Saturday, December 13, 2008

A beautiful evening

The ordination service last night was awesome, as might be expected. It was beautiful on the surface level but I chose the header based on the deeper beauty. I'm afraid I left my camera in the car and shall be forced to use words this morning.

Luminarias lined the sidewalk in front of the church and parish hall. Long rows of white candles in all kinds of glasses (including wine glasses) adorned tables in the parish hall, along with greenery down the center of the tables. Greens on the walls added to the festive tone. It was a magical room.

The statue of Our Lady was moved from her usual niche and stood behind the altar and there were wonderful arrangements with dark red roses. An immense white banner with red flame-shaped doves hung behind the choir, flanked by wide, curling red ribbons falling the entire length. An ikon of the Theotokos stood in front of the lectern. Extra chairs were set up everywhere extra chairs could be set up. I have not seen the church this packed even on Christmas Eve.

In addition to the altar party and two bishops we had two rows (squeezed tighter than proper Episcopalian personal space would ever allow) of priests and a deacon. There were two deacons from St Michael's flanking the two bishops.

Before the service I got to meet both bishops: Bishop Frey, who is assisting in Rio Grande until we elect a new bishop, and Bishop Mathes of San Diego. I thanked Bishop Mathes for his word about Prop 8. (Op-ed piece in the San Diego Union-Tribune found at Susan Russell's blog)

As the procession was lined up before the service Daniel was bouncing (yes, really) and saying, "Let's go!" Given how long the process toward ordination is, I can understand his not wanting to wait a moment longer. As I try to recall my own feelings on December 8, 1989, I think they were more along the lines of "Oh my God, it is finally happening." Mine was a diocesan ordination service at Grace Cathedral and no amount of my bouncing would have moved that huge crowd. For that matter, Daniel had to wait too.

When I thought of the last ordination service I attended, that for Amber at St Cuthbert's, I remembered how my nephew Glen called my cell phone just as Bishop Ohl was anointing Amber's hands. So that prompted me to turn my cell phone off this time, just before we started the processional hymn.

The proper was that of Our Lady of Guadalupe and Brian Taylor, our rector, preached a masterful sermon tying together the story of la Virgencita, the example of Mary, priestly ministry, and Daniel's journey toward ordination.

I had my good cry in church too. The sequence hymn was Nettleton (Come, thou fount of every blessing), a favorite. That hymn, seeing my church family gathered, expectantly noting the presence of Christ in our midst (symbolized by the Gospel) - pushed me over the edge. I don't think I calmed down until we were seated for the sermon.

At the laying on of hands I put my hand on Mother Sandra Bess, vicar of San Gabriel, to link with her great love of ministry in this diocese and of Daniel (and a little shared mission solidarity). Earlier I had thought also of the day I was ordained a minister of the Gospel at First Baptist Church of Fresno. Among those laying hands on me was a Nigerian pastor. How ironic, in the context of today's Anglican Communion, that I believe I pass to Daniel a "Nigerian succession" through the fellowship of presbyters and proclaimers of Good News. I hope I remember to tell him this before too long.

Age takes its toll. At the reception I begged a blessing from Daniel. I needed help getting up off my knees. I told folks, "This is why I don't kneel in church" and it's true. Typical of his humility and love of people, he did not give me the traditional blessing. He prayed that he would live up to my expectations of him before signing my forehead with the Cross.

Dear God, please don't let me expect too much of him, but rather to uphold him in his ministry, as I and all others vowed we would do last night.

I did lots of food browsing (I have been reminded that what we do is far more like browsing than grazing), then went home. Far too tired to blog last night. I slept in and must have gotten ten hours of sleep. Now for a restorative weekend (ojal√°).
--the BB


David said...

what an beatiful account of a blessed evening.

once again your great love of our liturgy and tradition come through so very clearly, as does your love and involvement with the people of your parish.

late to your blog, allow me to ask you to share the story of your own ordinationation with us some time, please.

you're a beautiful soul, Paul, and your blog is a real gift. so thank you.


susankay said...

Paul -- a beautiful story about a wonder-full evening.

Blessings on all.

FranIAm said...

This is extraordinary. I feel as if I were transported there with you.

I love your deep and tender soul Paul - you are so human and as a result, so divine.

Paul said...

Good grief, folks, y'all trying to swell my head? You know how I loathe puffed up and proud clergy.

Thanks for the kind words.

Fran, nice to see you zipping through. Hang in there, girlfriend. Hope you are getting your batteries recharged this weekend.

Jane R said...

Frannie needs to get some serious cursing done this weekend after all the church lady work. I am worried she will not exercise her curse muscles enough.

Paul, that was a beautiful, moving post. I'm getting weepy. Thank you.

Blessings on Daniel and his ministry with Godde's people.