FROM THE RECTOR: LARGER EASTER
Some of us were still in the baptistry on Saturday night as the procession of the congregation from the font—down the side aisle to the back of the church, then up the main aisle—approached the chancel steps. There were two joyful baptisms at vigil, one adult, one child. The paschal candle led this procession. We buy an undecorated candle; this year’s was taller than in recent years. It seemed exactly right. It was for me one moment of a really wonderful and happy Holy Week.
Some readers may not know that our baptistry is a relatively small space near the open area between the chancel and the pews in the nave. Saint Mary’s was built at a time when the Eucharist was the heart of the parish’s spiritual life. You can see the altar and the pulpit from every seat in the church. There is a lot of room in the chancel for the ceremonies of the Mass.
When we celebrate baptism, as the litany of saints and the prayers for the candidates are chanted, a minister or server carrying the paschal candle leads the clergy and congregation from the chancel steps to the font. People leave their pews and crowd into the area between the pews and the chancel. Many will also go up into the chancel in order to see. The choir comes downstairs from the gallery too.
During the procession back from the font, the choir sings Psalm 23 to a beautiful Anglican chant with a congregational refrain, “You anoint my head with oil, and my cup is running over.” We had heard the same psalm five days earlier at the funeral of Jim Dennis, nine days earlier at the funeral of Gerald McKelvey. For this Christian community this year, the Great Vigil was our third, not our first, Mass of Easter. Our faith makes a large claim: we believe in the resurrection of the dead. Our faith is always inviting us to a larger sense of Easter.
Our preacher on Maundy Thursday, the Very Reverend Andrew McGowan, dean, Berkeley Divinity School, spoke about the washing of feet. He drew our attention to 1 Timothy 5:9–10, “Let a widow be enrolled if she is not less than sixty years of age, having been the wife of one husband; and she must be well attested for her good deeds, as one who has brought up children, shown hospitality, washed the feet of the saints, relieved the afflicted, and devoted herself to doing good in every way.”
Father McGowan spoke about what New Testament Christians and Christians of the era of late antiquity—roughly AD 250–450—meant by the word “worship.” When Christians of the first centuries heard these same words from the First Letter to Timothy, they would have thought “worship.” McGowan’s sermon—and the introductory chapter of his book, “The Origins of Christian Worship,” Ancient Christian Worship , 1–17)—suggests to me that a larger sense of Easter for us has little to do with a larger paschal candle, but everything to do with how we look on and care for others. This is more than a reminder; it’s the call of our baptismal covenant.
At Holy Baptism, after confessing the faith of the Apostles Creed, the presiding minister asks the candidates, “Will you continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers? . . . Will you persevere in resisting evil, and, whenever you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord? . . . Will you proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ? . . . Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself? . . . Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?” The answer to each question is, “I will, with God’s help” (The Book of Common Prayer , 304–5).
When I think of the word “worship,” I think first of the prayers we offer together and the prayers I pray as an individual. I wonder what a New Testament Christian looking at my life would label “worship.” I wonder how my life may change as I become aware of the answers. —Stephen Gerth
YOUR PRAYERS ARE ASKED FOR Ben, John, McNeil, Daniel, Mazdak, Trevor, Brayden, Andrew, Barbara, Penny, David, Dennis, Dee, Emily, Abalda, Linda, Eric, Takeem, Arpene, Paulette, PRIEST, and Harry, PRIEST; for the repose of the souls of Nicholas Fugueroa, Louis Ragone, and Moises Ismael Locon Yac; and for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . April 12: 1881 Frances Greenfield; 1890 Rebecca Nicholas; 1900 Emma Caroline Haines; 1924 Ellen Gunn; 1929 Robert Kane; 1943 Carlotta Dowing; 1975 Viola Codney.
THIS WEEK AT SAINT MARY'S . . . The Wednesday Night Bible Study class will meet on April 15, at 6:30 PM, in Saint Joseph’s Hall . . . Saturday, April 11, confessions are heard by appointment only . . . Saturday, April 18, confessions will be heard by Father Jay Smith
. . . Friday abstinence is not observed during the Easter Season.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . The Annual Meeting of the Parish will take place after the Solemn Mass on Sunday, April 19, in Saint Joseph’s Hall. Drafts of all reports are due in the parish office on Monday, April 13 . . . Sister Laura Katharine, C.S.J.B., has returned to Saint Mary’s from the convent in Mendham, where she had been recuperating from pneumonia. She is feeling much better and will resume her work, on a modified basis, in the coming days. Please keep her in your prayers . . . Visual Arts Project: Friday, April 17, 6:30 PM, Art Exhibition Opening in Saint Joseph’s Hall; The Work of Bruce Stebner . . . Attendance: Maundy Thursday 144; Good Friday 193; Easter Vigil 104; Easter Day 430.
REMEMBERING THE ARMENIAN GENOCIDE . . . The 100th anniversary commemoration of the Armenian Genocide will be held in Times Square on Sunday, April 26, beginning at 1:45 PM. This event will pay tribute to the 1.5 million Armenians who were massacred by the Young Turk government of the Ottoman Empire and to the millions of victims of subsequent genocides worldwide. The Divine Liturgy and Times Square program will begin with church services at 10:00 AM at Saint Vartan Armenian Cathedral, Second Avenue at 34th Street. The procession to Times Square will start at 12:00 PM, and the program, which will feature speakers from the political, media, and scholarly fields, will begin at 1:45 p.m. Saint Mary’s parishioner Virginia Davies Taylor, whose family is Armenian, invites interested Saint Marians to walk to the square for the commemoration following our Solemn Mass and Coffee Hour.
