FROM THE RECTOR: ADVENT ORIGINS
I never thought much about the shape of the Advent season until I read a footnote in a short book by the late New Testament scholar Raymond Brown (1928–1998). Concerning the “end of time” focus (church term: eschatology) of Advent readings he wrote, “We should conclude the eschatological emphasis with Christ the King and prepare for Christmas by a different type of Sunday readings” (Christ in the Gospels of the Ordinary Sundays  36). I wondered for a number of years what Father Brown thought those different readings might be until I asked Jay Smith, who had been Brown’s student, if he knew: Brown thought we should prepare to hear the Christmas stories (Matthew 1:18–25; Luke 2:1–14) by reading what Matthew and Luke wrote at the beginning of their narratives to introduce them.
Liturgical scholarship provides no simple, straightforward explanation for the shape of Advent in the Christian West with its emphasis on the end of time and the preaching of John the Baptist. J. Neil Alexander (liturgical scholar, IX Bishop of Atlanta, now dean of the School of Theology, University of the South) suggests that our Advent’s shape emerged at a time when Christmas Eve was the beginning of the church year—and what we know as the beginning was actually the end (Waiting for the Coming  21).
In their work on the development of the Christian calendar Paul Bradshaw and Maxwell Johnson write, “Of course, if Christmas itself is perceived not as the celebration of Jesus’ nativity . . . [that is] as a commemoration of a historical event or as Baby Jesus’ birthday, but as itself a celebration of his parousia, his Advent, his coming again in glory, then an eschatologically oriented Advent season makes perfect sense” (Origins  167–68).
In Rome, there is also evidence of preparation for the birth of Jesus in the gospel readings (the annunciation to Mary and the visit of Mary to Elizabeth) for two of the weekday Masses, at a time when not every day had its own appointed readings. (And if you are interested in the how preparation for baptism at Epiphany may or may not have shaped the development of Advent, Bradshaw and Johnson’s Origins (158–168) is a good place to start.)
The oldest Advent hymn text in The Hymnal 1982 is attributed to Ambrose of Milan (340–397). It’s a Latin text, “Veni Redemptor gentium,” translated for the hymnal by Charles Price (1920–1999). His translation begins, “Redeemer of the nations, come” (hymn 55). It seems to reflect an understanding of preparation for Jesus’ birth before eschatology takes over. Like other early hymns, it might be called a creedal statement of the Trinity and of the incarnation. It’s not about the end of time and judgment, but God’s love for humankind. Here are three verses:
Redeemer of the nations, come; reveal yourself in virgin birth,
the birth which ages all adore a wondrous birth, befitting God.
From human will you do not spring, but from the Spirit of our God;
O Word of God, come; take our flesh and grow as child in Mary’s womb.
With God the Father you are one, and one with us in human flesh;
Oh, fill our weak and dying frame with godly strength which never fails.
As we begin a new church year I invite you to the quiet power of the Advent Masses and Offices which are prayed daily here in this parish church.—Stephen Gerth
YOUR PRAYERS ARE ASKED FOR David, Barbara, Francesca, Pat, Peggy, Mazdak, Babak, Pauline, McNeil, Takeem, Rick, Linda, Arpene, Paulette, priest, and Harry, priest; and for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Matthew. . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . November 30: 1894 Thomas E. Smith; 1911 Mabel Cromis Smith; 1917 Sarah Fotteral Harriman; 1919 Elizabeth R.W. Carswell; 1920 Marian Nold; 1921 Cornelius Frederic Gallagher; 1932 Kenneth Raymond Kind; 1970 Sarah Lucille LaBosse.
THE ORDINARY FRIDAYS OF THE YEAR . . . are observed by special acts of discipline and self-denial in commemoration of the crucifixion of the Lord.
STEWARDSHIP 2015 . . . As of Monday, November 24, we have received pledges from 112 households. $313,828.00, 73.8% of our $425,000.00 goal has been pledged to date. If you have questions about pledging, please speak to a member of the Stewardship Committee (MaryJane Boland, Steven Heffner, or Marie Rosseels). You may also call the finance office to discuss your pledge. The staff will be happy to fill out a pledge card for you. If you have already returned your pledge card, we thank you. If you have not done so yet, we ask you to seriously and prayerfully consider how you can support the mission of the parish. Our needs are many; many of you have expressed a desire to maintain and even expand our presence and ministry in Times Square. That can only happen if all of our members and friends support that ministry.
