Even though the following is not a review of “The Last Jedi,” there are a few major spoilers below if you haven’t seen it! So proceed at your own peril! Happy New Year!
As has become a tradition the last few years each December, a new chapter in the Star Wars saga, “The Last Jedi” was released last month to rave reviews and blockbuster box office, as is to be expected. Episode VIII of the greatest movie saga of all time featured the return of many veteran actors from the original trilogy, most notably Mark Hamill, whose Luke Skywalker is front and center of this film after being reintroduced in a cameo in Force Awakens. I know I, for one, was super excited to finally see more of Luke as a grizzled, old Jedi knight in seclusion, with Rey and the next generation of Jedi ready to take the forefront. Regardless of how much the movie succeeded in passing the baton from one group of characters to the next, a major theme of this movie was just this: what it means for someone to have great potential, and what path is taken for that potential to be realized.
The final scene in Last Jedi is particularly poignant. After a major battle between the First Order and heroes of the Republic, Luke Skywalker has died and the good guys, now officially a “rebellion” again, are on the run, knowing they must reinvent their movement from the ground up, and the Jedi order, as well. As all of this is being considered, the film cuts to a home on a random planet somewhere in the galaxy which we have seen earlier. Two children, playing with Jedi knight action figures, are told by their parents to put their toys down and continue on with their chores. One boy does so, but as he walks outside during a starry night, he pulls a broom towards his hand with force power. He then clutches the broom and looks into the heavens, suggesting that he has aspirations to become a Jedi one day and join the fight for freedom.
I read an interview with the director of Last Jedi, Rian Johnson, who said that this scene was included to emphasize a theme which he wanted to be prominent in his film, and that is the force is in each of us, not just in the bloodline of one particular family. The boy at the end of the story is unnamed, and we have never met him nor may ever see him again. We simply know that he is a boy (even named on the cast list as simply, “Stable Boy”) and know that he has the force within him. This jarred many Star Wars fans, including myself, admittedly, because we are so used to characters who have had force training using the force. When a character does not have Jedi robes or Jedi weapons, it seems unusual to have them doing “Jedi stuff.”
Similarly, in the Orthodox Church, even though we are not Jedi knights, we are very used to ONLY those who are in holy orders, our clergy, performing certain roles in the life of our Church. To a large degree, this is very correct, as we do believe that there is an ordained priesthood, as was started by the Lord Himself when ordaining Moses’ brother Aaron and his lineage. Indeed, the Lord also says “He shall be holy to you, for I the Lord, Who sanctify you, am holy,” (Leviticus 21:8) and Moses even emphasizes to the people “This is what the Lord commanded to be done.” (Leviticus 8:5) Saint Paul also affirms this as he discusses the differences between spiritual gifts in several of his epistles, and in his letter to the Hebrews says, “You are a priest forever, according to the order of Melchizedek.” (Hebrews 5:6, quoting Psalm 110:4) Truly, our faith believes that there is a very real, consecrated, ordained priesthood, whose role is delineated by God Himself and is very unique and very special.
And yet, our Church also believes that we all have a role to pray within the life of our Church. Saint Peter says to his flock “You also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 2:5) We believe that when ANY Orthodox Christian receives the Holy Spirit at their baptism, chrismation and partaking of the Holy Eucharist, that each of us becomes part of something much greater than ourselves. We become a part of the Body of Christ, which has many members, as we all know very well. All of this we’ve heard in Sunday School, no doubt, but how many of us also remember that we are each given gifts when we become Orthodox Christian, meant to be used for the good of the Church? It is this “universal priesthood,” as some have come to define it, which we as Orthodox often overlook.
When we ask ourselves, “what might this mean for me as an Orthodox Christian?” we might ask ourselves, “what gift has the Lord given me in my life, and how am I called to share it?” If we truly believe that we are a special, unique and unrepeatable part of the Body of Christ, then it follows that we believe we have something to offer. There is so much need in our world and our Church, many roles that need filling and good people who are needed to offer their gifts to the ministry. We would also do well to remember that the early Church grew because all who were Christian knew that they were called to be ambassadors for their faith and assist with philanthropy and evangelism. It was not, and has never been only those who are ordained.
This New Year, ask your parish priest how you can help in your church. I PROMISE you, he’ll find something for you to do. 😉
After all, one never knows which one of us is that nameless child in a random part of the galaxy who dreams of sharing their special gifts and of being something more.
Glory to God for all things!
“For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body… and have been made to drink into one Spirit. For in fact the body is not one member but many. “ – 1 Corinthians 12:13-14