Ordination of a Priest
Matthew Mead is to be ordained priest on Saturday, September 18, at 10:30 AM at the Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine. He will serve as celebrant and preacher at the Eucharist for the first time here at Saint Mary’s on Sunday, September 19, at 11:00 AM. I hope very much that many of you will be able to be at the Cathedral for the Ordination of Priests (nine of them!) and for Matthew’s first Mass on Sunday.
I’m sure that the journey of other priests is in some ways the same and in some ways different from my own. That’s human life. I am thankful that Matthew has been called by God and the Church to the priesthood. He has many, many gifts. And it’s great to have him as a colleague. I find myself wondering what inkling I had twenty years ago of what I would experience as a priest.
The service of ordination uses three words to describe the ministry of presbyter or elder. They are “pastor, priest and teacher.” I felt called to be standing at the altar – saying Mass, to use the vocabulary of an earlier generation. I didn’t know then how radically the experience of being a parish priest would shape my perception of what comes first. The reason the parish priest leads the community in its prayer is not merely because he or she is ordained to do so. A person is ordained priest to be the pastor of a community. A person stands at the altar and in the pulpit because he or she is also the pastor. There is a unity to this role that I came to understand only after I was a rector and only after I have spent time in the hospital with people who were dying and a few days later cast earth on their coffins.
There are a number of great small books on the priesthood. My single favorite is probably Priest and Bishop: Biblical Reflections by Raymond Brown. A close second for me is The Christian Priesthood Today by Michael Ramsey. If someone comes to me to talk about a call to the priesthood, I have usually directed that person to the novel Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather. Cather captured in fiction the passion that motivates priests at their best and intimates something of the personal sacrifice that a good priest (or anyone else) will make in his or her life. He or she will be called to go to new places and to leave behind much to serve faithfully.
My own thinking about priesthood has changed over the years. I don’t reject any of the traditional phrases but one I add in my mind is “servant of the Body of Christ.” And in my mind “the Body of Christ” refers first to the assembly of the baptized, then to the eucharistic Gifts of God. It may be different for some, but it’s always been easier for me to see Christ’s presence in a host than in people. And that’s really, really wrong.
When I was first ordained, Anglo-catholics were being torn apart by the question of the ordination of women. If one doesn’t have a high doctrine of the assembly of the baptized then many questions about leadership in the Church become a big problem. But if one does, lots of problems are resolved and the words of our faith take on deep meaning.
Dear Matt, you are part of a tradition within the Episcopal Church that at its best has bridged the divides of our Christian heritage as Catholics and Protestants. I don’t think we need to pretend that Lord Jesus himself instituted the priesthood at the Last Supper. I’m happy to give the credit to the person of the Holy Spirit working through the early Christian community. I don’t think we need to pretend that Christ is more present in the Bread and Wine than he is in his People.
When I was in my first semester in seminary once or twice I got to help cut the grass in the graveyard at Nashotah House. Many graduates are buried there. I remember wondering (and please forgive the conceit) whether my tombstone would say, Stephen Gerth, Priest. Would I really live out the life I was pursuing? It’s something no one can know until he or she dies.
It is not possible to describe the emotional and spiritual intensity of the service of the altar. The people whose confessions you hear will teach you more about yourself and your own sins than you can possibly imagine. The mystery of life and death will pass through your hands and before your eyes. It will intrigue and confuse all others for the rest of your life.
Before the bishop ordains you, he will say, “May the Lord who has given you the will to do these things give you the grace and power to perform them.” It is another way of saying, “may your tombstone have the word ‘priest’ on it.” It’s my prayer for you too. Stephen Gerth
PRAYER LIST . . . Your prayers are asked for Marie, Bob and William who are hospitalized, and for Penn, Donna, George, Samuel, Paul, Peter, Charles, Mary, Mark, Steve, Gilbert, Matthew, Robert, Gloria, Margaret, Jason, Harold, Bart, Hugh, Margaret, Marion, Rick, Gene, priest and Charles, priest; for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Bruce, Paul, Brenden, Jonathan, Jeffrey, Ned, Timothy, Patrick, Kevin, Christopher, Andrew, Joseph, Marc, Timothy, David, Colin, Christina, David, Nestor, Freddie, Matthew and Bennett; for the repose of the souls of Grace, Sean and Farrell.
