Last Saturday on the Feast of the Presentation of Our Lord in the Temple (Candlemas), I was ordained a priest! I know, it was Ground Hog Day too. Fortunately, I did not see my shadow, so I didn't have to remain a deacon for 6 more weeks. ;-)
It's been a long time coming and the service was amazing. Yes, it was full-throttle "smells, bells and yells" (well, not so much yells, but a little chanting from our bishop!) and the music was awesome. There were probably 250 people there - what a celebration!
The Episcopal Church follows the ancient rites of ordination which were first recorded by Hippolytus around 200 C.E. (hey, why change what works?). When a deacon is ordained, only the bishop lays hands on the person being ordained. But when you ordain a priest, the bishop lays hands on the ordinand's head and all the other priests lay their hands on your shoulders, neck, back ... wherever they can get a hand in without getting too personal. ;-) There were so many priests that the weight of all those hands was quite a mash and I'm thankful I don't have spinal compression problems! It was intense ... and very emotional.
But as is usual with me, a funny story ran through my brain in the split instant all those hands were pressing down on me. It was the story of Gregory the Great, who was elected pope in the mid-sixth century. He was a monastic deacon at the time of his election and really didn't want the job initially. So he ran away! He returned to the monastery and in time he accepted his election and became Pope Gregory I. I figured it would really be hard to run away with all those hands pressing down on me ... maybe this rite had practical applications in addition to the symbolic! :-D
It was time to do this and I had no intention of bolting for the door. I'd done the running away part for quite some time before God wore me out. Guess the good Lord gave me a gift of persistence, even when I don't use it well. Fortunately, God's more patient with me than I can fully appreciate or understand. That's grace in action for all of us.