Matriculation is the formal process of entering a post-secondary institution. At Nashotah House Theological Seminary where I am currently studying, Matriculation has traditionally taken place at Michaelmas. This year it was done in the context of a Solemn High Mass being a votive Mass of the Holy Angels in the week of Michaelmas.

New students give the matriculation oath:

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

I hereby promise on my conscience and honour to obey during the term of my residence the Statutes and regulations of Nashotah House; to submit myself respectfully to its authorities, and in general, to conduct myself as becomes a Christian and, if it be the case, a Candidate for Holy Orders.

Each student is then called forward to sign the register, a book that goes back to the 1920s and contains the name of every Son and Daughter of the House. The previous book goes back into the 1800s but was filled in the 1920s.

The matriculation itself took place between the Confession and Peace. So before we could get there, we had to hear a homily.

Dr. Garwood Anderson, the Provost and President of Nashotah House, preached a sermon which continues to resonate with me today.

[W]hen Christ’s people take up Christ’s cross and follow St. Michael into battle, no longer will it sound like a ludicrous misnomer to call us the “church militant” – yea, even the church belligerent.  Not because, like so many Christians, we are at war with our neighbors, but because we are at war for them.  We enter, as it were, enemy territory, releasing captives, leading others to freedom.  We follow the slain Lamb who imposed no harm on his enemies but instead still bears the scars they imposed, and these he bore for their sake. Bearing those wounds, dying that death, he vanquished Satan…

Now, back to our original question: what has any of this to do with matriculation?

Much in every way! If you thought you were enrolling in a vocation-technical institute to prepare for a rewarding career – you know, good pay, short hours, long weekends –  it’s not too late. We’ve got a creed, some prayers, a confession and absolution – plenty of time to slip out before signing this book.

If, however, your signing of this book and your joining of this community is viewed rightly – you will see it as another decisive step not of entitlement but of enlistment. You are enlisting in the cause for which Christ died and on behalf of which Archangel Michael is battling still – “rank on rank the host of heaven spreads its vanguard on its way.” This only looks like a seminary; it is actually – if you’ll forgive me – a war college. If you bristle at that militaristic image, you should, because “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Eph. 6:12). And we contend not against people, but for them, following a slain lamb into battle, bearing reproach exchanging it for wholeness.

And in that battle, nothing you do here will be wasted…

So, then . . . . You are joining – we have joined – with the host of earth who are joining the host of heaven, let by St. Michael, following in the victorious train of Jesus Christ, in a counter-offensive for the sake of a lost and wayward world. He who calls you is faithful; and he will do it.

I thought I came to Nashotah House because I wanted to be formed in community in the Anglo-Catholic tradition. I am at Nashotah House because I needed to hear this sermon.

Amen!

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