Ordination Of Deacon
SERMON GIVEN at the Ordination of Deacon John Palmer to the Priesthood on the Feast of All Saints, Sunday 14th June l998
In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Today a great event has taken place, not only in our midst, at the heart of our Diocese, but also in Heaven and for the whole world. A man has become a priest: one to whom, by the grace of God, grace and power is given to sanctify those things which, through the Fall of man, have been delivered unto the power of evil.
When John for the first time crossed the threshold of the sanctuary, he came in to be ordained a deacon, to represent the whole laity in the sanctuary; and also to be sent out to stand before the Holy Doors and lead the whole church into prayer to God, as one of them who had received the grace to cross this threshold, which as a high priest no one can cross but the Lord Jesus Christ Himself.
Today he has come for ordination to the priesthood. He has crossed this threshold to become, within the limits of human frailty, an image and a presence of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. No one can cross this threshold as a priest but the One who is the High Priest of all creation, the Son of God become the Son of Man. And it is within this priesthood of Christ that it is now given to John to celebrate the Mysteries. He must, in order to be able to do it, unite himself ever deeper with the Lord; so that, becoming more and more transparent, more and more supple in the hands of God, he may act for Him Who invisibly is present in our midst.
When he comes to celebrate the proskomedia, the service of preparation, he will have to prepare bread, and to say: ‘The Lamb of God is slain for the sins of the world'. If he himself does not identify himself with this Lamb, he will not be able to do it – or even worse, if he does it thoughtlessly he will be one of those who crucifies Christ. When he says such words he must be aware that he is being at one with the One Who has given his life, accepted crucifixion, accepted death for our salvation.
And when later he will call the Holy Spirit upon the gifts set forth, he must remember that it is no power of his that can bring the Spirit of God upon these gifts. It is Christ Who is the only celebrant of the Mysteries. John will say the sacred words, the words of dedication and consecration, but it is the Holy Spirit and Christ Himself who will celebrate this dread moment of the Liturgy.
Let us pray that he may be aware, in the course of his life, of the greatness of this calling and vocation, but at the same time of his total frailty, and be open to God – open like a sail is open to the wind that blows into it. And it is not in vain that the same word in ancient languages speaks of the wind and of the Spirit of God.
He will need all your support, all your concern, in order to be able to carry the heavy weight of the priesthood. Give it to him generously; give it with all your heart. Stand by him, help him never to falter. Help him to become ever deeper, ever more aware, and ever more surrendered to God. And then his priesthood will be his salvation, his glory in eternity; but it also will be your salvation, and your joy of having brought to God a man who wholeheartedly gives himself to Him. Amen.