No one loved Christ more than Paul; no one showed more earnestness than he; no one was endowed with more grace. Yet for all that he went in fear and trembling for his authority and those who were under it. He says, “I fear lest, as the serpent beguiled Eve, so your thoughts should be corrupted from the simplicity which is towards Christ” (2 Cor. 11:3). And again, “I was with you in fear and much trembling” (1 Cor. 2:3). Yet he was a man who had been “caught up to the third heaven” (2 Cor. 12:2), and shared in the unspeakable things of God (Cf. 2 Cor. 12:4), and endured “deaths” (2 Cor. 11:23) every day he lived after his conversion. He was a man who did not want to use the authority given him by Christ in case one of the believers should be offended (1 Cor. 9:12).
If, then, one who did more than he was commanded by God and never aimed at any advantage for himself, but only for those under his direction, was always in fear, because he kept in view the magnitude of his responsibility, what will become of us, who often aim at our own advantage, and, so far from doing more than we are commanded by Christ, for the most part actually break his commandments? “Who is weak”, he says, “and I am not weak? Who is made to stumble, and I burn not” (2 Cor. 11:29)? That is what a priest should be like; or rather, not just like that, for even that is little or nothing in comparison with what I am going to say.
And what is that? “I could wish,” he says, “that I were anathema from Christ for my brethren’s sake, my kinsmen according to the flesh” (Rom. 9:3). If anyone can say that; if anyone has a soul capable of that prayer, he would be to blame if he evaded the priesthood. But anyone who falls as far short of that standard as I do, deserves hatred, not for evading but for accepting it.
– From On the Priesthood by St. John Chrysostom, Translated with an Introduction by Graham Neville, St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press: Crestwood, NY, 1996.