anthony: I thought that that is the icon of the apostolic succession.
[Q&A not transcribed]