The palm tree and bougainvillea that grows up it are a landmark in rue de la Buffa and a feature of every view of Holy Trinity taken from the street. When the bougainvillea is in flower tourists and Nicois stop to photograph its magenta splendour.
However, the palm, like all palms, accumulates many dead branches at its crown, which must be regularly removed. To protect the bougainvillea, we delayed a year or so ago during its flowering. Earlier this year, a storm brought down many dead branches almost obviating the need for a trim this year. Still, partly in response to a request from the mairie, we had the job done this morning. The photographs illustrate the cherry picker used for the trim and the pristine result.
Making new ‘Revs’
This is the season for ordaining new priests and deacons. Ordinations traditionally take place at Petertide, the time closest to June 29th, the feast day of St Peter, the leader of Jesus’ first disciples.
Although baptism and confirmation are familiar to most of us, ordination is less so. We’ve seen babies – and often toddlers – baptised. We remember our confirmation service or someone else’s but far fewer have been to the ordination of a priest or deacon.
Ordination resembles confirmation as it involves promises made in public and the bishop laying on hands as a sign of the descent of the Holy Spirit. For deacons, it’s solely the bishop who does this. For the ordination of priests, other priests join the bishop in laying on hands, to show that the new priest is incorporated into the priesthood.
Ordinations are emotional affairs. The journey to the day of ordination is often a long and arduous one. It began with the painstaking process of interview at local, diocesan and national level. All candidates for ordination eventually attend a residential selection process extending over several days. Once selected for ordination, there are usually three years of academic and vocational study.
At all stages, both lay people and clergy are involved. The ordination service reflects this. The bishop and other clergy are present, but the congregation are asked to proclaim their support for the candidates to be ordained. Emphasising the significance of the step those being ordained are taking, the congregation are asked to consider ‘how great is the charge that these ordinands are ready to undertake’ before agreeing that matters should proceed. In the Greek Orthodox ordination rite, the people must declare that the person is ‘axios’, worthy.
Newly ordained deacons – which is the foundation order of ministry – go to their new parishes, traditionally called a ‘title parish’. They will spend three or four years there, continuing with academic study and acquiring practical experience. Those ordained deacons the year before, now ordained priest, will continue where they began a year earlier.
The newly ordained are usually sent to somewhere different from the parish where they discovered their vocation. The reason for this is that it can be difficult for someone to be accepted in their ‘old parish’ as an ordained person. Parishioners may find it difficult to see someone that they have known as ‘someone in the pew’ as ‘The Reverend’.
This is like the story in next Sunday’s gospel, where people in Jesus’ hometown of Nazareth couldn’t see him as anyone other than Mary’s son, the carpenter. Jesus meets a wall of scepticism in his home town. [St Paul, as we read in Sunday’s epistle, also had to establish his credentials.]
We might imagine that Jesus’ reputation as a teacher and healer would have secured him a ready and attentive audience. But this doesn’t happen. Jesus goes to the local synagogue and teaches, which Mark’s Gospel records he has done several times before, but the reaction of those in the synagogue – the congregation – is far from reverential.
They query where he has acquired ‘this wisdom’ and his ability to do ‘deeds of power’. How could he? Wasn’t he the son of Mary? Weren’t their relatives of his among their number? Isn’t he just a carpenter?
They scoff at the thought of an ordinary person from their little town, an artisan without proper training, being able to teach. ‘They took offense at him’, it says. Jesus then replies with the famous response: “Prophets are not without honour, except in their hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house.”
Jesus appears amazed at their behaviour, particularly their ‘unbelief’. Mark’s Gospel goes on to describe the consequence of this, Jesus can’t do much: ‘he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them’.
On Sunday, I’ll continue to reflect on what this means for our own life as followers of Jesus.