MUSIC THIS WEEK . . . Orlande de Lassus (1532–1594) was a Franco-Flemish composer of great influence and amazing productivity. His catalogue of over 2,000 works in nearly every Latin, French, Italian, and German vocal genre known in his time places him among the most prolific and versatile composers of the era. His approximately 530 motets include many religious works and ceremonial pieces. Almost sixty Masses of undoubted attribution survive complete. The Mass setting we hear at the Solemn Mass on Sunday morning is the Missa “Il me suffit.” It is a parody Mass, and in it Lassus quotes the love song “Il me suffit” for melodic inspiration. Lassus was choirmaster at Saint John Lateran in Rome, where he remained only a short time before returning to his homeland and settling in Antwerp. At the ministration of Communion, we hear a motet by another prolific composer, Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (c. 1524–1594). His motet, Haec dies (“This is the day”), is but one of twenty-five settings of the Gradual for Easter Day that have been uncovered, and more such works are brought to light with great regularity . . . On Sunday at 4:40 PM, Joseph Russell will play the organ recital. Mr. Russell is a student at the Curtis Institute of Music, where he studies with Alan Morrison. His program includes works by César Franck (1822–1890) and Louis Vierne (1870-1937) . . . On Sunday at 5:00 PM, we will welcome a guest choir for Evensong and Benediction. Voyces is a Staten Island–based early music ensemble dedicated to the study and performance of Renaissance and Baroque vocal works. They will sing The Short Service by Orlando Gibbons (1583–1625) and a motet, If ye love me, by Thomas Tallis (c. 1505–1585). —Mark Peterson
VISUAL ARTS PROJECT . . . An exhibition of work by Bruce Stebner will open in the Gallery in Saint Joseph’s Hall on Friday, April 17, with a reception in Saint Joseph’s Hall at 6:30 PM. Bruce and his husband, Jim, were married here at Saint Mary’s last year. From the press release for the exhibition: “Today, Bruce dedicates his energy to his painting studio, Patois by Stebner. His paintings entice the viewer to savor personal moments recorded with Bruce’s exuberant use of color and energetic brush strokes. Stebner canvases are inspired by the simple beauty the artist finds in his own home and garden as well as those rustic gems he inhabits in France several times a year. His ‘Artistic Adventures’ are designed for those interested in painting or simply traveling France at an artist’s pace. Happy painting en plain air, Stebner equally adores reliving memories at the easel in his studio.” You can see some of Bruce’s work here.
THE HISTORY OF SAINT MARY’S . . . On Thursday, March 26, there was a terrible explosion and fire at 121 Second Avenue, near Seventh Street. That building was destroyed as was an adjacent building, 123 Second Avenue. Buildings at 119 and 125 Second Avenue were also affected. A number of people were injured and many were displaced. Two young men died: Moises Ismael Locon Yac, 26, and Nicholas Figueroa, 23. News reports showed images of the buildings before the explosion. Something about them seemed familiar to our parish archivist and historian, Dick Leitsch. After some careful research he realized that the buildings located at 119–125 Second Avenue had reminded him of 149 Second Avenue, which is located about a block and a half away from where the explosion took place. It turns out that in the late nineteenth century 149 Second Avenue was known as the House of the Holy Comforter Free Church Home for Incurables. The Home was run by the Sisters of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The Living Church Quarterly dated December 1, 1895, tells us that “this order is duly incorporated for the care of the needy, sick, and fallen; for the education of the young and all other works of mercy and charity in connection with the Church of St. Mary the Virgin, New York, and wherever else its services may be given. Address: St. Mary’s Mission House, 133 W. Forty-sixth Street, New York.” Father Thomas McKee Brown, founder and first rector of Saint Mary’s, was the Warden of the order. Mr. Beverly Chew, prominent New Yorker and well-known bibliophile, was a member of the board of trustees of Saint Mary’s and also served as treasurer of the Home at 149 Second Avenue. Though our connection to Second Avenue ended long ago, we can pray for Moises and Nicholas, for their families and friends, and for all those affected by the explosion; and we can continue to learn from and be inspired by the history of our forebears in the faith.
—James Ross Smith
CHRISTIAN EDUCATION . . . The Wednesday Night Bible Study Class will resume on April 15 and will begin reading at Isaiah 28 . . . During three Sundays in Eastertide (April 19, 26, and May 3), Deacon Rebecca Weiner Tompkins will be leading the class in a discussion of the links between theology and the arts. Her class, “Be not afraid,” the angel said: God’s Ministering Messengers, From Scripture into Poetry, will begin by presenting the range and role of angels in the Bible, proceed to review some chronological artistic responses in the visual arts and literature in general, and then focus on the images and ideas in a selection of poems, from diverse writers, both obvious and unexpected. The reading, examination, and discussion will keep as its start, and subsequent thread, biblical depiction, while surveying the poetic vision and re-vision of that scriptural skein of thought . . . On May 10, Zachary Roesemann will give a presentation on icons and his work as a painter, or writer, of icons. —J.R.S.
PLEASE MARK YOUR CALENDAR . . . Sunday, April 19, 1:00 PM, Annual Meeting of the Parish . . . Saturday, April 25, Saint Mark the Evangelist, Mass 12:10 PM . . . Thursday, May 14, Ascension Day, Solemn Mass 6:00 PM . . . Sunday, May 17, AIDS Walk 2015.