FROM THE RECTOR: SILENCE IN LENT
Saint Mary’s offers us a beautiful and acoustically alive space for worship. It’s very kind to all who sing. It is one reason our choral program is so strong and so varied. Our organ was built to take full advantage of the acoustic—and it does. There are many Sundays when I am aware of the congregation singing the Lord’s Prayer and other chants almost with one voice. I look forward to the greater simplicity of the Sundays in Lent because these strengths—our building, the acoustic and our congregation’s willingness to sing—have enabled us to limit the use of the organ to accompany hymns. Just after Christmas Simon Whalley and I met to discuss the music in Lent. He wondered if the choir might sing from the chancel instead of the gallery. I said, “Let’s try it.”
The tradition has been that except on the Fourth Sunday in Lent—when flowers are used, rose-colored vestments worn, and hymns are accompanied—the organ was played only to sustain singing. In practice this meant that one or more verses of every hymn would be accompanied lightly, and the rest of the hymn would be sung a capella. It has worked well. As our conversations continued, Simon wondered if we needed to use the organ at all—except on the Fourth Sunday in Lent. Again, my response was, “Let’s try it.” We have eight wonderful members of the choir to lead our singing and, when appropriate, to provide harmony.
If you are new to the congregation I hope you will experience our abstinence from organ music as most of us do: it shapes our prayer in a powerful way. There’s no escaping that it is Lent at Saint Mary’s. We hear, and are aware, of everyone in the church in a different way. The practice invites everyone as he or she is able to praise God with one voice. The silence and the singing can be, God willing, profoundly beautiful.
On forty-seven Sundays and on all of the greater feasts of the year we have truly glorious organ music in our worship. We hear a little more organ on the Fourth Sunday in Lent—and on that Sunday, March 6, the Mass ordinary at the Solemn Mass will be an organ-accompanied setting, Messe Basse by Gabriel Fauré (1845–1924).
Except at the Liturgy of the Palms on Palm Sunday, the organ is not played at all during Holy Week. Its music returns with all its power and glory for Easter. I’ve asked Simon to play Marcel Dupré’s (1886–1971) transcription of the Choral-Improvisation sur le Victimae Paschali laudes by Charles Tournemire (1870–1939) after the Easter Vigil. It’s music I never knew before I came to Saint Mary’s. By the time the first great chord crashes, you know Christ is risen. In the end, that’s what our lives are all about. —Stephen Gerth
YOUR PRAYERS ARE ASKED FOR Julie, Alice, Kris, Claudia, Megan, Francesca, Brent, Christian, Mary, Brad, Rob, Sylvia, John, Pearl, Noel, Jason, Stephen, Walter, Martha, Sally, Sam, Jean, Quinn, Heidi, Rasheed, Billy, Karen, Catherine, Trevor, Takeem, Arpene, Mazdak, Sidney, deacon, Paulette, priest, Gaylord, priest, and Harry, priest, and for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Mark and Nicholas. . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . February 14: 1882 Albertus Longfellow Garden; 1895 Alfonso Rubira; 1953 Walter Petrie Mason.
THE WEEKDAYS OF LENT are observed by special acts of discipline and self-denial. The Fridays of Lent are also observed traditionally by abstinence from flesh meats. Abstinence is not observed on Sundays in Lent or on Saint Joseph’s Day, Saturday, March 19. (This year, the Feast of the Annunciation, March 25, will be celebrated on Monday, April 4. When March 25 occurs during Lent, the day is not observed by abstinence.)
FRIDAYS IN LENT . . . Stations of the Cross will be prayed weekly on Fridays at 6:30 PM. You are invited to join us.
LENTEN QUIET DAY . . . Saturday, February 20, 9:30 AM to 3:00 PM, Lenten Quiet Day, led by Sister Monica Clare, C.S.J.B. Sister Monica writes, “What is God calling you to do? In the noise and chaos of modern life, how can we hear God’s counsel and direction? During the Quiet Day on February 20 I hope to share some of the gifts of the vowed Religious life that can be used to build a quiet, peaceful space in order to listen to God in your own hectic world.” The schedule for the day is as follows: We will gather at 9:30 AM for coffee and introductions. The first address is at 10:00 AM. The second address is at 11:00 AM. The noonday services begin at 12:00 PM. Lunch follows at around 1:00 PM. The third address will begin at 2:00 PM. Final prayers and dismissal will take place around 3:00 PM. Opportunities for quiet in the church and Saint Joseph’s Hall will be provided. All are welcome. Please feel free to bring knitting, reading, or any project you can do quietly while meditating. Please RSVP if you plan to attend so we can make plans for lunch. A $10.00 donation from those attending would be welcome.
