This past Tuesday, I was ordained a priest in Christ’s one holy, catholic and apostolic church. I wish I could say more about it: I’m sure the time will come when I can. That time is not yet. It’s as though I’m still living Tuesday night; as though there was too much to experience to fit into the actual time and place that the events occurred; they’ve overflowed and I’m still swimming toward the edges of them.
But here’s the part of the service which gave my soul hiccups each time I reviewed the drafts of the leaflet, each time I prayed about this call, and which, after years of discernment, was as daunting and wonderful and profound and terrifying and Spirit-filled on Tuesday as it had ever been (even though the Veni Spiritu Sanctus – Come Holy Spirit – came afterwards, I think she was already there waiting in the breath between the sentences).
All are seated except the ordinand, who stands before the Bishop.
The Bishop addresses the ordinand as follows
My sister, the Church is the family of God, the body of Christ, and the temple of the Holy Spirit. All baptized people are called to make Christ known as Savior and Lord, and to share in the renewing of his world. Now you are called to work as a pastor, priest, and teacher, together with your bishop and fellow presbyters, and to take your share in the councils of the Church.
As a priest, it will be your task to proclaim by word and deed the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and to fashion your life in accordance with its precepts. You are to love and serve the people among whom you work, caring alike for young and old, strong and weak, rich and poor. You are to preach, to declare God’s forgiveness to penitent sinners, to pronounce God’s blessing, to share in the administration of Holy Baptism and in the celebration of the mysteries of Christ’s Body and Blood, and to perform the other ministrations entrusted to you.
In all that you do, you are to nourish Christ’s people from the riches of his grace, and strengthen them to glorify God in this life and in the life to come.
My sister, do you believe that you are truly called by God and his Church to this priesthood?
Answer I believe I am so called.
The Bishop continued with the questions:
Do you now in the presence of the Church commit yourself to this trust and responsibility?
Will you respect and be guided by the pastoral direction and leadership of your bishop?
Will you be diligent in the reading and study of the Holy Scriptures, and in seeking the knowledge of such things as may make you a stronger and more able minister of Christ?
Will you endeavor so to minister the Word of God and the sacraments of the New Covenant, that the reconciling love of Christ may be known and received?
Will you undertake to be a faithful pastor to all whom you are called to serve, laboring together with them and with your fellow ministers to build up the family of God?
Will you do your best to pattern your life and that of your family in accordance with the teachings of Christ, so that you may be a wholesome example to your people?
Will you persevere in prayer, both in public and in private, asking God’s grace, both for yourself and for others, offering all your labors to God, through the mediation of Jesus Christ, and in the sanctification of the Holy Spirit?
And I answered, I do, and I will, I will, I will …
And I was most grateful for the prayer that followed:
May the Lord who has given you the will to do these things give you the grace and power to perform them.
Book of Common Prayer, 531-2
P.S. This weekend will be spent writing thank-you letters to the many people to whom I owe so many thanks. Can there be a more blessed task?