FROM THE RECTOR: CHRISTMAS AND EPIPHANY
First, words about the Epiphany. This year our celebration begins on Monday, January 5, with Solemn Evensong on the eve. As is our custom, a quartet will sing the canticles and a motet; the congregation, as always, will do most of the singing. There’s no sermon or Eucharistic benediction at our evensongs on the eves of the principal feasts. It’s a lovely, prayerful service that lasts forty minutes.
On Tuesday, January 6, there are two celebrations of the Eucharist. Father Smith is celebrant and preacher for the 12:10 PM Sung Mass. At the 6:00 PM Solemn Mass we welcome the Very Reverend Stephen Morris, dean, Cathedral Church of St. Peter, St. Petersburg, Florida, to the pulpit. A number of friends and members of our parish live in the greater St. Petersburg area. Over the years I’ve gotten to know Dean Morris. I’ve spoken and preached at the cathedral. Finally he and I were able to get this date on the calendar for him to be with us. Stephen has been dean at Saint Peter’s since 2008. As always on Epiphany, the music and the hymns are great.
Sunday, January 4, is the Second Sunday after Christmas Day. Massey Shepherd (1913–1990) in his still useful Oxford American Prayer Book Commentary (1950) observed, “The old Missals had no liturgical propers for this Sunday, though it occurs four years out of every seven” (pp. 106–107). Before the 1928 book, the American Church followed the Prayer Book tradition of repeating the collect and lessons for January 1, the Circumcision of Christ, now called “The Holy Name.” The lectionary gives three options for the gospel when there is a second Sunday, and we have used the first of these, Matthew 2:13–15, 19–23, the story of the holy family going down into Egypt and returning after the death of Herod. The omitted verses are the story of the Holy Innocents, commemorated on December 28. (The other options are Jesus in the temple at the age of twelve [Luke 2:41–52] or to use the Epiphany gospel [Matthew 2:1–12].)
Paul Bradshaw and Maxwell Johnson cover a lot of ground about Christmas and Epiphany in three short chapters in their book Origins of Feasts, Fasts and Seasons in Early Christianity (2011). That said, the material is not at all simple—the first of these three chapters is called, “25 December: two competing theories” (pp. 123–31). Of more interest to me is the diversity of lectionary readings when these festivals emerge in the east and the west, a time when the questions about Christ’s divinity and humanity, along with questions about the Trinity, occupy the Christian world.
At Rome, where the first evidence for the celebration of December 25 as Jesus’ nativity dates from the year 354 (p. 123), the Christmas gospels are Luke’s nativity and John’s prologue (p. 130). About the east Bradshaw and Johnson write, “We know that already in the late second or early third century the date of 6 January was associated in Egypt both with Christ’s birth and with his baptism in the Jordan . . .” (p. 137). In addition, they note that Jesus’ baptism is also celebrated in Rome, after the Epiphany, though not as a major festival (pp. 154–55). In the west Epiphany was captured, in a sense, by the legends of the wise men a thousand years ago.
Matthew does not name or number the “magi”—wise men, not kings. For them, the child means great joy. Bradshaw and Johnson suggest that it was perhaps Luke, whose birth narrative knows no magi, no star in the east, who supplies the key to understanding the power of the Epiphany in the west, the hymn we know as the Canticle of Simeon, Luke 2:29–32:
Lord, you now have set your servant free to go in peace as you have promised;
For these eyes of mine have seen the Savior, whom you have prepared for all the world to see: a Light to enlighten the nations, and the glory of your people Israel.
I hope that many can join us for the celebration of the Epiphany on Tuesday evening. I invite you to listen for the rich heritage of this celebration not only in our lessons and prayers, but in our hymns. It’s all there. Merry Christmas. Happy New Year. A Blessed Epiphany to all. —Stephen Gerth
YOUR PRAYERS ARE ASKED FOR Abalda, Antony, Katharine, Gerald, Penny, David, Linda, Rosa, Adam, Eric, Maureen, Peter, Barbara, John, Francesca, Pauline, McNeil, Takeem, Rick, Arpene, Heather, Paulette, priest, Harry, priest, and Edgar, priest; for all the members of our Armed Forces on active duty; and for the repose of the souls of Walter Morton and Thomas Palermo . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . January 4: 1906 Leonard Lewis; 1916 Thomas Jefferson Titus; 1931 Gertrude Piehl; 1943 Mary Bond Carl; 1951 Warrington G. Lewis; 1956 Ada Valentine Waters; 1965 Marian Wickes Haines.
IN THIS TRANSITORY LIFE . . . Walter Morton, a former parishioner at Saint Mary’s, died early on the morning of Christmas Day, December 25. He was ninety-two years old. Walter served at Saint Mary’s in a number of ways over the years, as well as at his parish in Brooklyn, Saint Paul’s, Carroll Street. Those who knew Walter will recall that he was a proud veteran of the United States Army. He served his country as a medic during World War II. He was wounded in the invasions of Omaha and Normandy beaches, for which he received the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star medals. In 2010 he received from France its Legion of Honor medal. His funeral will be held at Saint Paul’s at 2:00 PM on Sunday afternoon, January 4, 2015. Following the Mass of Resurrection his cremated remains will be placed in the parish columbarium. Saint Paul’s is located at 199 Carroll Street, on the corner of Carroll and Clinton Streets.
THE COMPLETE SCHEDULE FOR THE TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS and the Epiphany has been posted on the parish webpage.
THE FRIDAYS OF THE CHRISTMAS SEASON are not observed by special acts of discipline and self-denial in commemoration of the crucifixion of the Lord. Friday abstinence returns beginning on the first Friday after the Epiphany, January 9, 2015.
