St. Paul in speaking of the full responsibility that weighed on his ministry stated plainly, “Who is sufficient for these things?” This same thought has crossed the mind of the ordained ministry ever since, except for those who have not yet learned that they cannot do what has been given them to do.
Yet again, yesterday, I heard three times this phrase describing the Holy Spirit who “completes what is lacking.” It is part of the words used in every ordination in the Orthodox Church. There is a recognition that as St. Paul said, “We have these treasures in earthen vessels, that the excellency might be of Christ.”
The joy of ordination is watching a candidate present himself, in all humility, realizing that he cannot be sufficient and that God alone can do this work in him. I recall the day that I was ordained deacon in the Orthodox Church in which I prayed quietly, “I hope that this day I am the dumbest deacon in Orthodoxy,” mostly because given the poverty of my knowledge, I could only hope no one else was as lacking. But the Holy Spirit completes that which is lacking – and does it in His own way. It may very well have been that what was lacking in me was not encyclopedic knowledge, but a frank admission of my ignorance. I say that because to a large degree that seems to have been the way of things in my ordained Orthodox life.
The same feeling can accompany those who enter the Church as converts. Orthodoxy is such a fullness and an ethos, that a convert cannot help but feel woefully ignorant and unprepared. This is not a bad thing, but a good place to start. For a lifetime’s learning will not have exhausted God, and it is God Whom we want to know, not necessarily the rules for everything or various other things of seeming importance.
“Blessed art Thou, O Lord, teach me Thy statutes.”
The refreshment for me was to see others accepting this same yoke which was placed on me and to hear the words again which explain the nature of my calling. It reminds me of who I am and why I am. The Holy Spirit must complete that which is lacking and the only treasure I have to give is in this broken, earthen vessel (some days more broken than ever).
Later this morning I’ll concelebrate at the liturgy, an earthen vessel among earthen vessels, receiving and dispensing the treasure of Christ, Who alone can fill the insufficiencies of our lives.