ROM THE RECTOR: SHORTCHANGING MARK
In 2006 the General Convention of the Episcopal Church adopted a new lectionary for the Prayer Book. After a permitted three-year transition period, we began using this new lectionary on the First Sunday of Advent 2010. But, in the summer of 2012 the General Convention gave permission for bishops to permit the use of the original lectionary of the 1979 Prayer Book. Bishop Mark Sisk acted quickly. With his permission we returned to the original on July 22, 2012. Because of this timing, we missed August of Year B with the new lectionary, and with it, an important example of how both the original 1979 lectionary and the 2006 Revised Common Lectionary shortchange the Gospel According to Mark. The original 1979 lectionary took four Sundays in August from Mark and gave them to John; the new lectionary starts its taking for John at the end of July and gets five Sundays. But I get ahead of myself.
This Sunday the gospel lesson will be the long option that is permitted by the original 1979 Prayer Book lectionary. We will hear Jesus calming the wind and sea (Mark 4:35–41), and we will exercise the recommended option to hear Mark’s account of Jesus healing the Gerasene demoniac (Mark 5:1–20). Matthew and Luke, following Mark, have their own take on this healing story; but in the original 1979 lectionary, only Mark’s is included. Parishes using the 2006 Revised Common Lectionary will only hear the one from Luke across the three-year cycle.
The history of lectionaries is enormously complicated. As things now stand, we hear enough of Matthew, Luke, and John to catch the main sweep of their individual theological perspectives. I think we should hear more of Mark. That said, the three-year lectionary has done so much good for the church.
When it was introduced, Charles P. Price (1920–1999), writing in 1976 on behalf of the Standing Liturgical Commission said, “It is difficult to be precise about the theological impact of this new lectionary . . . This lectionary now represents the basic teaching of Holy Scripture as well as, and far more fully than, the [1928 Book of Common Prayer] lectionaries for Sunday use” (Prayer Book Studies 29 , 117–18). Three decades later, Roman Catholic liturgical scholar Patrick Regan wrote, “Without doubt the 1969 Order of Readings for Mass, revised in 1981, is the masterpiece of the reform of the eucharistic liturgy following the Second Vatican Council” (Advent to Pentecost , page 301).
I was really introduced to the idea that each of the gospels has a particular theological perspective of its own by reading the work of the late Roman Catholic scholar Raymond E. Brown (1928–1998). I’ve been learning more ever since his work excited my interest in New Testament study. Lectionaries have theological perspectives as well. It should not surprise us that the Order of Readings for Mass is shaped by the theological environment of the Roman Catholic Church. What surprises me is how much of their agenda we carried into our book in 1976, when the 1979 lectionary was proposed, and how much more of their agenda we have made our own by adopting the 2006 Revised Common Lectionary.
In 2006 some concerns were addressed forthrightly. There was an increased attention to the role of women in the Bible in the readings for Sundays and Holy Days. But, because alone among Protestant denominations, we make regular use of the Sunday and daily lectionaries, we might have expected, for example, not to end up with the Roman Catholic readings for their Feast of Mary, the Holy Mother of God, on January 1, in place of the readings we had in 1979 for our celebration on January 1 of the Holy Name of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
Since 1979 our church has continued to let the traditional Anglican gospel for the First Sunday after Christmas Day, Matthew 1:18–25—one of only two birth of Jesus stories, to be heard only once every three years on the Fourth Sunday of Advent. It’s there so Roman Catholics could treat it as an annunciation gospel and hide Matthew’s remark about the marital relationship of Mary and Joseph, “But he knew her not until she had borne a son; and he called his name Jesus” (Matthew 1:25). Roman Catholics never hear that verse read at a Sunday or a Christmas Day Mass.
Because of the timing of Bishop Sisk’s permission, we did not experience five Sundays in August 2012 devoted (outwardly) to the sixth chapter of John, but (inwardly) to Roman Catholic eucharistic theology. Our Episcopal tradition at its best offers us “the confidence of a certain faith” and the strength “of a reasonable, religious, and holy hope” (The Book of Common Prayer , 504). I want more, not less, of our own Eucharistic tradition, our own understanding of the Body of Christ.
I know I have never preached on the Gerasene Demoniac in Mark. I’ll really get started on that after this newsletter goes out. And I invite you to join me in reading all of Mark as we go forward this year. —Stephen Gerth
YOUR PRAYERS ARE ASKED FOR Nancy, John, Steve, Thomas, Judi, Sam, Victoria, Catherine, Mazdak, Trevor, David, Abalda, Takeem, Arpene, Deborah Francis, religious, Pamela, religious, Paulette, priest, and Harry, priest; for the repose of the soul of Christopher Adlington and of the souls of those who were murdered at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, Charleston, South Carolina; and for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . June 21: 1907 George Prentice.
IN THIS TRANSITORY LIFE . . . Christopher Adlington died on Saturday, June 13. He was seventy-seven years old and had been formally a member of Saint Mary’s since January 6, 1969. The Burial of the Dead for him will be celebrated on Monday, June 22, at 2:00 PM. His body will be cremated after the service, and his ashes will be taken to England for burial with his family. Please pray for him and for all who mourn. —S.G.
THE ORDINARY FRIDAYS OF THE YEAR are observed by special acts of discipline and self-denial in commemoration of the crucifixion of the Lord.