STEWARDSHIP 2015 . . . As of Wednesday, December 31, we have received pledges from 155 households. $402,333.00, 95% of our $425,000.00 goal has been pledged to date. We are so very close to meeting our goal! The months of December and January are a crucial time for the pledge campaign. Because the Budget Committee will be meeting soon to draw up a budget for 2015, we would like to receive all of our pledges by mid-January at the latest. If you are planning to make a pledge, but are not yet sure of your financial situation for 2015, we suggest that you make a conservative estimate and then submit a pledge card. You can always make adjustments during the coming year. Our business manager, Aaron Koch, would be happy to assist you with any adjustments. If you have not yet made a pledge, we urge you to do so. Please help us to continue our mission and ministry here in Times Square. —Jay Smith
THIS WEEK AT SAINT MARY'S . . . Confessions are not heard except by appointment during the Christmas season . . . The Wednesday Night Bible Study Class will not meet on December 31 or on January 7 . . . Confessions will be heard on January 10 by Father Jay Smith.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . Parishioners Anthony Marcantuono and Vanessa Tarantino were united in Holy Matrimony on Friday, January 2, here at Saint Mary’s. Please keep them in your prayers . . . Parishioner Gerald McKelvey had surgery at Mount Sinai Hospital just before Christmas. He remains in the ICU at Mount Sinai, where he continues to recuperate. Please keep him in your prayers . . . Flowers are needed for Sunday, January 18, and for two Sundays the following month, February 8 and 15 . . . We also hope to receive donations to defray the costs of the reception following the Solemn Mass on Candlemas, February 2. If you would like to make a donation, please contact Aaron Koch in the parish office . . . Attendance: Last Sunday 270, Holy Name 42.
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. His work was particularly well thought of by Johann Sebastian Bach, who studied and performed it while writing his own masterpiece, the B minor Mass. Of the 104 Masses that are universally accepted as having been written by Palestrina, almost half are examples of the so-called “parody Mass,” taking pre-existing bits of polyphony as their starting point, and by way of adaptation and development, threading the five Mass movements together into a related whole. In several cases, Palestrina’s own motets provided that musical material. Such is the case with the Mass setting for Solemn Mass on Sunday. The Missa “Aeterna Christi Munera,” a later work, presents Palestrina at the height of his creative powers. Set for four voices, with the addition of an extra voice (in this case a second tenor) at the Agnus Dei, this brief, concise Mass is characterized throughout by the simplicity and clarity of the vocal writing, as well as the fluency and charm of its melodic lines. At the ministration of Holy Communion today we will hear a popular work by Carl August Peter Cornelius (1824–1874), a German composer, music commentator, poet, and translator. His best-known work, “The Three Kings,” is an anthem for solo voice and chorus in which the soloist sings “Three Kings from Persian lands afar . . . ” to an entirely new tune by Cornelius over the choir, which performs the German chorale “How brightly shines the morning star.” This anthem has been a fixture of the seasonal services at King’s College, Cambridge, an institution that has influenced so much of the music of Christmastide. —Mark Peterson
CHRISTIAN EDUCATION . . . The Wednesday Night Bible Study Class will meet again on Wednesday, January 14, 2015 . . . The Sunday-morning, adult-education class will resume on January 25. Parishioner Mary Robison will teach a two-part series (January 25 and February 1) on Women's Ministries in the Episcopal Church. The first class, on January 25, will focus on the work and ministry of deaconesses. ("Following the example of German Lutherans in the early nineteenth century, and later of English Anglicans, during 1885–1970 almost five hundred Episcopal women were ‘set apart’ as deaconesses to care for ‘the sick, the afflicted, and the poor.’ The 1889 General Convention passed a canon on deaconesses that recognized their ministry. This canon reflected the influence of Mary Abbot Emery and William Reed Huntington.") See the website of the Episcopal Church for more information—and come to Mary's class! Mary is an archivist and librarian at the General Theological Seminary. Here at the parish she serves in a number of ways. Among other things, she serves as an usher, a reader, and as the secretary of the Board of Trustees. —J.R.S.
OUTREACH . . . New York Cares Coat Drive: The cold weather has clearly arrived in New York. The annual coat drive continues. For more information about how and where to donate, please visit the New York Cares website . . . We continue to collect nonperishable items for our friends and partners at the Saint Clement's Food Pantry. Cash donations are also most welcome.
AWAY FROM THE PARISH. . . At the Metropolitan Museum, 1000 Fifth Avenue (between Eighty-seventh & Eighty-eighth Streets), New York, New York, Christmas Tree and Neapolitan Baroque Crèche, until January 6, 2015. Gallery 305 . . . Wednesday, January 14, 2015, 1:15 PM, New York Public Library, Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, Fifth Avenue at Forty-second Street, South Court Auditorium, A Lecture by T. Felder Dorn, Battle of the Bishops: A Slavery Controversy in Pennsylvania in 1863. Dr. Dorn will examine the responses of American Episcopal bishops in the period 1840–1875 to slavery and to the tumultuous events and issues that derived from that institution. The words and actions of Northern as well as Southern bishops will be discussed. The lecture will focus in a particular way on an affair that occurred in the diocese of Pennsylvania during the middle of the Civil War, when Bishop John Henry Hopkins, bishop of Vermont, wrote a pamphlet defending slavery and distributed the pamphlet in Pennsylvania, an action that outraged the bishop of Pennsylvania, Alonzo Potter, who opposed slavery and who was offended by Hopkins's interference in his diocese.