Sunday, May 29, 2005

Two Down and Two to Go

I attended my step daughter's Master's Degree Graduation in Lubbock, Texas last week.
I saw what I missed by not attending my own Master's hooding, walking and wellll... a LOT of sitting. I was struck by the vestments worn by the presiding faculty. Gold and silver medallions hanging around their necks, ribbons, hoods and robes of many colors with velvet stripes, funny hats, all worn slightly differently. I was reading the program that described all the regalia and their meanings. If you wear this color you are that, if your hood is this long you are this, if your robe has this many stripes you're another thing. I'm watching the leader of the procession solemnly stepping, holding in his hands an ornately carved staff with a silver sculpture of some kind on the top. Following him are the faculty, all in order of rank and seniority, all which could be interpreted by "reading" their vesture. I'm thinking: Didn't I see something like this when our Bishop visited a few weeks ago??? Yeah... the irony is that most of the folks in the picture this IS Lubbock, Texas, the Buckle of the Bible belt... if not the buckle, it is at least the "Billy Bob" engraved name on the back...I lived there, I know.... and most of them are more than likely Baptists, Church of Christ, Bible Church, etc. They would be the first to holler "FOUL!" at the concept of a robed, vested, mitred pastor carrying a jeweled staff with a gold cross hanging around his neck in procession down the center aisle of the church, followed by his entourage of priests, deacons, subdeacons, and altar boys all distinguishable by their vestments and regalia, and having the gall to take a seat on the high place.

And yet... and this not the "church" of our western culture: Academia? And are these not our "clergy": the robed, vested and mitred, medallioned doctors of philosophies who preside at the passing on of the holy tradition of scholasticism? I'm not a historian of garmentology, but I'd wager that the academic vestments were originally designed after, or maybe were, priestly garments. Modern protestantism may have dumped the priesthood and all of its glory in the Church but it still holds fast to it in the arena that "really counts": Reason and logic, learning and scholasticism.

So, yes, mankind WILL have its priesthood. Mankind WILL have its vestments and processions. Mankind WILL elevate others to offices above themselves and honor them. Mankind WILL surround itself with regalia and dress funny and walk funny and endure assemblies that go on and on and on for the sake of giving itself status and proper dignity of its offices. However, the church of Texas Tech, in the middle of the Bible Belt has nothing on the Orthodox Church. Our vestments are a lot nicer and our processions go around the buildings three times not just once, and our services may be as long as theirs, but we at least get to stand and not be considered rude.


jessenicholas said...

At the HCHC graduation I was one of few in a suit. You wouldn't believe how many times people said I was the best dressed in the room among the hoods and cassocks.

Anonymous said...

Very astute, s-p.

Edith Wharton notes how America broke all ties w/royalty and Europe, and then the wealthy in NY did all they could to emulate it, making sure to spend time in Paris and London.

and fwiw, academia would be horrified, too, if any mention were made of how closely they seemed to be vested for religious service ;)