Ordination changes a person's self perception in ways that only those who have experienced it can understand. Urban Holmes says that when the community singles us out and sets us aside we become living symbols. We evoke various archetypes in people, particularly the shaman archetype, and people react to us in ways of which often they themselves are hardly even aware. We are the screen onto which all manner of psychological and psychic stuff is projected, and people react to their own projections in ways which are deep and unexpected. I noticed it most markedly a few days after I was ordained deacon, walking through Cathedral Square in Christchurch. I walked past a group of gang members, perhaps a dozen of them, who were laughing and talking and clowning around just outside the Cathedral. As I walked past, wearing my crisp new black shirt and shiny new clerical collar, they all fell silent and stared at the ground. It wasnt me they were reacting to, of course, but what I evoked in them. With every new ordination, to priest and then to bishop, the dynamic has remained the same, but got more intense.
This symbolic weight is useful at times, but I have never fully got used to it. I know that I won't ever be able to relinquish it entirely: the call and the gifts of God are irrevocable; but in a year I shall be able, somewhat, to set it to one side. And, no matter how holy or godly this whole business of diaconate and priesthood and episcopacy may be, they are things which lie in the upper, transient layers of my self. And my life's purpose is to allow myself to be led towards, and to know and to inhabit those more permanent places which lie more deeply and truly underneath them.
As with all things to do with my own consciousness I understand that I am powerless to effect changes by dint of my own willpower, but I do know (at last!) how to sit still and give consent. And that is enough, for, the more I sit, and am open, and surrender, the more I am able to be changed by the one who seeks to live in me and draw me ever homeward.
I don't know how it is for you. For me this journey homeward happens in steps: There is a sort of inner plateau, and then a transition is made suddenly, and there follows a long period of living in that newness until it is integrated and accommodated. I don't decide on these changes. They seem to be decided for me. So, over the past few days, another small step; a slight shift in perspective: only a couple of degrees but the change of angle was decisive. Oh! So that's what was going on there! Another small change. Another small death. Another step to freedom.
Today, while it was yet dark, I woke and drove in the strengthening light around the harbours edge towards the Eastern horizon. Ostensibly it was to take photographs but I knew that the real reason was to watch the sunrise and to give thanks. It was, symbolically, to hurry towards the resurrection which waits for me in a year's time and in today.