THIS WEEK AT SAINT MARY’S . . . November 30, The First Sunday of Advent . . . December 1, Saint Andrew the Apostle, Mass 12:10 PM and 6:20 PM . . . December 1, World AIDS Day . . . December 3, 6:30 PM, Wednesday Night Bible Study Class . . . Saturday, December 6, 10:00 AM-3:00 PM, Advent Quiet Day, led by Father John Beddingfield . . . Sunday, December 7, 5:00 PM, Evensong and Legacy Society Reception . . . Confessions will be heard on Saturday, November 29, and on Saturday, December 6, by Father Jay Smith.
VISIT THE GIFT SHOP . . . Be sure to visit the Saint Mary’s gift shop over the holidays. We will be providing a gift wrapping service on Sunday’s after the 11:00 AM service for a donation of $5 for each gift wrapped. A selection of paper and ribbon will be provided—while supplies last! Gift items are for sale include t-shirts, coffee mugs, CDs, rosaries, art work and books. We also have post cards, Christmas cards, and cards for many occasions. We look forward to seeing you.—Dexter Baksh
ADVENT QUIET DAY . . . Saturday, December 6, 10:00 AM to 3:00 PM: Seeing Clarely: A Quiet Day based on Clare of Assisi, led by Father John Beddingfield. Clare of Assisi (1194–1253), friend and follower of Saint Francis, sometimes used the image of a mirror to express aspects of faithful living. Through prayer, words, and silence, our Quiet Day will gaze with Clare into various spiritual “mirrors” so that we might come to a deeper understanding of how to live as reflections of Christ. The day will include a simple lunch following the Noon Mass. We will conclude with a simple Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament at around 3:00 PM. Lunch and beverages are provided. A freewill donation to cover the costs of the day may be offered. Please RSVP if you would like to attend so that we can make plans for lunch.
LATINO/HISPANIC MINISTRY . . . Last weekend I attended a diocesan conference at Christ Church, Poughkeepsie, entitled “New Camino: Reimagining Latino/Hispanic Ministry in the Diocese of New York in the 21st Century.” The conference was led by the Rev. Canon Anthony Guillén, the Episcopal Church’s officer for Latino/Hispanic ministries. Other presenters included the Reverend Canon Tom Callard, missioner for Hispanic/Latino Ministry, diocese of Western Massachusetts; the Reverend Dixie Junk, priest-in-charge, Saint Paul’s Church, Kansas City, Kansas; and the Reverend Al Rodriguez, adjunct professor, Seminary of the Southwest, Austin, Texas. Topics covered included: the multi-generational dimensions of the Latino/Hispanic community; the linguistic challenges that arise from the fact that second- and third-generation Latinos in the United States are English-language dominant and may, therefore, prefer a sermon in English, but prayer, liturgy and some music in Spanish; the importance of making Latino visitors welcome in parishes in which Anglos predominate; the importance of family to the Latino community; ways of introducing traditional Roman Catholic practices to a parish, such as First Communion, without watering down Anglican beliefs or principles; the advantages that arise from our church’s relatively un-judgmental attitude toward divorce and “non-traditional” family arrangements; and, most surprisingly, the usefulness of social media in communicating with American Latinos, who tend to be enthusiastic users of smartphones, the Internet, and all forms of social media. I found the conference useful as I continue to think about how we might welcome members of the Latino community to Saint Mary’s, both during the week and on Sundays.—Jay Smith
AROUND THE PARISH . . . Flowers are needed for Sundays in January. We also hope to receive donations to defray the costs of the reception following the Solemn Mass on December 8. If you would like to make a donation, please contact the parish office . . . Attendance: Last Sunday 218; Thanksgiving 32.