THIS WEEK AT SAINT MARY'S . . . Wednesday, June 24, Nativity of Saint John the Baptist, Sung Mass 12:10 PM and 6:00 PM . . . On Saturday, June 20, and on Saturday, June 27, confessions will be heard by Father Jim Pace.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . Sister Deborah Francis, C.S.J.B., continues her recovery at the convent. Please keep her in your prayers . . . On Saturday, June 13, Mother Clare Nesmith and a group of parishioners from Christ Church, Babylon, Long Island, visited Saint Mary’s. Father Jay Smith talked to the members of the group about the parish’s history and traditions and led a tour of the church, the sacristy, and the smoke room. Mother Nesmith asked him to speak a bit about the veneration of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Anglican theology. The group then prayed the Angelus together as Christ Church’s “chief acolyte” rang the tower bells . . . To mark the summer solstice on Sunday, June 21, the Times Square Alliance is once again hosting a yoga marathon for much of the day in Father Duffy Square, just south of the TKTS bleachers and booth. As a result, travel through Times Square, near Forty-sixth Street may be somewhat more congested than usual . . . Father Jay Smith will be on vacation and away from the parish beginning on Sunday, June 21. He returns on Sunday, August 2. He will be on retreat during part of that time and will also be spending a week with his brothers and their families in Savannah, Georgia, and Hilton Head, South Carolina. He may be taking some shorter trips closer to home as well. He is away a bit longer than usual this year since he was on study leave last summer . . . Attendance: Last Sunday 164.
MUSIC THIS WEEK . . . Old 100th is a hymn tune from Pseaumes Octante Trois de David (1551), the second edition of the Geneva Psalter, and is one of the best known melodies in all Christian music. The tune is usually attributed to the French composer Louis Bourgeois (c. 1510–c. 1560), and although the tune was first associated with Psalm 134 in the Geneva Psalter, the melody receives its current name from an association with Psalm 100, in a translation by William Kethe entitled All People That on Earth Do Dwell. The melody is commonly sung with diverse other lyrics as well. The Geneva Psalter was compiled over a number of years in Geneva, Switzerland, a center of Protestant activity during the Reformation, in response to the teaching of John Calvin that communal singing of psalms in the vernacular language is a foundational aspect of church life. This contrasted with the prevailing Catholic practice in which sacred texts were chanted in Latin by the clergy or choir. At Solemn Mass on Sunday we hear a treatment of the Old 100th for organ by Henry Purcell (c. 1659–1695), one of England’s most outstanding musicians and one-time organist at Westminster Abbey. —Mark Peterson
OUTREACH AT SAINT MARY’S . . . Need help finding food or know someone who does? Call 1-800-5-HUNGRY (Why Hunger Hotline, Monday–Friday 9:00 AM–6:00 PM EST) or 1-866-3-HUNGRY (USDA National Hunger Hotline, 8:00 AM–8:00 PM EST) . . . We continue to collect nonperishable food items for our outreach partner, the Food Pantry at Saint Clement’s Church, 423 West Forty-sixth Street . . . If you would like to find out more about the work of Saint Vincent’s School for Handicapped Children in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, please speak to Father.
LGBT PRIDE MARCH . . . The Committee on LGBT Concerns of the Episcopal Diocese of New York is arranging for a float and DJ for the 2015 LGBT Pride March. The march will take place on Sunday, June 28, 2015. Details of where and when to gather have been announced and can be found on the website of the diocese of New York. Donations are still needed and can be made payable to: The Episcopal Diocese of New York, with the notation “LGBT Pride” in the memo section. Checks should be mailed to the archdeacon for mission, The Venerable William C. Parnell, The Episcopal Diocese of New York, 1047 Amsterdam Avenue, New York, NY 10025.
PLEASE MARK YOUR CALENDAR . . . Monday, June 29, Saint Peter and Saint Paul, Mass 12:10 PM and Sung Mass 6:00 PM . . . Friday, July 3, Federal Holiday schedule . . . Saturday, July 4, Independence Day, Noonday Prayer 12:00 PM and Mass 12:10 PM.
AWAY FROM THE PARISH . . . Manhattanhenge: Sunday, July 12, 8:20 PM & Monday, July 13 at 8:21 PM, “[These are days] when the setting sun [will align] precisely with the Manhattan street grid, creating a radiant glow of light across Manhattan's brick and steel canyons, simultaneously illuminating both the north and south sides of every cross street of the borough's grid. A rare and beautiful sight.” July 12: Full sun on the Grid; July 13: Half sun on the Grid. Visit the Hayden Planetarium website for more information . . . At the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, 515 Malcolm X Boulevard, New York, NY, 10037, The 75th Anniversary of the American Negro Theatre: “The Schomburg Center celebrates the seventy-fifth anniversary of [the] renowned American Negro Theatre (ANT) with an exhibition. Known to the locals as ‘The Harlem Library Little Theatre,’ the ANT was founded in 1940 as a community space for thespians to work in productions that illustrated the diversity of black life. This exhibition is taken entirely from the Schomburg Collections and highlights the ANT’s stage productions from 1940 through 1949 with photographs, posters, playbills, and news clippings. Images include scenes from successful plays such as Anna Lucasta, studio workshops, and radio broadcasts featuring prominent talent like Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, Harry Belafonte, Sidney Poitier and Lofton Mitchell, whose careers began at the ANT.” The exhibition is located in the Theatre, and is open Monday, Friday, and Saturday 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday 10:00 AM to 8:00 PM.