Becoming a Prophet

The responsibility to proclaim God’s message—to be a prophet—is obligatory upon all. Every member of the Church is exhorted to embody the word, and to “speak…the truth in love” (Eph 4:15). We accomplish this in many ways: when we share the Gospel with those who have not heard; when we declare God’s justice by standing up for the weak; or when we speak of God’s mercy and forgiveness to those in pain. In every instance, our words must be carefully conceived and delivered, since our Lord warns us that we will be judged for every idle syllable (Matt 12:36). The saints recommend that, when in doubt, silence is preferred. And when it is necessary to speak, our thoughts should first be sifted through prayer, and tempered by the Holy Spirit: “Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one” (Col 4:6). This stands in stark contrast to the rampant vulgarity so common today.

The parish priest is entrusted with leading his parishioners to the Kingdom of God; and so he is called to fulfill a prophetic task in his preaching and spiritual guidance. In particular, the sacrament of confession is an opportunity for God to speak through the priest for the sake of the penitent. For this reason, the priest is called a spiritual father. He is a shepherd and therefore accountable for their salvation, which is a reflection of his love and care for his flock.

Monks and nuns are also called to fulfill a prophetic calling within the Church. Following the model of St. John the Baptist, they spend their days in asceticism and contemplation. And gradually, in time, God may reveal himself to them and initiate them into the deep mysteries of faith. Yet this is not for their own benefit, but so that they can arise and go—to preach the word, find the lost, and bind the broken. St. Seraphim of Sarov was one such monk. After years of prayer, fasting, and solitude, God instructed him to return to the world and minister to his people through spiritual guidance (and occasionally through miracles). Although such prophets are difficult to find in our time, Orthodox monasteries around the world continue to provide a path to holiness that produces luminaries for all our benefit.