Ask An Eastern Orthodox Christian: Why Are Priests Called Father?

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What would you like to know about the Eastern Orthodox Christian faith? Submit your question.

By Nicholas Damascus

Why do Orthodox Christians address priests as father?

Soon after the apostolic period, in the second century, the writings of Bishop Ignatius of Antioch (died 108 AD), a disciple of Saint John the Apostle, clearly makes the distinctions in the holy orders in the priesthood in the church. In the original ancient Orthodox Church (EOC), the order of hierarchy is as follows: a bishop (metropolitan) is first in rank, followed by a priest (presbyter), and last is a deacon. 

As the church grew, the bishops found it difficult to serve a large number of parishes, and as a result, they began to appoint a presbyter (priest) for each congregation who acted as his delegate. 

The priest (presbyter) is entrusted with the spiritual health and well-being of his congregation, just as the priestly experience of a father in a Christian family. A Christian father of a family is responsible for the salvation of the souls and well-being of his wife and children. Similarly, a priest’s duties are to lead, instruct, nourish, correct, administer, and meet the needs of his congressional spiritual family. 

As the bishop’s representative, the priest began to be referred to as a father, a term of affection and reverence and using the priest’s first names after the title of father. Some examples would be Father John, Father Daniel, Father Stephen, etc. 

About Nicholas Damascus

Nick Damascus is one who seeks to discover and apply the proverbial question of what is truth and wisdom, to fill that gaping hole, to become complete and to become realistically and synergistically functional. In an attempt to live the Christian life, which he says is a definite work in progress, he has discovered that he's created the Christ that fits his lifestyle and agrees with his ego (and boy what an ego, he says), carefully avoiding what God intended him to be.

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