FROM FATHER SMITH: STAINED-GLASS FORTY-SIXTH STREET
Spring seems finally to have arrived in New York City, and this week we’ve been able to keep the church doors open for much of the day. This is a welcome change. It’s been a long winter, and it’s nice, at last, to feel a breeze coming in through the doors. I like looking down the church’s cool, dark aisle to Forty-sixth Street, able now to see and hear more clearly what’s happening in the neighborhood. From inside the church, the open doors become a kind of sunlit frame. One can see the comings and goings of those who work and live nearby. Some people hurry by, preoccupied, without a glance inside. Others pause to look through the open doors and to wonder about, and experience, the sights, sounds—and smells—of Saint Mary’s.
Of course there is a down side to all this. There are many interruptions and distractions that await us. On some days, Morning Prayer will be accompanied by the thud of beer kegs on the pavement as deliverymen make their early-morning rounds to the nearby restaurants. We will now hear more sirens, jackhammers, and cell-phone conversations than before. Cigarette smoke will do battle with the sweet scent of incense. I know that sometimes the street will seem impossibly chaotic and noisy to me, and I will yearn for silence, tempted to close the doors. Still, Saint Mary’s is not a country church or a secluded monastery. We live just east of Times Square, and we know it. The conversation among the street, the Square, and the parish community makes us who we are. It helps define our identity and our mission.
When I was growing up as a Roman Catholic in the 1960s, attending parochial schools in Western New York, we heard a lot about the Second Vatican Council, the need for aggiornamento (“updating”) and John XXIII’s famous call to “open the Church’s doors and windows in order to let in some much-needed fresh air.”
I’ve never forgotten Pope John’s metaphor. It is a useful one and, no doubt, perennially true. Still, I’ve sometimes thought over the years that it’s a metaphor that can be interpreted a bit too narrowly. The conversation between the Church and world can sometimes become a bit too one-sided. True, the Church has things to learn from “the world”; and we Christians surely live in the world and nowhere else, even as we look to and are moving toward a world that is not this world. Still, the Church is not exactly the same thing as this world. What’s more, the Church, which is part of the world, has things to say both to and about the world. All of this makes for a pretty complex conversation. Jesus enters this conversation when he says that his kingship is “not of this world” (John 18:36) and, further, that his followers are to be firmly planted in the world, but not of the world—“Father . . . I have given them thy word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I do not pray that thou shouldst take them out of the world, but that thou shouldst keep them from the evil one” (John 17:14–15).
A friend of mine came to the gallery opening in Saint Joseph’s Hall last Friday. As he left the building, he stopped and took a picture through the window at the foot of the staircase in the Parish House, a window that looks out on Forty-sixth Street. As you look at the photo, you realize that you are viewing the street through the veil of some ornate, metal bars that remind you of Times Square’s difficult past. But you are also looking at the street from within the church complex, through a distinctly ecclesiastical window, with its small leaded panes.
One of the most striking things about the photo is its bright colors. It takes a moment to realize that the colors are not actually in the window. They are reflected onto the window from the lights, and signs, on the street. I’ve looked at the photo over and over again in the last few days and have decided to call it “Stained-Glass Forty-sixth Street.” The title is probably a bit too fancy, even a bit pretentious, for a photo that was taken on an IPhone, but I’m sticking with it. The title is meant to help me think about what it might mean to be “in the world, but not of the world.” It’s meant to remind me that the wall between Saint Mary’s and the world is permeable. The church’s open doors are a pathway from street to church and back again. We look out at the street, but the street looks back at us. We belong to the street, and the street belongs to us; and yet we hope that everybody who walks through our doors will meet the Holy One when they come inside. The photo reminds me that Saint Mary’s is holy ground, sacred space. But the photo also reminds me that the street is holy, too. It reminds me that it’s possible to be surprised by kindness, goodness, courage, joy, and generosity right out there on Forty-sixth Street. Sometimes holiness meets us out there, just like those beautiful colors in the photograph, shining bright when we least expect it. —James Ross Smith
YOUR PRAYERS ARE ASKED FOR Bill, John, Herman, Steve, McNeil, Daniel, Mazdak, Trevor, Brayden, Andrew, Barbara, David, Dennis, Dee, Emily, Abalda, Linda, Eric, Takeem, Arpene, Paulette, PRIEST, and Harry, PRIEST; for the repose of the souls of J. Watkins Strouss and Ursula Mullins; and for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . April 26: 1924 Juliet C. Dobbins; 1944 Mary Frances Kelly.
IN THIS TRANSITORY LIFE . . . We recently learned that a neighbor and friend of Saint Mary’s, J. Watkins Strouss, died last month. Watty was a faithful member of the Church of Saint Clement, Forty-sixth Street. He lived nearby, right across from Saint Clement’s, for many years. He often came to worship at Saint Mary’s during the week, particularly for the Wednesday Sung Mass. He was a great supporter of GMHC’s AIDS Walk and often walked with the Saint Mary’s Team. We will miss him. Please keep Watty, his family and friends, our neighbors at Saint Clement’s, and all who mourn in your prayers.
