First Steps on the Road to Priesthood – Part 2

After speaking to my priest, the next major step in the discernment process was to go before the vestry and present why I think I am called to the priesthood. To bring the end to the beginning, the outcome of going before the vestry was that I was given unanimous affirmation that I should go forward with this process. I was relieved to receive this verdict, and I mean verdict, as honestly there is a part of me that always feels like I am on trial, and a part of this trial is about having an appropriate sense of self. Yes, it is a bit neurotic, but the fact is I am afraid of not knowing what I should know, of having an inordinate or skewed vision of myself, of being one of those contestants on American Idol who think they can sing, but who are told by Randy and the crew, in front of millions of people, that they are deluded about their talents. So, in short, it was nice not to hear, as I mildly feared I might, “Sorry Anthony, we just don’t see it.”

With respect to preparing for my presentation my pastor said that I should clarify my vision of why I think I am called. My beginning point for this time of clarification was my conviction that I am a teacher, a conviction that has been evident in various ways throughout my adult life. This, of course, does not necessarily lead to the priesthood, but the connection between teaching and the priesthood had to do with the kind of teacher I want to be. In short, I want to be a holistic teacher, the kind that addresses the whole person: body, mind, and spirit. Along with this, I have long been preoccupied with the the human condition, particularly as it is understood within the biblical categories of sin and redemption. Again, I realize that one can be this kind of teacher without necessarily being a priest, but with respect to myself it became clear that this kind of integration meant priesthood, for it is the priest who presides over Communion, the act of grace wherein God allows himself to be broken for our brokenness so that we can be healed and made whole. As I continued to process, what became clear was that all I wanted to say about God and humanity radiated out of this one reality, that this one reality had implications for every aspect of our existence, and that I saw myself presiding over this reality by proclaiming it through word and sacrament.

So, there it is, the heart of what I presented to the vestry, and the heart of what compels me to pursue this call.

3 Responses to “First Steps on the Road to Priesthood – Part 2”

  1. Roger Green  

    I think I may have asked you this already, but I was wondering whether you have read Jesus for President.
    In this context, I was curious as to how you will relate as a clergyperson to its “in this world, but not of this world” message. Some US clergy seem to adhere to what I disdainfully refer to as a Christo-Americanism of the US as the new Israel, the American Exceptionalism/Manifest Destiny theology.
    Then there are those who sit around waiting for Jesus to come back, forgetting the message to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, etc because making sure they “get into heaven” is more important than what was laid out in the Beatitudes.

  2. Anthony Velez  

    Roger – I think you have asked about that book, but either way, I have not read it. It does sound provocative. Do you recommend it?

    Regarding my approach to the issue of the relationship to between Christ (and by implication Church) and culture (and by implication politics, economics, etc), I certainly like the phrase “in the world but not of it” but of course this raises questions regarding how this specifically looks, or how one can be genuinely engaged with culture, without capitulating to the fallen values of the world that are predicated upon a skewed vision of both God and humanity. Though it’s not evident from what I said in this post regarding Communion, as I said, my approach to this issue radiates from all the Communion implies.

    The Christian Tradition makes a strong connection between God’s call for humanity to exercise dominion over the Earth, and the work of extending God’s kingdom in the world. The exercise of dominion is the heart of cultural creation, because when humans engage the elements of creation and bring them into new relationships with one another they are doing the very thing out of which culture emerges. The coordination of our abilities to do this kind of creation and production creates systems, and it is the various configuration of these systems that create societies and cultures. It is a key conviction of Christianity, however, that no matter how these systems are configured, no matter how good they might be, all cultures and societies will be flawed, because humanity is broken by sin, which is essentially to say that they don’t relate to God as they were created to.

    In Communion what happens is that the original mandate of dominion is taken up into God’s redeeming work in Christ so that Christians are renewed and empowered by the life of Christ to extend God’s work into the world. Specifically, what happens is that we take transformed elements of creation: wheat which becomes bread, and grapes which become wine, and we offer them up to God, and through this we offer ourselves. In turn, God receives them and through them offers himself back to us as the body and blood of Christ, which is the very substance of God’s Kingdom. In short, this is the liturgical circuit through which all of life becomes sacramental, which is to say that all of life becomes a means for the life of God to permeate creation with his goodness and glory. This means that liturgy, particularly communion, is the heart of redeemed culture, for Communion is not just a private act of devotion, neither is it merely a religious ritual, as it has consequences for the whole of life: social, political, economic, intrapersonal, ethical, etc.

    Also, this understanding of Communion is an indictment on both nationalism and upon human hopes of ushering in a utopian society, for the foundation of justice begins with the Cross (the historical event in which Communion is rooted) which is a judgment on human autonomy (the impulse to be like God apart from God) for at the Cross both Rome and Israel colluded to crucify the Lord of Glory, and hence, government and religion, in-and-of themselves, failed. What is necessary is human life as brought forth in the self-sacrificial outpouring of God, which is genuine human life, an integral component of which is faith, the kind of faith that is able to apprehend the life of God in ordinary forms such as bread and wine.

    I could say more, as I feel that I have made points that need to be clarified, but I think that you get the gist of my conviction regarding your question.

  3. Rachel  

    I am overjoyed to hear that the vestry was able to affirm what many of us have seen in you all along. Maybe you can have a talk with my husband about it and convince him that Seminary really isn’t a far-fetched dream…