Sunday, 6 April 2008

The Ordination Rite III

After the prayer of consecration is completed, various symbols are used; these help to explain the meaning of the sacrament of ordination.

First, Bishop Michael's head was anointed with the oil of Chrism. At priestly ordination, the hands are anointed; for a bishop, the anointing is on the head. Anointing has long been a sign of being chosen by God for a particular task - in the Old Testament, kings and priests are anointed in God's name. For Christians, it also shows how we are to be like Christ (the word 'Christ' literally means 'anointed one'.) After the anointing, Bishop Michael was presented with the Book of the Gospels, with the words, "Receive the Gospel and preach the Word of God with unfailing patience and sound teaching".

Next, the mitre and ring were blessed and presented to the new Bishop. The words used are very revealing: "Take this ring, the seal of your fidelity. With faith and love protect the bride of God, His holy Church."

He also received his crosier (pastoral staff), a reminder of his duty as shepherd of the people in his care. Again, he was reminded of his duty: "Take this staff as a sign of your pastoral office: keep watch over the whole flock in which the Holy Spirit has appointed you to shepherd the Church of God."

The crosier which Bishop Michael received and will use in the Diocese has a special significance for him. It belonged to Bishop Thomas Bernard Pearson, an auxiliary bishop in the Lancaster Diocese for many years. It was Bishop Pearson who ordained Fr Michael to the priesthood in 1971.

Following these presentations, all the assembled bishops came forward to greet Bishop Michael and welcome him to their ranks.

As before, a lengthy queue formed, but this time not in silence. Music accompanied this part of the rite, with the words "Go out to the whole world; proclaim the Good News" being sung.

Finally, Bishop Michael was led to his place on the sanctuary, with his brother bishops. This completed the ordination rite, and the Mass continued as normal.