The final few days of school, followed by the last week or two serving here and there, the final days of hospital internship...travel over the past few days.
Ordination was, all at once, glorious and ordinary. Never have I been in a service which required less brain power. Deacons in the altar led me here, pointed there, told me to bow here, kiss this, kneel like this, go here, etc. In the end, I was a deacon intoning the litany of thanksgiving for the Holy Eucharist. Fine. Glory to God. Since then I've served a vigil and a liturgy, both as third deacon (so very, very little fell to me there, which was fine by me) a couple of daily vespers service, and, then, today's liturgy. More on that below.
Notable to me on ordination day, though, was the large icon above the north deacon door (on the side facing the altar). It was a large icon of St. Herman of Alaska, our family's heavenly patron. I heard Kate jabbering; I heard Laura squealing. I knew that the thing I dreaded most about ordination--not being in the nave with my family (and leaving Audra to deal with all three of them, though thankfully there's always been folks more than willing to help, as my children are cute)--had happened. In addition to fast and furious Jesus Prayers behind my lips, I glanced up at the Kodiak acetic and asked him, "Watch out for us. Please."
What it'll take is more than a pious prayer thrown up once. It'll take a crucified mind, able to respond with grace under pressure and avoid unnecessary distractions that keep daily work from 1) being a "grind," and 2) from getting in the way of family. The tightrope one SVS alum told me about (he's currently a priest in E. TX) is one I'd do well to heed: Know what to cut and when to do it. If y'all are so inclined, keep the Dcn. David, the Matushka Natalia, and Elizabeth, Katherine, and Laura in your prayers.
I was surprised, a day before commencement, to be named the middler class salutatorian. SVS has an odd tradition of having the (ahem, sorry) highest GPA in the middle year "Salute" the outgoing graduates. I now know I can put together a speech in 24 hours that 1) is short, 2) has enough jokes that get good laughs in it to be interesting, and 3) is delivered well enough to come across as sincere and heartfelt, which is what I meant it to be. I wish the seniors well.
I was able to finish the final hours of Clinical Pastoral Education just before leaving for our road trip to Kentucky, Texas, and all points in between. My initial desire to go on with further CPE has been tempered by the potential reality of having to be a full-time rector in a parish somewhere following seminary (such would preclude full-time CPE internship), but there’s also the issue—it’s short-term, admittedly—of just being worn down by the sadness of it all. Watching long-term patients deteriorate, seeing them go from sweet and jovial to emaciated and moaning that they don’t want to die while drifting in and out of consciousness; watching hard-nosed, streetwise people break down and cry in my arms, rejoicing in people’s seemingly miraculous recoveries only to see them back in the hospital a week later…it has been difficult. I have had to rely much more consciously on the Jesus Prayer in order to keep emotions and thoughts in check. Recent reading of Vlachos has brought this to mind as a means of emotional and physical stability, almost as an engine and a steering column for my energies. “I have set the LORD always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken” (Ps. 16.8). Such is the prayer of the chaplain, the father, the Father, the Christian.
We have gone through West Virginia and have stayed the night there, following which we have spent about four days in Kentucky w/Audra's family. We will head out tomorrow to see our eldest's godparents and, the morning after, leave for a week in TX. The return trip will see a few more days in Kentucky and Pentecost spent in Ellwood City, PA (Lord willing). I will be blessed to serve as deacon for Ascension and the Sunday of the Nicean Fathers in Ft. Worth. If the nuns will have me, perhaps I'll serve in Ellwood City on Pentecost.
Now, lest you think me the overeager, newly-ordained young deacon...well, you'd be partly right, but this will all come on the heels of today's quite humbling experience. My family and I make a point of going to St. Michael the Archangel's Church in Louisville when we're with her folks, and today, when I asked about coming in to commune as a deacon, they wondered why didn't I just go ahead and vest to serve.
As, um, second deacon. Sunday of the "Blind Man," indeed.
So...um. There were moments where SVS' and Englewood's differences were quite apparent, even without my nerves. Most glaringly, however, was when the second priest brought over the chalices for communion in that very large parish.
There were four. I was clergy number four in the altar. Which meant I would be distributing communion.
I pretty much consider it a miracle the Vatican has overlooked that I did not drop the chalice, I did not spill the gifts...so all the relatively minor, "Now what exactly is that kid doi--oh, he doesn't have any idea how we do it here, does he?"-type errors were secondary to that very nerve-wracking part of the service. My hat is off to Frs. Alexis and George and especially to Dcn. Andrew for making the newbie feel like he wasn't a total moron.
So, yeah. The next few services should prove interesting.
I will say this, though, about my wife. She misses me in the nave, yes; she's told me so in the days following ordination. But she won't lay on the guilt. She's not up for my second guessing myself about this (that would annoy here more than my being in the altar makes her miss me now). Ultimately, we both knew this would be a sacrifice put upon us, and that it's not the last or the smallest one we'll have to make. I am well aware that I've got a one-in-a-million woman here who's willing to grab a hold of this life I've led her to with both hands. That God is in it remains, ultimately, for time to tell, but that I need to always keep sight of her, of her sacrifice, of her generosity, is a given. God help me do so. Never have I been so aware of someone in my life for my salvation.