“Let the whole world see and know that things which were being cast down are being
raised up, and things which had grown old are being made new, and that all things are being brought to their perfection by him through whom all things were made, your Son Jesus
Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.” (BCP 528)
That is part of the collect at the beginning of the rite of ordination in the Episcopal Church. Funny, how life adds layers and layers of meaning to something that when I first heard it didn’t seem to be capable of holding more meaning and beauty to me because at my ordination to the priesthood, I was so overwhelmed by the gift and responsibility I was being entrusted with.
I have not stopped unpacking boxes all week. My body is a bit sore (though less so than earlier in the week) and I am getting very close to the end of the work, at least until Sherod gets here in early September. Once I had the basics I needed–a few things to prepare meals with, sheets for the bed, a place to sit, I did not set out to do my unpacking in any particular order. I just went from room to room, basically in a counter-clockwise direction. I’ve been aware, as I unpacked, that I could have done a better job “directing traffic” when the movers got here with our stuff. There has been a certain randomness to the order in which I opened boxes and frankly, after a few boxes you forget what is still left–all you see is how much more work lies ahead.
I wrote a friend yesterday that along with the repetitive motions involved in unpacking, there has been a similar discipline I had to observe internally as well. So many thoughts, so many memories, so many questions–so many feelings–about the ministry I left behind keep showing up in the silent space I find myself in right now. There is no desire to return, no sense of wanting to get re-engaged. Each day, our paths diverge more and more and that is as it should be. It’s just that a lot happened with great intensity, especially in the last 18 months and I am still catching up with myself. The discipline I needed to observe was one of surrender and ‘gift’. I’ve done my best to neither suppress nor get stuck obsessing about it all. Rather, my days have been about letting whatever presented itself to slip through me.
At the Eucharist we both call the Holy Spirit upon the gifts we bring to the table and offer them back to God. I have tried to hold on to that metaphor as I did my work this week–“all things come of thee, Oh Lord, and of thine own have I given thee”. It hasn’t been easy. There have been times of grief, regret, anger, and all those other perfectly human responses that come in a time like this. But just as I have been aware that my muscles were getting stronger with each box I lifted and all those steps I took, somehow, it has felt like my heart and spirit were being strengthened as well.
As it happens, today, I made it into the last space with lots of boxes left to open: the living room. And as it happens, this is the room where the boxes that came out of St Ambrose landed exactly a week ago. So earlier this morning, I unpacked and hung up my albs, stoles, chasubles, all the the vestments of my order. Along with opening boxes that had heart worm and flea meds for the dogs (see what I mean about randomness?), I opened a box that had gifts I’ve received in my ministry through the years–a Dr Who screwdriver, an Action Figure Jesus (he rolls on wheels and his arms can go up and down–special,!) a pewter cross with a vine on it that’s framed with an inscription about the True Vine. Bittersweet does not even begin to describe what that was like because although the sadness of seeing my vestments was real and intense, the joy of retracing the steps I have taken through the gifts people have given me was pure and sweet and charming.
A while ago, I got a call from my friend Anne, who’s husband Joe, is the priest who serves at St. Paul’s, Lowndesboro. Joe had knee surgery a few weeks ago and is still in intense pain. With permission from one of the Bishops of the Diocese of Alabama, I am going to be the celebrant at tomorrow’s Eucharist at St Paul’s. It’s just this one time. It’s a very small gift, though small, like I imagine the precious pearl was small. And it is a gift that gives me some new meaning as well.
Things that had been cast down are being raised up, things which had grown old are being made new, and all things are being brought to their perfection. Thanks be to God…