Today is March 25, 2014. In the calendar of my church and many others, this is the Feast of the Annunciation, celebrating the story of the angel Gabriel’s appearance to Mary, telling her that she would bear the Son of God. It’s 9 months before Christmas, hence the date. At one time, Europe observed the day as New Year’s Day: e.g., March 24, 1213 was followed by March 24, 1214. In traditions that emphasize her, it’s a day of special devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
It’s a special anniversary for me. Twenty-six years ago, on a Friday evening at All Saints’ Cathedral, Edmonton, two colleagues and I were ordained to the priesthood. It was an eventful weekend. The very next day the Synod of the Diocese of Edmonton met to elect a bishop — Ken Genge, who retired in 1996. Sunday was Palm Sunday, a big day in church life in any year, and the occasion of my first celebration of the Holy Eucharist. On Monday, I celebrated my first Requiem Eucharist, a service delayed by a week so that I could preside at the kind of rite that the deceased had requested.
I remember much of that weekend with almost startling clarity. Other events in my years in ordained ministry may have faded into the muddled mists of my memory, but not those four days. Something special happened then. All these years later, I believe I can honestly say that my ministry bore fruit, sometimes in the way I had hoped — and sometimes God surprised me! There are things I regret, of course. (Can anyone truthfully say that all we have done was to the good?) Nonetheless, the tumult of those days in March 1988 stands for me as a sign of what the rest of my ministry was to become: busy, committed, mostly fruitful, and always striving to be faithful to the promises I made that night.
Will you respect and be guided by the pastoral direction and leadership of your bishop?
Will you be diligent in the reading and study of the holy scriptures, and in seeking the knowledge of such things as may make you a stronger and more able minister of Christ?
Will you endeavour so to minister the word of God and the sacraments of the new covenant, that the reconciling love of Christ may be known and received?
Will you undertake to be a faithful pastor to all whom you are called to serve, labouring together with them and with your fellow ministers to build up the family of God?
Will you do your best to pattern your life (and that of your family) in accordance with the teachings of Christ, so that you may be a wholesome example to your people?
Will you persevere in prayer, both in public and in private, asking God’s grace, both for yourself and for others, and offering all your labours to God, through the mediation of Jesus Christ, and in the sanctification of the Holy Spirit?
Today I recall those promises, reviewed so many times in the succeeding years, and give thanks that God has given me the grace to keep them to the best of my ability. At times it was very hard — and those are the times I recall as giving the greatest growth. As I reflect on this day, I find in it a deep connection of Mary’s call to a unique ministry to my own call to ministry. I am also reminded that ministry is grounded in human life, as Mary’s ministry was grounded in the totally human activity of giving birth to Jesus — the Word made Flesh.
Thanks be to God!