It's unusual for me to attend more than one liturgy in a three day span these days but a friend was ordained and another had died. Social psychologists say there's a truth in search behavior "you perceive what you are most alert for." Maybe, I like to think the Holy Spirit is in that transaction. I was apprehended by obvious messages from the streets; apart from the liturgies' intention to transport us to a more ethereal place.
The ordination took place at St. Mary the Virgin which has probably the highest maintenance for liturgy in the denomination. The service began with the priest leading everyone in, "Hail Mary full of grace the Lord is with thee..." and the rigor continues from there. Much of this routine is familiar to me from my Redemptorist community in Tuscon. There, we do it in darkness at 6 AM. It was a comforting--if aerobic--environment and well done if the intention was to reach through the veil to a transcendent God
The sermon was preached from a text other than the one read during the service...which gave the impression of it being lifted from the file cabinet. There was an earnest attempt, nonetheless, to adapt it and my friend's big moment. However, the homilist gave us a peek at the real point of all this liturgical energy. It was to declare a space between the new priest and the people. She would be different and rise from kneeling "having met God." All true, I suppose, but she also stood with the wiser eyes of Jesus that our differences are fragile and very slim.
The Galilean carpenter's ministry incarnated that unity and encouraged many to join him in a new view. The confusion lies with clergy over identifying with Jesus's crucifixion which later Gospel writers convey that we all share as an idea. In Jesus's words here's an invitation to take up that cross and join him in a fractured life of sacrificial service and love.
Clergy don't have the corner on that life posture even though they have extra time to do so. Such a class system is the real worry I have about the institutional church. At every turn God is beckoning us out of ourselves and into a "street" of consequence.
At one point in the service the Gospel was read mid aisle with clouds of incense rising and voices rejoicing. The words of Jesus were intoned from the bowels of the people; a real transporting moment was at hand. From John's Gospel we heard, "I am the bread of life, if you come to me you will not be hungry or thirsty..."
Many of us faced the rear of the church and glimpsed the neon sign of the bar, through the open doors, across the street. Passers-by looked in, many lingered. Framed as it was through wisps of incense it seemed apt for attention and wonder.
With all the moments of mystery we insist upon for holiness, God presents a truer blessing in the connection of genuine meeting always at hand and always so common.