Today was my first day assisting at the altar at the 8:30 service. Fun!
But today was special- all the deacons were gone at 8:30. One's on vacation, and the other at a local parish that needs some lovin'.
The dean of the cathedral was going crazy, worried that everything was going to fall apart. Last year that is exactly what happened, to such an extent that the three priests present were compared to the Three Stooges. Some members of the congregation took cardboard cutouts of the stooges and dressed them up in chasuble, stole and other priestly garments.
It didn't help that one of the other LEMs was serving as acolyte for the first time. That meant she not only had to help the priest prepare the table but also do the washing of hands and other things.
My problem was that they normally only use two LEMs at the early service. I was the third LEM. No one was really all that sure what I was to be doing. They didn't even discuss where I'd be sitting (I sat on the chair that's technically reserved for the bishop's chaplain). When I got to the altar, part of a prayer that I pray most mornings came to mind:
"And if I am to do nothing, let me do it gallantly."
I wasn't ringing the sanctus bells, I wasn't assisting the priest in setting the altar, I wasn't washing hands. I got to stand there and look fabulous and holy while doing so. Sometimes half the role of the cleric is to stand there like it's all intentional. And sometimes doing nothing is just as important as doing something. My standing there became part of the Mass just like the prayers and distribution of the elements.
I did bear the chalice (and using the correct side of the purificator this time) and took the Gospel book off the altar before the Eucharistic prayers, so I didn't end up doing nothing. But I didn't have a role for a good deal of the Mass. But by standing there as if standing there were intentional, I was able to serve God. And not look silly.
I really, really love bearing the chalice. That's a mighty powerful cup and mighty holy drink we give. And all of my standing there at the altar became consecrated when it was directed toward bearing that cup of salvation.
The Long Apprenticeship
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