MUSIC THIS WEEK . . . Jehan Alain (1911–1940) was an amazingly original French composer whose life was brought to a tragic end during the early days of the Second World War. Born into a highly musical family, Alain’s relatively short life provided the world with a body of work that includes some 120 compositions written between 1929 and 1939. These startlingly innovative works show a maturity unusual in such a young composer, and they put him squarely in a class with such luminaries as Debussy, Roger-Ducasse and Paul Dukas. Alain’s initial organ studies were with his father, Albert, who was an organist and organ-builder. Albert had built the four-manual pipe organ that stood in the family living-room in Saint-Germain-en-Laye (also Debussy’s birthplace). It was this instrument that influenced the musical tastes of the prodigy. Jehan’s brother, Olivier, was also a composer, and his youngest sister, Marie-Claire, was to become one of the best known international concert organists of the last century, as well as Jehan’s greatest champion. The Messe Modale en septuor, which we hear at Solemn Mass today, was written for the Church of Saint-Nicolas, Maisons-Laffite, in 1938. It was composed for a small choir of female voices (no men being available at the time), in a small church with a very rudimentary organ complemented by solo flute. Of strongly modal construction, the Mass is at once functional and inspirational, and its Sanctus is undoubtedly one of the most beguiling pieces Alain ever wrote. The prelude for flute and organ which we will hear before Mass is taken from Alain’s Trois Mouvements. It, too, is a haunting work of great delicacy. We are extremely fortunate to have Karla Moe, flutist, to interpret these wonderful works with us. At the ministration of Communion, we will hear a setting of the Ave Maria for women’s voices by Giuseppe Verdi (1813–1901). Though known chiefly as the composer of grand operas, Verdi wrote a great Requiem Mass and a handful of smaller sacred pieces, including the Quattro pezzi sacri (1889), from which this setting of the Ave Maria was taken.—Mark Peterson
CHRISTIAN EDUCATION . . . The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd and The Adult Education Class will not meet on November 30, the First Sunday of Advent, the Sunday following Thanksgiving Day . . . The Wednesday Night Bible Study Class will resume on December 3 at 6:30 PM. The class, which is led by Father Jay Smith, is normally held in Saint Joseph’s Hall, 145 West Forty-sixth Street. On December 3 we will begin our reading at chapter 7. The class will not meet on December 17, 24, or 31 . . . Sunday, December 7 & 14, 10:00 AM, Adult Education Class: The Veneration of the Saints: Parishioners discuss the veneration of the saints in their own lives, with a particular focus on saints who were women, as a way of beginning our study of the role of women in early and medieval Christianity. On December 7, I will make some introductory remarks and Mary Robison will give a presentation on Saint Catherine of Siena (1347–1380).—Jay Smith
OUTREACH . . . We continue to collect nonperishable items for our friends and partners at the Saint Clement’s Food Pantry. Cash donations are also most welcome . . . The spread of the Ebola virus in Liberia and in other parts of West Africa has been rapid in recent months, and, according to recent news reports, the numbers of those affected continues to mount. We have received requests from Liberian clergy working in our diocese to publicize ways that New York Episcopalians can help. You may visit the website of the Liberian Episcopal Community USA (LECUSA) to obtain more information.
VISUAL ARTS PROGRAM . . . Gallery in Saint Joseph’s Hall: The Art of Teofilo Olivieri . . . Official opening and reception in the gallery, Friday, December 5, at 7:00 PM. We hope that Teofilo will be able to be with us to talk about his work and to meet the members and friends of the parish. —José Vidal
CONCERTS AT SAINT MARY’S . . . December 6, 2014, 8:00 PM, New York Repertory Orchestra, David Leibowitz, music director. Music by Verdi, Vernon Duke, and Carl Nielsen. Admission is free. A $10.00 donation is requested . . . Saturday, December 13, 8:00 PM, The Tallis Scholars: Sacred Muses, music by William Byrd, Edmund Turges, and Josquin des Prez. This concert is part of the Miller Theater at Columbia University’s Early Music Series. Tickets may be purchased online.
MARK YOUR CALENDAR . . . Friday, December 5, 7:00 PM, Visual Arts Project: Artist’s Talk and Reception in Saint Joseph’s Hall: The Work of Teofilo Olivieri . . . Sunday, December 7, 6:00 PM, Legacy Society Reception, following Evensong & Benediction at 5:00 PM . . . Monday, December 8, The Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Solemn Mass 6:00 PM . . . Monday, December 22, Saint Thomas the Apostle (transferred), Mass 12:10 PM and 6:20 PM . . . Wednesday, December 24, Christmas Eve, Music 4:30 PM & Mass 5:00 PM and Music 10:30 PM & Solemn Mass 11:00 PM . . . Thursday, December 25, 11:00 AM, Christmas Day, Solemn Mass & Procession to the Crèche.
AWAY FROM THE PARISH . . . At the Museum of Biblical Art, 1865 Broadway at Sixty-first Street, October 17, 2014–January 11, 2015: Dürer, Rembrandt, Tiepolo: The Jansma Master Prints Collection from the Grand Rapids Art Museum: “Spanning five centuries of printmaking, this exhibition will feature the complete Jansma Collection, including works by Albrecht Dürer, Rembrandt van Rijn, Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo, Édouard Manet, and Max Pechstein, as well as a series of twenty-one engravings by William Blake, to underscore the Bible’s enduring influence on Western artists.”