FROM THE RECTOR: ADVENT 1870–2015
In 1870 the First Sunday of Advent fell on November 27. Eleven days remained until the doors of a new parish for a new neighborhood, then called Longacre Square, would open for its first service. Things have not been the same in the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America since the doors of the Church of Saint Mary the Virgin opened.
Eight people signed the certificate of incorporation for “The Society of the Free Church of St. Mary the Virgin” on October 22, 1868, including the priest who would become the parish’s first rector, Thomas McKee Brown (1841–1898). But, work on the new church did not begin right away. Newbury Frost Read (1887–1950) in his book The Story of St. Mary’s (1931) suggests “Black Friday 1869” as a possible explanation. That year Jay Gould (1836–1892) and James Fisk (1835–1872) tried to corner the gold market. The crisis ended with a market panic on Friday, September 24. Work on the new church seems to have started in earnest in the spring of 1870. By November 18, 1870, the board could meet in the new “church reading room.”
On Tuesday, December 8, 2015, God willing, the parish will celebrate its 145th anniversary of its opening and the beginning of “Open Doors: The Capital Campaign for the Church of Saint Mary the Virgin.” The Most Reverend Frank T. Griswold, XXV Presiding Bishop, will be celebrant and preacher. There will be a special reception to mark the campaign’s beginning. (Yes, there’s going to be a 150th anniversary celebration in five years, but we’ve got some work to do before then!)
Both the parish’s annual celebration of its common life on December 8 and the annual celebration of Christmas come in the last month of the civil year when worship in the Christian West is mostly about the end of all things rather than new beginnings. To my mind, New Testament scholar Raymond Brown’s (1928–1998) suggestion that the gospel lessons for Advent might better be the material Matthew and Luke used as preparation for the two Christmas birth stories has much to recommend it.
The liturgies of Advent are marked by what liturgical scholar Louis Weil calls “bleeding,” in this case, Lent into Advent. The color of the season is purple. Flowers are used only on the one Sunday when rose-colored vestments are worn. Glory to God in the highest is not sung or said; instead, Lord, have mercy is used. That said, “Alleluia” is still used before the proclamation of the gospel. On Sunday we will begin using Eucharistic Prayer B at our Solemn Masses until Ash Wednesday because of its emphasis on the incarnation of Christ and our adoption as God’s “sons and daughters” (BCP , 367–69)—and there’s nothing penitential about that theology.
I’ve found myself over the last few weeks saying to congregations at the daily Mass, “Go to church on Sunday.” I say it gently and with a smile, but there is a lot behind it. Sundays matter for Christians, and they always have. I invite you specially to begin the church year with the fellowship, to use the words of Charles Wesley (1707–1788), of the “saints on earth” who will gather at the Lord’s Table for worship “with those whose work is done” (The Hymnal 1982, no. 526). —Stephen Gerth
YOUR PRAYERS ARE ASKED FOR Penny, Philip, John, Gilbert, David, Walter, Martha, Lisa, Sally, Sam, Peggy, Maxine, Jean, Quinn, Mala, Kenneth, Heidi, Rasheed, Catherine, Trevor, Takeem, Arpene, Phillipe, Matthew, José, Pamela, religious, Horace, deacon, Sidney, deacon, Lawrence, deacon, Horace, priest, Paulette, priest, Gaylord, priest, and Harry, priest; for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Matthew; and for the repose of the soul of Mary Ethel Leggett Sandahl . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . November 29: 1893 Adolph Seitz; 1907 Peter Heim; 1929 Mabel R. Beardsley; 1935 Helen Morgan Fahnestock; 1949 Amelia Isobel Pratt.
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 CAMPAIGN . . . As of Saturday, November 21, we have received pledges from 77 households. $246,677.00, 58% of our $425,000.00 goal, has been pledged to date. The end of the year is a crucial time for the pledge campaign. We need to maintain the momentum of the campaign’s first weeks. We urge all members and friends to return their pledge cards as soon as possible, either by mail or by placing your pledge card in the collection basket at Mass on Sunday morning. 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 questions about stewardship, please ask to speak to a member of the Stewardship Committee, MaryJane Boland, Steven Heffner, or Marie Rosseels; and please pray for the success of this year’s Stewardship Campaign
THIS WEEK AT SAINT MARY'S . . . Saturday, November 28, 7:00 PM, Concert: The Trident Ensemble . . . Sunday, November 29, The First Sunday of Advent, Mass 9:00 AM & 10:00 AM, Solemn Mass 11:00 AM, Evensong & Benediction 5:00 PM. The Adult Forum will not meet on Sunday, November 29 . . . Monday, November 30, Saint Andrew the Apostle, Mass 12:10 PM & 6:20 PM . . . Tuesday, December 1, World AIDS Day . . . Wednesday, December 2, 6:30 PM, the Wednesday Night Bible Study Class resumes in Saint Joseph’s Hall . . . On Saturday, November 28, confessions will be heard by Father Jim Pace, and on Saturday, December 6, confessions will be heard by Father Jay Smith.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . If you would like to volunteer to decorate the church for Christmas, please contact Marie Rosseels . . . Altar flowers are needed for the feast of the Epiphany (January 6) and for all of the Sundays in January. If you would like to make a donation, please contact the parish office . . . Attendance: Last Sunday 220; Thanksgiving Day 69.
