Induction of the
Rev. George Westhaver with Holy Communion
St. George’s Round
Church Halifax; February 13 AD 2007
2:1-12 St. John 10:1-16
am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved,
shall go in and out, and find pasture.
Tonight we are
gathered here by God and by our Mother, the Church, for this
“celebration of new ministry” of Fr. George Westhaver, which I think
many of us hope, will be a continuation of the old ministry – of the
ancient ministry of Christian priesthood.
What is that ancient
ministry of Christian priesthood, that we hope to see in our midst?
In ancient Israel,
the priests were spoken of as the shepherds of Israel. There were no
doubt many faithful priests. Yet often they lost their way. God
confronted them through
the prophets for becoming confused and ignorant. Rather than feeding
the flock with words of knowledge, their desire for God was turned
instead into a cruel feeding upon the sheep under their care. Woe be
to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves…Ye eat the fat, and
ye clothe you with the wool, ye kill them that are fed: but ye feed not
the flock. [Ezek. 34:2-3]
our Lord walked this earth in the flesh, it was the Scribes and
Pharisees who were the shepherds of Israel. Jesus saved his greatest
condemnation for them – not for their failure to know the details of the
law, but for their failure to know the Giver of the Law, because to know
God is to love Him and to love His flock committed to their charge.
Woe unto you Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, …ye devour…ye make
pretence…blind guides…ye fools and blind…for ye shut up the kingdom of
heaven against men; for ye neither go
in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in.
Tonight Jesus tells
us that He is the Good Shepherd – the Exemplar of all Christian priests,
the one who opens the kingdom:
that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some
other way, the same is a thief and a robber. He
that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the
porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own
sheep by name, and leadeth them out. And when he putteth forth his own
sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his
To understand what
Jesus is saying, it’s helpful for us
to know how sheep herders did their work in Israel at that time. A
shepherd would have a fenced enclosed area that he would bring the sheep
into at night for safety against wild beasts, then in the day he would
take them out into pasture so that they might feed. Sheep would come to
know the voice of the shepherd who would lead them out in the morning
and bring them back at night. They followed him, knowing they would be
Jesus says to us,
I am the door:
(that is, of that safe enclosure) by me if
any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find
is this enclosure that Jesus leads us into, and that He is the Door of?
it is the kingdom of God that is within us, it is that Temple of the
Holy Spirit that we are, it is that place where Christ is found in the
inner man, it is the seating place of Lady Wisdom [St. Gregory]. And
Jesus is the Door of that enclosure; the Holy Spirit, is the porter who
leads us to the Door, into all Truth (St. Augustine).
Jesus is the Good Shepherd. He says: I… know my sheep, and am
known of mine….they hear my voice.
He leads us there to
Himself with His voice to that resting place, wherein is found the well
spring of life, the joys of everlasting fruition. Have we entered into
that place? Do we know it? Do you desire to enter into it again
George, it is the
voice of Jesus that the flock entrusted to your charge long to hear and
will recognize when they hear it from you, leading them to go in and
out, and find pasture.
But will they hear
that voice of Jesus from you?
St. Paul warns
priests in tonight’s Epistle about the passions that would get in the
way of speaking that pure and clear voice of Jesus. He says –
our exhortation was not of deceit, nor of uncleanness,…nor a cloke of
covetousness; God is witness.
Uncleanness or lust and
covetousness – passions which do arise in our souls and which we
must continually be on the watch for and hold in check – there can be no
flirtation, no coveting or excessive love of the worldly, or the voice
heard will be the voice of deceit.
St. Paul also speaks
of the passion of vainglory. He gives special attention to this one, a
particular hazard to us priests and preachers given so grave a
responsibility and authority and with people listening to us Sunday by
Sunday – we know that danger in our souls.
as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we
speak; not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth our hearts. For
neither at any time used we flattering words, as ye know,… God is
witness: Nor of men sought we glory, neither of you, nor yet of others,
when we might have been burdensome, as the apostles of Christ.
We are not to flee
like the hireling from calling people to account when they have been
snatched away by the wolf – by Satan – that is, fallen into some
grievous sin (Augustine). We are not to flee painful confrontation,
choosing instead to be menpleasers, desiring their adoration, but not really caring
for the flock.
Of course the call
to confront others St. Paul describes is done in great humility and
charity: gentle, like a nurse cherisheth her children, or one who
both exhorts and comforts like a father with his children.
Being aware of our
passions and praying for the grace that they may be rightly ordered,
prevents us from speaking deceitfully. But when our passions are in
check, will the voice that comes forth from us be Jesus’ voice?
Jesus’ voice is in
the Scriptures – yet if we would speak it powerfully, we must hear it in
our own souls. Jesus calls us to go in to Him – that we might
go in and out and find pasture.
