This time of the year is special for many ordained people as it is Petertide (more or less), the time when many of us were ordained. Already I am considering the fourth anniversary of my Making as a Deacon, the third of my Ordination to Priesthood and they have been the best of times.
The very grave issue with blogging is that as an activity it can become a spittoon or else the residue of the rumination - which it to say that we use our blogs to whine, grumble and work though our minor psychoses. Mine is no exception, although I have tended to rant less than in previous years. It struck me how I log on to complain, and rarely to celebrate in that unfettered way that we Brits find so hard. Christian Brits do celebration with an ecstasy of self-apology like so other race on Earth.
Earlier this week, and not for the first time since my own 'moment', I was privileged to be present for the First Mass of a new priest. For those of us of a sacramental disposition, such a Rite is in many ways the perfect pinnacle of priestly experience, the best of things. One's First Mass is a stunning balance of abject terror and child-like excitement, all bound up in the person of one who feels oddly fraudulent placing a chasuble over their heads, let alone waving arms around in a liturgical way.
First Masses represent different things. By their very nature they are perfectly crafted and long-planned affairs with every facet and movement of ceremonial designed and intended. A new priest is so terrified that each step and gesture is deliberate, considered and executed with precision. The music is often from the heart of the new priest so a provision of such wonder and true authenticity, it is almost as if the spirit of the priest him/herself is singing for us. Family and dear friends, supporters well-wishers, observers and guests - all turn out to make First Masses fully populated and thereby buzzing with the tension that the Spirit sees fit to imbue such gatherings with. In short, you will see a priest presiding his/her heart out, and a priest almost certainly a sixteenth of an inch from tears all the way through (or else closer than that in my case). From within and without, First Masses (for those who do them) are the absolute summit of all that a priest regards as special before God.
For those of us who bear witness to such events (I include ordinations in that), these Rites of Priestly Passage do something very deep within us. They remind us. They simply do that. They remind us why we accepted God's call. They re-affirm in us the absolute and complete rightness of accepting that call and making all the sacrifices in life that such acceptance demands. We feel again that feeling we had in our hearts when it was our time to process in to our own Masses or ordination - that sense of bewildering joy and trembling uncertainty. More usefully perhaps after the fact we are reminded of how wonderful this job is - how perfect, how it is more than we could ever hope for or dare dream ourselves capable of. Even in the context of the Stuff of Grumbles, we are given moments of perfect clarity as to why we are who we are - priests and ministers in God's Church.
So to Fr Andrew next door, and all ordinands, deacons and priests all about to pass or have just passed through these exquisite moments of the greatest joy we can know - my prayers to you, your families and those who support you in your ministries. May the Lord be with us all.