FROM THE ORGANIST & MUSIC DIRECTOR . . . William Byrd (1540–1623) composed at least three settings of the Mass ordinary in his lifetime, written to be sung at private Roman Catholic Masses and published (somewhat perilously, given the laws in Protestant England at the time) between 1592 and 1595, during the reign of Elizabeth I. Of these, the Mass for Four Voices that we sing at the Solemn Mass on Sunday was the earliest and—like the others in the set—it exemplifies a more austere and concise style of writing than he had explored in the previous decade. In his Masses Byrd shows the influence of his distant English musical forebear John Taverner (c.1490–1545), most particularly in the serene opening of the Sanctus. The style of continental composers is also to be heard in much of Byrd’s musical language, but two features especially stand out as being new and individual. Unlike most Masses written at this time, there is no plainchant melody from which the melodic or motivic material is drawn; Byrd uses similar “head themes” to open each movement but then enjoys a freedom of melodic invention for much of what follows. Also, unusually, the phrases of the shorter movements are set with no greater elaboration than the longer texts—the Gloria and the Credo—as was the case for his contemporaries. In the Agnus Dei of this Sunday’s Mass, however, there is a more spacious approach and a gratifyingly affecting contrast between the consonant harmonies and expansive lines of the opening petitions and the poignant chromaticism of the closing measures in the words “Dona nobis pacem.” The political and religious tensions of Byrd’s day are different from ours over four hundred years later, but the musical and spiritual impact as the composer entreats God for peace has a deeply powerful resonance for us today —Simon Whalley
A VOLUNTEER OPPORTUNITY . . . The New York City Department of Homeless Services is seeking volunteers for its upcoming Homeless Outreach Population Estimate (the “HOPE Count”), which will take place on Monday, January 25–26, between 10:00 PM and 2:00 AM. Volunteers should be eighteen years of age or older, and will be able to choose their volunteer site when they register on the departmental web site. Volunteers will report to their respective sites, where a HOPE Count representative, or captain, will lead volunteers into their selected communities and will provide instructions about how to accurately count the city’s homeless people. If you would like to volunteer for the HOPE Count, please contact Father Jay Smith, and he will register the Saint Mary’s contingent as a group. Members of the parish have done the Count in the past and have found it to be rewarding work.
MARK YOUR CALENDAR . . . Monday, December 7, Eve of the Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Solemn Evensong 6:00 PM . . . Tuesday, December 8, The Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Matins 8:30 AM, Noonday Prayer 12:00 PM, Sung Mass 12:10 PM, Organ Recital 5:30 PM (Simon Whalley, recitalist), Solemn Pontifical Mass 6:00 PM, Reception & Launch of the Open Doors Capital Campaign in Saint Joseph’s Hall 7:30 PM . . . Monday, December 21, Saint Thomas the Apostle, Mass 12:10 PM & 6:20 PM . . . Thursday, December 24, Christmas Eve, Music 4:30 PM & Mass 5:00 PM, Music 10:30 PM & Procession and Mass 11:00 PM . . . Friday, December 25, Christmas Day, Mass and Procession to the Crèche 11:00 AM . . . Sunday, December 27, The First Sunday after Christmas, A Service of Nine Lessons and Carols 5:00 PM.
ADULT EDUCATION . . . The Wednesday Night Bible Study Class resumes on December 2 at 6:30 PM in Saint Joseph’s Hall . . . Sunday, December 6, seminarian Matthew Jacobson will discuss the image of Jesus as Good Shepherd in early Christian art . . . Sunday, December 13, Father Jay Smith will discuss the Icon of Christ Pantokrator (“Almighty” or “All-powerful”) . . . January 10 and 17, Canon Michael Barlowe, Executive Officer of General Convention of the Episcopal Church, will lead the class in a discussion of Episcopal polity and governance. (This will be a very useful class for those preparing for Confirmation or Reception, as well as for those who want to learn more about what our church believes and how it works.) In this series, Canon Barlowe will address such topics as the workings of General Convention, legislation passed at this summer’s convention in Salt Lake City, the role of the Presiding Bishop in the Episcopal Church, and the mechanism for electing a Presiding Bishop in our church. — Jay Smith
OUTREACH AT SAINT MARY’S . . . We continue to collect nonperishable food items for our outreach partner, the Food Pantry at Saint Clement’s Church, 423 West Forty-sixth Street . . . The Saint Mary’s Book Sale continues on Sunday mornings. All proceeds are used to serve those in need at Saint Mary’s, in our neighborhood, and beyond . . . 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). —Jay Smith
CONCERTS AT SAINT MARY’S . . . Friday, December 4, 2015, 8:00 PM, Young New Yorkers Chorus, Michael Kerschner, artistic director: The Triumph of the Sky—A Fifteenth-Anniversary Holiday Concert. Tickets may be purchased online . . . Saturday, December 5, 2015, 8:00 PM, Miller Theater at Columbia University presents The Tallis Scholars, Peter Phillips, director: Sacred Muses—An Exploration of the Works of William Byrd. Tickets are available online or by calling 212-854-7799 . . . Friday, December 11, 2015, 8:00 PM, New York City Master Chorale, Thea Kano, artistic director: Rheinberger, Der Stern von Bethlehem and other favorite holiday carols, featuring special guest, the Reaching for the Arts Choir. Tickets available only from New York City Master Chorale . . . Saturday, December 12, 2015, 8:00 PM, New York Repertory Orchestra, David Leibowitz, conductor: Gustav Mahler, Symphony No. 9. Annual Benefit Concert. $10.00 admission at the door.