February 2, 2023

Fourth Homily for the Day of the Reception of the Lord (Archpriest Rodion Putyatin)

By Archpriest Rodion Putyatin
Holy Father, Bless!

So the deacon speaks on behalf of all Christians, addressing the priest. The deacon does not bless, but asks the priest to bless. Why? Because among us Orthodox, especially at church services, God blesses the priest, he sends up the glory to God, and equally, God's blessing and sanctification is taught mainly by the priest. So it is with us, so it was with the Old Testament. When the righteous Joseph and the Blessed Virgin Mary with the Infant Jesus on the fortieth day after His birth came to the temple of God to bless God and receive a blessing from God, who blessed? The Priest, the holy righteous Symeon. Anna the prophetess also blessed God then, but she blessed later, when she heard Symeon blessing,

What does this, listeners, mean? Why in our country, especially in the church, during the services God blesses and God's blessing is taught mainly by the priest? Why is the priest's blessing especially holy before God, favorable, and for us especially gracious, saving?

Blessing God and teaching the blessing of God, the priest thus mediates between God and those who are blessed. But how does he mediate? "We have one mediator - Jesus Christ: For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus" (1 Tim. 2:5). Between the Holy God, who lives in the unapproachable light, and sinful people, who live in darkness and the shadow of death, there can be no mediator other than the God-man, Jesus Christ.

Yes, only Jesus Christ alone could redeem us, and redeemed us from the letter of the law, and gave us a blessing. Without Him, we would never, forever and ever, bless God, and therefore we would not receive blessings from God; without Him we, due to our blindness, could not and, due to our sins, would not dare to bless God, to rejoice in God. Only He, as the Son of God, could tell us and said that there is a God, said and, as God Himself, showed God in Himself, showed and proved that God is omniscient, omnipotent, holy, righteous, merciful, philanthropic, showed us His Divine teaching, His deeds, especially His sufferings, death and Resurrection; He showed, proved, assured, convinced us that there is a God, there is Eternal Truth and infinite Love, and thus calmed us, reconciled us with God, so that we can boldly bless God, rejoice in God from the bottom of our hearts. And why did the God-bearer Symeon rejoice and bless God? Precisely because he held Jesus Christ in his arms and saw in Him salvation for all people and the light of the Gentiles.

Therefore, blessing God with the priest and receiving a blessing from God through the priest, we thereby show our faith in Jesus Christ, our Advocate with God, our Mediator, Redeemer, Conciliator, whose title the priest represents and whose very name is depicted with the folded fingers of his hand. The priest represents Jesus Christ… Not that he only reminds us of Him or repeats His words and actions, no, but acts, speaks with such authority and power that only Jesus Christ, the Mediator of God and men, has.

We Christians have, in addition to the priest, each of us has, so to speak, his own permanent representative of Jesus Christ: this is the sign of the cross. When, while blessing or invoking God, we overshadow ourselves with the sign of the cross, by this we also show that we bless God or call on Him, we are blessed and sanctified by Him through Jesus Christ crucified on the cross. Yes, to bless God, to pray to Him with the cross means to bless, to pray with Jesus Christ, the Son of God, with His mediation and intercession for us before God. Where the sign of the cross is, there is Christ with His grace and holiness. So, the cross is a representative of Jesus Christ, but mainly represents Him as a priest.

Jesus Christ is always with us, so that we can do nothing without Him; especially He is with us when we bring to God our common and concordant prayers, petitions, thanksgiving, so that if there are at least two or three of us gathered for this, Christ is in our midst. It is this special, predominant presence of Jesus Christ with us that the priest represents. Christians serve, pray to God with a priest, which means that Christ is in their midst, mediating and interceding for them before God. The priest blesses, which means that here the grace of Christ is special. When you alone bless God, pray, overshadowing yourself with the sign of the cross, you act, you use the tool that Jesus Christ has earned us access to, acquiring boldness towards God and acquiring the right to the blessing of God. But when a priest blesses God, prays and, making a sign of the cross with his hand, he gives God's blessing, it is the same as Jesus Christ Himself, through the mouth of a priest, praying and blessing God, mediating and interceding for us before God, and He Himself by the hand of a priest gives a blessing from God.

How is it that God blesses the priest with the right to teach? How does he have the right to represent Jesus Christ? Jesus Christ Himself, by His Holy Spirit, through the laying on of hands by bishops, gives the priest this advantage, so that he represents Him, so that he speaks and acts with His authority and power. First, Jesus Christ gave this privilege to His apostles, and the apostles passed it on to their successors, and so in our Church spiritual persons with the authority and power of Christ will be born successively from the Holy Spirit. Thus, the blessing of a priest, according to the authority and power of Christ given to him, is not an expression of his own benevolence or consent, but the giving of God's grace or God's permission, and therefore that which is blessed by the priest is always holy and lawful, no matter with what mouth he blesses and no matter with which hand he gives the blessing.

And so, this is why among us Orthodox, especially at church services, it is the priest who blesses God and the blessing of God is taught predominantly by the priest: the priest predominantly represents Jesus Christ. That is why the blessing of the priest is especially holy before God, favorable to Him and especially grace-filled, saving for us: in the blessings coming from the mouth of the priest, the voice of His beloved Son is heard by God the Father, and with the blessing hand, the blessing of God is given by the One in Whom they will be blessed ... all the tribes of the earth (Gen. 12:3).

Christian Listeners! When Symeon the God-bearer, holding the Infant Jesus in his arms, blessed God and then taught the blessing of the Mother of God, the Mother of God was silent, listened. You see, the Mother of God listened attentively when Symeon, as a priest, blessed God and taught her blessing.

Be attentive to the priest, to his blessing, and not only in church, but everywhere, and always. The grace of the priesthood is inalienable from the priest; it is with him in every place, at every time. In your nattention, irreverence, your disrespect for the priest, be careful not to refer to God, whom He blesses, and to Jesus Christ, whom He represents!

Oh, that Christians were all attentive, Queen of Heaven, according to Your prayers for us, the servants of Christ and the participants of the Mysteries of God, as You once listened to the holy righteous Symeon! Then it would be clear that they know God, believe in Jesus Christ and please You, Most Blessed One. Ah, then only it will be seen! Amen.

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