LITURGICAL NOTES . . . The Sunday Proper: Exodus 32:1,7-14, Psalm 51:1-11, 1 Timothy 1:12-17, Luke 15:1-10 . . . Confessions will be heard on Saturday, September 11 by Father Gerth . . There will a Said Requiem Mass at noon . . . On Sunday, September 12, the Rector will be the celebrant and preacher for the 10:00 AM Sung Mass and the 11:00 AM Solemn Mass. Father Beddingfield will be the celebrant at the 9:00 AM Mass and celebrant and preacher at the 5:20 PM Mass. Our seminarian, Clare Nesmith will be the preacher for the 9:00 AM Mass.
NOTES ON MUSIC . . . Thursday, September 9, at the Solemn Evensong at 5:00, the choir sings Short Service by William Byrd (1543-1623) and O Lord, the maker of all things by William Mundy (c. 1529-1591) . . . At the Solemn Requiem Mass on Friday, September 10, the choir sings Missa pro defunctis quattuor vocibus (1614) by Giovanni Francesco Anerio (c. 1567-1630) . . . This Sunday at the Solemn Mass, the prelude is movements from Messe pour les paroisses by François Couperin (1668-1733). The postlude is Vater unser im Himmelreich (third setting) by Georg Böhm (1661-1733). The cantor is Ms. Ruth Cunningham, soprano. Ms. Cunningham will again offer an improvised setting of the ordinary of the Mass; those who heard her last time will agree that it is well worth hearing! The anthem at Communion is Ms. Cunningham’s second setting of I heard the voice of Jesus say (text by Horatio Bonar, 1808-1899); she sang her first setting earlier in the summer . . . Please take a copy of the complete liturgical music schedule for the fall, found on the tract table in the rear of the church, or view it on-line at www.stmvirgin.org/MusicatSaintMarys. Robert McCormick
AROUND THE PARISH . . . Holy Cross Day is Tuesday, September 14. Solemn Mass will be offered at 6:00 PM. Our guest preacher will be the Reverend Canon Susan C. Harriss, rector, Christ’s Church, Rye. The parish choir of Christ’s Church will sing the Mass ordinary . . . The Rector will be away Sunday evening, September 12, through Thursday, September 16, to attend a Leadership in Ministry seminary . . . Attendance last Sunday 330.
GERARD MANLEY HOPKINS CLASS TO BEGIN . . . Influenced by the poetry of George Herbert and Christina Rossetti, Gerard Manley Hopkins eventually followed the pattern of John Henry Newman. In 1866 Hopkins was received into the Roman Church by Newman, eventually entered the Society of Jesus and was ordained priest. We’ll look more closely at his life and poetry beginning on September 15. For three Wednesday nights in September, our parishioner Rebecca Weiner will lead us in a study and discussion of the poetry and life of Hopkins. Rebecca is a professor of literature at the Borough of Manhattan Community College, City University of New York. A good place to begin is with the Dover Thrift Edition (1995), God’s Grandeur and Other Poems.
WHAT IS VIA MEDIA? . . . “Via Media” is Latin for “the middle way,” a phrase used through history to explain how Anglicans often view questions about God. Via Media is an eight-week course at Saint Mary’s that allows us to ask fundamental questions about faith in an atmosphere that doesn’t judge questions, but encourages them! Each Monday night in October and November begins with coffee & tea at 7:00 PM and the viewing of a video. Each video includes a diverse group of people sitting around a table talking about some aspect of the Christian faith, from a particularly Anglican perspective. Pick up a brochure at church or call or e-mail Father Beddingfield to register or find out more.
CONTINUING TO HELP THE HURRICANE VICTIMS IN FLORIDA . . . Episcopal Relief and Development is offering emergency assistance to victims of the recent hurricanes in Florida after rain, storm surge, and extremely high winds devastated the southwest part of the state. To make a contribution to help people affected by the hurricane, donate to U.S. Hurricane Relief online at www.er-d.org or call (800) 334-7626, ext. 5129. Gifts can be mailed to Episcopal Relief and Development, c/o U.S. Hurricane Relief, PO Box 12043, Newark, NJ 07101-5043.
The Calendar of the Week
Sunday The Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost
Monday Cyprian, Bishop and Martyr of Carthage, 258
Eve of Holy Cross Day 6:00 PM
Tuesday Holy Cross Day
Friday Weekday Abstinence
Saturday Of Our Lady
The Parish Clergy
The Reverend Stephen Gerth, rector,
The Reverend John Beddingfield, The Reverend Matthew Mead, curates,
The Reverend Ian Bruce Montgomery, The Reverend Rosemari Sullivan, assisting priests,
The Reverend Canon Edgar F. Wells, rector emeritus.