Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Easter Gratitude

This is my body which is given for you.
As I recuperate from the liturgical boot camp that is Holy Week, I am processing the many sensations, insights, and numinous moments I experienced.  My circuits are still rather overloaded, but one thing of which I am certain is that I am thankful.

One of the primary reasons I came to St. Clement's as curate is to learn how to be a priest--liturgically, pastorally, and spiritually.  I have learned an enormous amount about all of these dimensions over the last year, and I am very grateful to the many people who have helped shape me into the kind of priest I want to be.  St. Clement's is a distinctly rarified environment, and it would never have occurred to me that I would be able to pull off an Easter Sunday mass with all the bells and whistles in so short a time.  But as I walked in procession this past Sunday, sung all the parts of the mass, and presided over the Eucharist, I felt deeply present, at ease, and sure of myself.  I had come a long way in just over a year.  While listening to the Gloria at the sedilia, I turned to the server sitting next to me, and said gleefully, "This is absolutely wonderful.  But then again, Mozart mass settings always make me feel warm and fuzzy!"  Mozart might have had something to do with it, but I think the main influence was the ancient, undergirding context of the Eucharist as a rite of thanksgiving.  That is, after all, what the Greek word, eucharistia, means: thanksgiving.  The liturgy worked its magic on me, and I experienced gratitude in a more expansive way.

St. Clement's servers through whom I have learned so much.
Throughout the mass, I was moved by strong emotions and the sense that I had reached a moment of completion and closure.  I was happy and centered.  It was as if God had used all the untidy and imperfect bits of me and integrated them into something useful through moments of painful growing in community.  I am indebted to so many people for the learning I have achieved, and for their encouragement in the learning I have yet to do.  I remember standing at the bottom of the steps leading up to the altar, listening to our marvelous choir singing the Regina Coeli, from Mascagni's Cavalleria Rusticana, and gazing up the altar cross, feeling moved to tears.  I felt so grateful to Our Lord for calling me to be his priest; for Fr. Reid for taking me under his wing and teaching me to be faithful priest, pastor, and teacher; and for all of the members of the community who have lifted me up during a most challenging year: separation from my partner, a broken hand, my first year as a priest, and so much more.  It is important for me in this my last month as Curate of St. Clement's to say thank you to the many individuals--priest mentors, altar servers, parishioners, the people of Philadelphia, and friends--who have nourished, taught, and challenged me to become a better person and a better priest.  Please know that I will take each of you with me on my ongoing journey and give thanks for the gift of your teaching.  Thank you, St. Clement's.

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