Today the clergy of our diocese met for the traditional service of the Blessing of the Oils used in the liturgies of the church. It is a small service that I have experienced in various dioceses. It is usually held during Holy Week and it often seems like a pain when one is faced with the multiple services of the busiest week of the Christian calendar. But it is generally the only time when the diocesan clergy can worship together during the Easter season.
Today’s service, as is often the case, was an occasion of repeating our ordination vows. I love it when we can gather together as the college of clergy to do that. Each order repeated their commitment, deacons, priests and even the bishop.
We are a small body of clergy here in Fort Worth. Today we are almost half women. All of our deacons at the moment are women, but that will change relatively soon as we have men in formation for the permanent deaconate.
Following the repetition of our vows the bishop called us each before him and anointed our hands. Now, I know that is the custom of many of the higher or Anglo-Catholic dioceses, but I had never had that done either at my ordination or subsequently. It was a singularly moving event. As the bishop anointed my hands he pressed them together like a child going to first communion. I didn’t want to open them as a returned to my pew but I knew I had to in order to be the priest that Christ had called me to be.
Afterwards at lunch I asked +Wallis how he had come to include that portion in the service. He said he had inherited it as a practice from his predecessor when he was consecrated for Northwest Texas. + Sam Hulsey now lives in our diocese and I am thankful for his ministry too.
Such simple things such as water, oil, bread and wine mark the most sacred of actions. They often touch our souls so deeply to remind us of the simplicity of God’s love for us. And we humans so often screw those humble actions up so badly by denying them when they should mark the simplicity of our love.
Today I am thankful for the unvarnished, simple episcopal touch of oil to remind me of the love the Holy One has for me. I am amazed at the simple gift, the awe of the first dandelion, the first flake of snow of the winter, the first blessing of a priest, the awe of a new mother or father holding their child. It requires no theological rhetoric. Words fail. Only the abiding presence of the Holy can mark this touch, this relationship, this call, this wonder.
This week will be far more complex. God’s love will be complicated with Cross and salvation, the mysteries of death and resurrection, surrender and redemption. Today Divine Love was merely in the holding of hands and the willingness once again to step into the yoke of Christ’s ministry. After all these years it does not become common, never tired, and never rote. It is always the reminder that God isn’t finished with me yet and there is more to life than what I have live so far. Gratia Deo.