His Eminence Metropolitan Silouan writes:
The Heart of a High Priest
“I prayed for you, that your faith wouldn't fail. You, when once you have turned again, establish your brothers”
Very Esteemed Hierarchs, Reverend Clergy,
Honorable Members of the Archdiocese Board of Trustees,
and Beloved Faithful
of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America:
Christ is risen!
With a peaceful heart, I am writing these lines upon commemorating the 40th Day memorial service for the eternal repose of the soul of His Eminence, Metropolitan Philip of New York and all North America.
On this occasion, I am wondering about the most precious thing that God ever granted to man: his heart. If any of us watches himself, he realizes what kind of “work” takes place there, a work of love and unity. Parents are aware of such work, because life and experience shape them in such a way that they are called to overcome themselves, be attentive, take care, be responsible, and be able to sacrifice themselves for another's sake. They learn to love and understand, to some extent, what love is about.
If such can be the experience of parenthood, what, then, can be the experience of priesthood, and especially that of a high priest, i.e. of a bishop and eventually of an archbishop? Who can know what the heart of such a man is really about? Who can reveal it? Who can “stay” there and not be amazed or get afraid at the same time?
Indeed, such a mystery is only unfolded and disclosed by God, our Creator and our Father. Nevertheless, such a mystery can be approached by analogy, according to our proper experience. Within such a perspective, I am not trying to investigate the heart of our beloved brother and concelebrant, Saiedna Philip. I just admire his love for man and God, his patience, his hope, his struggle, and his service to his brethren, and pray for his eternal repose in peace.
Regarding this mystery, we all are aware that only God is perfect and that He calls us, in our weakness, to serve Him and humanity at the same time. As human beings, regardless of our positions or roles in life, even when we serve Him in our families, at church or anywhere, to some extent we often sin, we are sometimes unjust, we can be wrong, we make errors, we cause harm, we deceive, we lack for love, etc. Our growth from our fallen state to perfection is revealed by the transformation of our heart, which summarizes our own whole transformation. We cannot but admire the special experience of a high priest, whose perfect image is the heart of Christ that was revealed to us at best during the time of His Passion.
Describing the heart of a high priest gives us a glimpse “behind the veil”, to the “work” that takes place within, while fulfilling his ministry.
Indeed, his heart is a place of prayer. A high priest is a man par excellence who prays and instills prayer in the heart of his flock.
His heart is also a place of unity. Being a place of prayer, the heart of a high priest is where all for whom he prays and of whom he is in charge, are gathered and united, regardless of their imperfections: sinfulness, deficiencies, divisions, immaturity, disobedience, etc.
In addition, his heart is a place of forgiveness. Being a place from where unity stems, the heart of a high priest is where reconciliation occurs, from him to the others as well as between all the brethren. His heart embraces everyone. Forgiveness is his arm that he extends to all in order to contain them. He forgives and educates his flock to have forgiveness be a reality between them.
Moreover, his heart is a place of offering. Such a heart is an invisible altar, where he offers, on behalf of all, everyone's sufferings, and beseeches the divine mercy for them in order that peace, love and forgiveness be granted to everyone, and that unity finds a better standard in his flock.
His heart is also a place of revelation. Being an invisible altar, the heart of a high priest is a place of revelation, where God “puts” the appropriate words, knowledge, solutions or even silence, so that everything can be put in order in a divine way.
For that reason, his heart is a place of listening. Indeed, such a heart has the faculty to “listen” to God's revelation and to the brethren's burdens and sufferings, yearnings and difficulties. While growing as a good listener, he is able to convey their “words” to God, and convey to them God's love, will and countenance.
No doubt, such a heart is a place of shelter and refuge, where the grace of God will reside, and simultaneously, where his brethren will find a shelter and refuge. They feel the divine security and protection beside such a heart.
Therefore, the heart of such a high priest is an inviolable place, where an undefiled mystery takes place. It is the mystery of the Providence of God towards humanity that is approached from within our hearts, mixed with our life in order to transform our being and existence into God's realm, peace and blessedness.
Such is the love of God: He opened to us the way our heart can be transformed into such a marvelous state. If we choose to speak about the heart of a high priest, it is because of his fatherhood to many. However, such a fact does not diminish at all the experience that every one of us has been given and does not hinder the possibility of having the same transformation that we have been describing.
I am glad that, this year, all our archdiocesan activities will turn around this biblical verse: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, with all your mind, and your neighbour as yourself” (Luke 10:27). It is indeed an opportunity for all of us to meditate upon our spiritual upbringing in order that our education and behavior help us into getting closer to such a divine transformation.
My prayer on such a day is extensive, not only for the repose of the heart of His Eminence, Metropolitan Philip, but also for our own growth in such a wonderful transformation for God's glory and His Church's service and ministry.
Metropolitan of Buenos Aires and all Argentina & Patriarchal Vicar of New York and all North America
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