How does this
happen? We want to go in to the kingdom by our own ways, like
thieves and robbers. But we cannot enter in by the force of our
intellect, no matter how sharp it is. Sometimes we think, if we only
work hard enough in the parish, we can enter in – but it is not so.
St. Peter realized
as the Church was growing in Jerusalem that the Apostles could easily
become absorbed in the affairs of the Church and no longer hear that
voice of Jesus. In Acts [6:2, 4] he says,
is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables…
(so they made provision for deacons)…But we will give ourselves
continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word. And the saying
pleased the whole multitude. (Does this saying please this
If you as a parish
want to hear the pure and clear words of Jesus out of the mouth of your
priest, he must have time and make time for prayer apart,
and quiet contemplation, so that you may be led also to where he has
been, not hypothetically, but truly. We speak that we do know, and
testify that we have seen, says Jesus, to Nicodemus, the good willed
but blind Pharisee [John 3:11].
St. Gregory says –
The Redeemer of mankind in the day time exhibits
His miracles in cities, and spends the night in devotion to prayer upon
the mountain, namely, that He may teach all perfect preachers, that they
should neither entirely leave (!) the active life, from love of the
speculative, nor wholly slight the joys of contemplation from excess in
working, but in quiet imbibe by contemplation, what in employment they
may pour back to their neighbours by word of mouth. For by
contemplation they rise into the love of God, but by preaching they
return back to the service of their neighbour.
Moralia, Book VI, 56
If we would be
faithful to our priesthood – the voice of Jesus to His Church, the
priesthood must not be wholly subsumed by the work that is properly that
of the deaconate.
As a parish you have
asked George to serve here, knowing he is in a doctoral program. I
hope a regular agenda item at your parish counsel meetings will be to
ask George without resentment, but gladly, lovingly: are you getting
sufficient rest for contemplation? and, how are your studies
By me, if any man
enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out and find pasture.
This is the ancient
Christian priesthood to which George is called to in this place.
But there is
something “new” about the priesthood, or at least new since the
Reformation, that is, the recovery of the possibility of a married
cleric. And this is good for all sorts of reasons.
Jeremy Taylor speaks
of Marriage as – the proper scene of piety and patience, of the duty
of parents and the charity of relatives; here kindness is spread abroad,
and love is united and made firm as a centre: …the state of marriage…
hath in it the labour of love, and the delicacies of friendship, the
blessing of society, and the union of hands and hearts; … it lies under
more burdens [than the single life], but it is supported by all the
strengths of love and charity, and those burdens are delightful.
Marriage... exercises many virtues, and promotes the interest of
The married cleric
cannot function as if he were a celibate priest. And the parish cannot
make demands on her priest as if he were celibate. As a parish – many
of you will be wanting George to be a hard worker – and he is and wants
to be, but it can so easily become a sin – just how hard do you
want to be on Karen, and on little Clara, and Charlotte? How will
George teach you about “the labour of love, the delicacies of
friendship, the blessings of society, and the union of hands and hearts”
if these are not allowed or encouraged to flourish? Diocesan guidelines
now commend that priests take two days off a week. Perhaps a
recognition, maybe even unknowingly, that more time is needed – for the
family, and for contemplation.
This parish of St.
George’s, as it has been built up by its people and past rectors, many
of us believe, is one of the jewels in the crown that is the worldwide
Anglican Communion. And we remember especially tonight with deep
gratitude the faithful ministry of Fr. Thorne and his family over the
past several years.
This parish is vital
for the health of the whole Church because its upholds the Prayer Book
tradition. In a time when many in our church would seek to tear itself
from its Catholic and Apostolic roots, St. George’s remains a witness to
what is the heart of the doctrine and spiritual discipline of the
Anglican way. This parish is glorious for its liturgy and its music;
for its faithfulness to the call to minister not just theoretically but
very practically in this community in which it rests; it has been a
place of mentoring for many priests; and it is a place of intellectual
fervor with its connections with the University of King’s College,
Dalhousie University and the Atlantic School of Theology – ties which I’m sure will be strengthened in the
years to come.
All of this will
continue and will flourish only if you continue to hear the voice of
May God pour down
upon you, George, all the riches of His grace, in your new vocation as
Rector of St. George’s. May God continue to mightily bless this Parish
in its ministrations of Christian faith, hope and charity to this
neighbourhood and to the whole Church.
Finally, let us
attend in our hearts to the Porter, the Holy Spirit, who will bring
before our minds any misgivings; our fears and anxieties; our failures,
burdens that our Lord offers to take upon Himself tonight, let us
confess them freely, inwardly, to Him.
And then, Fr. George,
it will be for you to bring before us in the Divine Liturgy the voice of the
Good Shepherd – Jesus, who leads us to that Door which is Himself, that
we may all go in to partake of Him who is also the Lamb slain
from the foundation of the world, and then go out, and find