Friday, April 2, 2010

Dress for the Occasion

What can I say? I was annoyed by having to spend a considerable sum to purchase the graduation regalia for the upcoming commencement for the college I teach at. I did not purchase it when at commencement from my own graduate school. I simply didn't, at the time, envision ever needing it again. "You might want to purchase your regalia if you plan to teach in an academic setting in the future," admonished the commencement coordinator from the Dallas Theological Seminary's registrar's office. However, I did not plan to be in an academic setting at the time. My goals lied elsewhere - a dizzying mystery considering the fit that academia is for me now. Nevertheless, I did not anticipate needing to purchase, for myself, a gown, hood, cap and tassel that would simply hang in the closet and remind me of a one-time event.

As a result, when it dawned on me yesterday that I am now a professor at the College of Biblical Studies, and that commencement was fast approaching, I was not a little irritated to realize that I need to buy that stuff now. Since much of one's regalia is specific to the degree they earned and the school they earned it at, I called the DTS registrar's office to find out how to purchase it now. They directed me to The Graduation Place based in Mesquite, Texas. Fortunately, they had a good deal on all the gear, so the expense was slightly less shocking than I feared. It will be shipped here well before the CBS commencement now, so I can breathe just a little easier.

The whole thing, though, got me thinking... that perhaps my annoyance is misplaced. The colorful robes, the hoods, tassels, 'Pomp and Circumstance,' does not exist for bringing attention to the educator. If it were, the educator could dismiss it as unnecessary hubris. Instead it is meant to bring attention to the educated. As well it should. It is the accomplishment of the struggling student that is the focus of the occasion. For this reason, I should actually exult in lauding those who, through diligent hard work, emerged victorious from the gauntlet of their education program to be recognized with the conferral of a degree. As a professor, it was a privilege for me to participate in their development and education, and that privilege carries through even to commencement.

So bring on the flashing robes and gaudy hoods... I'm ready to celebrate those whose striving has yielded the desired reward.

1 comment:

Fr. Matt said...

The question that comes to my mind is: Why does an Evangelical seminary, which is otherwise governed by the tyranny of pragmatism, keep ceremonial academic robes and hoods. Could it be the 'T' word... Tradition? Why is it so hard, then, to make the short jump from this point to acceptance of liturgical robes and chasubles? After all, the point is not to draw attention to the priest, but rather to make sure he blends in to the liturgy of the day, so that his personality does not interfere with the worship of God.