THIS WEEK AT SAINT MARY'S . . . Friday, April 24, 8:00 PM, Master Chorale Concert: Mozart Requiem and Dvořák Te Deum, Thea Kano, conductor. Tickets may be purchased online . . . Saturday, April 25, is the Feast of Saint Mark the Evangelist: Mass will be offered at 12:10 PM . . . The Wednesday Night Bible Study class will meet on April 29, at 6:30 PM, in Saint Joseph’s Hall . . . Friday, May 1, Saint Philip and Saint James, Apostles, Mass 12:10 PM & 6:20 PM . . . Friday abstinence is not observed during the Easter Season . . . Confessions will be heard on Saturday, April 25, by Father Jim Pace, and on Saturday, May 2, by Father Jay Smith.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . At the Annual Meeting on Sunday, April 19, members of the parish nominated Brendon Hunter and Mary Robison to be the parish’s lay delegates at the diocesan convention on Saturday, November 14, at the Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine. Marie Rosseels and Grace Bruni were nominated as alternate delegates. The nominations are to be confirmed by the Board of Trustees at their next meeting . . . The rector will be away from the parish on vacation from Tuesday evening, April 21, until Saturday, May 2. He will be in church on Sunday, May 3. He will be attending the Diocesan Priests’ Conference from Monday, May 4 until Wednesday, May 6. He returns to the parish office on Friday, May 8 . . . Attendance: Last Sunday 253.
COMMUNITY OF SAINT JOHN BAPTIST . . . During the Holy Eucharist on Tuesday, May 26, 2015, at 10:30 AM, at the Convent in Mendham, New Jersey, the Rt. Rev. Prince G. Singh, Bishop of Rochester, will receive the first vows of Sister Monica Claire, C.S.J.B. Sister Monica Claire has spent time here at Saint Mary’s and is known to the staff and many of our parishioners. Please keep her in your prayers.
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.
INVITATION TO A FIELD TRIP . . . Until the end of June, there is an exhibit at the Christoph Keller, Jr., Library at the General Theological Seminary, entitled Thomas Cromwell and the English Bible. The exhibit is being held in conjunction with the Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of Wolf Hall, Parts One and Two, currently on Broadway. (The plays are based on Hilary Mantel’s acclaimed novels, Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies.) Mary Robison would like to lead a group of Saint Marians to tour the exhibit at the Library directly after Coffee Hour this coming Sunday, April 26, at around 1:00 PM. If you are interested, please contact Mary or join the gathering after Mass. (The group must travel together in order to get into the Library, but the exhibition is also open to the public Monday through Friday from 10:00 AM until 5:00 PM.)
MUSIC THIS WEEK . . . Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (c. 1525–1594), the great Italian composer, was the undisputed master of Renaissance polyphony and a major proponent of the Roman school of composition. Palestrina’s most favored compositional method, employed in fifty-three of his Masses, was the “parody” technique, drawing on pre-existing polyphonic works of his own or of other composers. However the Missa “Iste confessor,” which we will hear at the Solemn Mass on Sunday, is one of his thirty-five “paraphrase” Masses based on a plainsong melody. Few of Palestrina’s Masses can be dated exactly, but the Missa “Iste confessor,” appears to have been written late in Palestrina’s career. Some forty-three Masses were printed in six volumes during his lifetime. Palestrina’s son organized the publication of a further seven volumes soon after the composer’s death in 1594. The Missa “Iste confessor” was published in Rome in 1590 and a second edition issued a year later in Venice. At the ministration of Holy Communion on Sunday we will hear a wonderfully descriptive work of Orlande de Lassus (1532–1594), the motet Surrexit pastor bonus. Particularly set for Good Shepherd Sunday, the work utilizes biblical texts that have been adapted and appointed for the second Matins responsory on Easter Monday . . . On Sunday afternoon at 5:00 PM, Simon Jacobs, director of music and organist at the Church of Saint Thomas in New Haven, Connecticut, will play the organ recital. His program includes works by Dietrich Buxtehude (c. 1607–1737), Philip Moore (b. 1943); and Henri Mulet (1878–1967). —Mark Peterson
VISUAL ARTS PROJECT . . . An exhibition of work by Bruce Stebner opened Friday, April 17, in the gallery in Saint Joseph’s Hall. 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.
CHRISTIAN EDUCATION . . . The Wednesday Night Bible Study Class will meet on April 29. The class will begin reading at chapter 31 of the Book of the Prophet Isaiah. The class will then meet for its final class on May 6. The class will not meet on May 13, since Father Smith will be out of town that day. The annual end-of-year dinner for the class will take place on May 20 . . . On Sunday, April 26, and Sunday, May 3, Deacon Rebecca Weiner Tompkins will be leading the Adult Forum 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 . . . Saturday, April 25, Saint Mark the Evangelist, Mass 12:10 PM . . . Wednesday, May 13, Eve of Ascension Day, Solemn Evensong 6:00 PM . . . Thursday, May 14, Ascension Day, Solemn Mass 6:00 PM . . . Sunday, May 17, AIDS Walk 2015 . . . Sunday, May 24, The Day of Pentecost . . . Monday, May 25, Memorial Day, Federal Holiday Schedule . . . May 31, Trinity Sunday . . . June 1, The Visitation (transferred) . . . Sunday, June 7, The Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ: Corpus Christi.
AWAY FROM THE PARISH . . . At the Museum of Biblical Art (MOBIA), 1865 Broadway at 61st Street, Renaissance Masterpieces from Florence Cathedral, February 20–June 14, 2015, Sculpture in the Age of Donatello. “Twenty-three masterpieces of early Florentine Renaissance sculpture—most never seen outside Italy—will be exhibited at MOBIA as the centerpiece of the Museum’s tenth anniversary season. MOBIA will be the sole world-wide venue for this once-in-a-lifetime exhibition. These works—by Donatello, Brunelleschi, Nanni di Banco, Luca della Robbia and others—were made in the first decades of the fifteenth century for Florence Cathedral (Il Duomo), which was then in the last phase of its construction, and are figural complements to Brunelleschi’s soaring dome, conveying an analogous sense of courage and human potential. Like the dome, these statues of prophets and saints express the spiritual tension of a faith-driven humanism destined to transform Western culture.” The American Bible Society has sold the building where MOBIA is located, and the museum will be closing at the end of June, at least temporarily. The Museum has not yet announced when or where it might reopen. A review of the show recently appeared in the New York Times.