Tuesday, May 24, 2011

In praise of pomp, and circumstance.

I had the good fortune to attend my daughter-in-law's medical school commencement last weekend in San Antonio. It was a joyous affair for all.

While waiting for the faculty and students to process, my son Andrew and I were discussing the virtues of the ceremony's robes, hoods, caps, tassels, and the colors for all the above. Our commencement, the University of Texas, San Antonio, School of Medicine was filled with students wearing green, the color of the medical sciences.

The commencement program made note of the tradition:
"The contemporary tradition of wearing academic regalia for university ceremonies dates to the eleventh and twelfth centuries when the great European universities were being established."
So here we are 1000 years later carrying on a tradition of medieval Europe. In the Middle Ages the dignity of a high office, such as a king at court, or a marching army, or a royal wedding, required a display of respect, a pomp-ous display, for much the same reason that we do not attend our graduation ceremonies in jeans and a t-shirt. Some occasions, some offices, are special.

Shakespeare, in Othello, coined the oft-repeated phrase that is the title of this post:
O farewell,
Farewell the neighing steed, and the shrill trump,
The spirit-stirring drum, th' ear-piercing fife;
The royal banner, and all quality,
Pride, pomp, and circumstance of glorious war!
So I say bring on the pride, pomp and circumstance. Not just for the aesthetics, but because ceremony is something. Because man is more than matter, he is enlivened by the breath of God, and because our ceremonies on earth reflect, if imperfectly, the order of heaven.

Congratulations to the proud graduates, especially Elizabeth.



Anonymous said...

Congratulations to your daughter-in-law!

Francis Shivone said...

Thank you, I shall pass it on.