Thursday, October 11, 2007

Ordination Day, Part 1

The Bishop was late--he got lost, and ended up at St. Peter's Episcopal Church. He was rescued and arrived in time to start at about 10:20. As we gathered at the back of the church for the procession, the clicking of an ineffective grill igniter was heard, followed by the words "does anyone have a match?" Someone was dispatched to get something, and we eventually entered with candles lit, at about verse 2 of the opening song. One of the deacons who was supposed to sing the Kyrie, couldn't find the page in the book, so we eventually moved on, just saying the words. This was a portent of things to come. To the trained eye, the liturgy was in many ways a mess. But it was also wonderful, and I think that was what most people noticed.

It was hot, in the 70s, and the church is not air conditioned. Yet, it did not seem nearly as hot as it had during the rehearsal the day before (when I wasn't draped in fabric). And the late start allowed those of my guests who are typically late--you know who you are--to actually be on time. It also allowed Penni & Amy a breather after their four hour drive from New Jersey.

I was thankful that I was not the first to go up to the Bishop each time we were called upon to do so. Each time, I had several people in front of me, to remind me what to do! I was also glad I hadn't depended upon counting for the question and response period--several "I dos," finishing with "I do, with the help of God" after the last--because the Bishop accidentally left one out. I had stored away enough of the last question in my head to know when to say the final response, as it seemed did most of my brothers. What did he leave out? Comically, it was the part about celibacy. But, since we all have a vow of chastity already, that was more or less redundant anyway. Nevertheless, as we gathered with the Bishop for a photo afterward, he was sure to remind us that this was understood.

The Litany of the Saints is my favorite part of the ordination liturgy, but this was my first time doing it lying on the floor. I soon realized that trying to sing it was going to be awkward with my face so close to the floor. So, after a couple attempts, I opted for silent listening. It was wonderful to hear the names of all the saints sung, especially the part in which several Jesuit saints are included--Ignatius, Francis Xavier, Robert Bellarmine, Edmund Campion. Not all my thoughts were so pious. Since my vision of life is so colored by my love of movies, I remembered that the opening scene of the movie The Prophecy featured several men being ordained lying prostrate, one of them the main character who stands and interrupts the ceremony, realizing he can't go through with it. Consolingly, I felt confident enough to remain where I was. I went back to enjoying the litany. However, when the singing ended, but the music continued, I began to worry--did we have a cue as to when we were supposed to get up? I peaked over at Anthony lying next to me, just to make sure he was still there. Shortly thereafter, everybody was invited to "please stand," and I knew that was also our cue!

When it came time for the laying on of hands. Bill, who went first, knelt before the bishop and closed his eyes. He didn't feel anything, but opened his eyes to see the Bishop looking as if he were done. So, he got up and returned to his seat. For whatever reason, the Bishop didn't go so far as to touch any of our heads, his hands just hovered over them. Several guests expressed concern about this later, but were assured that the ordination was indeed valid nevertheless.

My knees don't do very well on hard surfaces. So, the most difficult part for me was during the prayer of consecration, when we were all called upon to kneel around the bishop. At the beginning, I felt as if I'd received some grace, as my knees were not as uncomfortable as they were at the rehearsal the day before. Yet, as things dragged on, my knees creeped closer and closer to giving out. My body was shaking, and I hoped it wasn't too noticeable. I distracted myself by offering my discomfort up for all those who had asked my prayers. And, as it seemed that I couldn't take it anymore, the prayer finished. But I looked to the MC and he motioned for us to remain kneeling! Thankfully, this was only for a few more seconds. As my hands quickly went to the floor, I noticed several others had quickly done the same, so I guessed I wasn't alone.

The ordination rite was finished, so we moved to our assigned places to be vested by those friends we had invited to do so. My good friend and Jesuit priest Jim, who I worked with in New Orleans, helped me into my stole and dalmatic.

To be continued . . .


Blogger crystal said...

Thanks for posting this, Mark, it's really interesting. So you didn't see any angels, like in the Prophecy? :-)

2:27 PM  
Blogger ukok said...

I'm absolutely delighted for you Mark, many Congratulations!

God Bless you!

4:49 PM  
Blogger David said...

Gee, Mark, all I noticed was the fact that the bishop didn't actually touch your head with his hands. Makes me feel better about the Holy Spirit mass at the beginning of the semester, when we liturgical ministers could see several screwups that the congregation didn't.

Congrats again, and I look forward to reading Part 2!

10:02 PM  
Blogger Ave said...

Congratulations on your ordination. Our parish bulletin (St. Paul's, Cambridge) announced that you would be with us for a year. I look forward to meeting you.

2:30 PM  
Blogger Joe said...

So, technically, you don't have to be celibate so long as you're chaste?

That's a CRAZY loophole! ;-)


5:32 PM  
Blogger Amy Giglio said...

I didn't notice anything wrong at all. The whole liturgy was beautiful. I am privileged to have been there.

10:33 PM  
Blogger angelmeg said...

I guess the good news is he didn't accidentally ordain any Episcopalians while he was lost. Now that would have been embarassing.

Congrats my friend, you are so close now you can almost see the finish line!!! All I can see is a thousand footnotes.

3:58 PM  

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