THIS WEEK AT SAINT MARY'S . . . Saint Mary’s on Sunday: February 14, the First Sunday in Lent: Matins 8:30 AM, Mass 9:00 AM & 10:00 AM, Adult Forum 10:00 AM, Solemn Mass 11:00 AM, Evensong & Benediction 5:00 PM . . . Monday, February 14, Washington’s Birthday Federal Holiday: The church will be open from 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM. The noonday services will be offered. The parish office will be closed . . . The Wednesday Night Bible Study Class will resume on February 17 at 6:30 PM . . . Friday, February 12, Evening Prayer 6:00 PM & Stations of the Cross 6:30 PM.
ADULT EDUCATION . . . Beginning on Sunday, February 14, at 10:00 AM, on the second floor of the Mission House, Father Peter Powell will continue the second part of his series on The Succession Narrative: 2 Samuel 11–20; 1 Kings 1–2. This class will continue throughout the season of Lent, meeting on Sunday, February 21 and 28, and March 6, 13, and 20 . . . Next up: Beginning on Sunday, April 3, Matthew Jacobson will begin his four-part series, Reading the Fathers: An Exploration of the History, Spirituality & Theology of the Early Church.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . Thank you to all those who worked so hard here at the parish from before sunrise until after 8:00 PM on Ash Wednesday. Your dedication and commitment made possible a vital ministry to our members, friends, and neighbors . . . Flowers are needed for all the Sundays in Eastertide. If you would like to make a donation, please contact the parish office . . . Attendance: Last Sunday 220; Ash Wednesday Liturgies 399.
FROM THE ORGANIST & MUSIC DIRECTOR . . . Contemplating angels, in his Ash Wednesday poem from The Christian Year, John Keble wrote, “…far beyond the sound of praise/With upward eye they float serene.” This coming Sunday, the First Sunday in Lent, we move beyond the “sound of praise” that resonated in the church last week as we enter into this most austere of seasons. The organ will remain silent throughout the Solemn Mass on Sunday, and so the hymns will have no instrumental accompaniment. At the start of each hymn, the choir will sing the first line and the congregation is invited to join in thereafter. As our communion motet we will hear the eight-voice Crucifixus by the Venetian composer Antonio Lotti (c. 1667–1740). This composer, who was maestro di basilica at Saint Mark’s for much of his life, bridged the late Baroque and early Classical periods happily; in the Crucifixus we hear the opening’s beautifully controlled counterpoint, with its pained dissonances, giving way to a homophonic texture for the closing phrase. Lotti was evidently hugely sensitive to the dark text, which comes from the Creed of the Mass Ordinary. He set it in several different Masses and—as in this example—the intensity of expression that he summoned to his versions is really arresting. When the historian Charles Burney (1726–1814) heard the music at Saint Mark’s in 1770 he wrote that “it affected me even to tears.” —Simon Whalley
OUTREACH AT SAINT MARY’S . . . We are collecting warm clothing (coats, jackets, scarves, hats, and gloves) for distribution here at the parish. Please bring donations to the parish kitchen on Sunday or contact Father Jay Smith . . . 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
MARK YOUR CALENDAR . . . Wednesday, February 24, Saint Matthias, Mass 12:10 PM & 6:20 PM . . . Saturday, March 19, Saint Joseph, Mass 12:10 PM & 6:20 PM.
AWAY FROM THE PARISH . . . Saturday, February 13, 10:30 AM, at the Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine, Blessed Absalom Jones Celebration, Bishop Andrew M.L. Dietsche, celebrant, and the Reverend Canon Stephanie Spellers, preacher. Canon Spellers is the author of The Episcopal Way (the first volume in the new Church's Teachings for a Changing World series) and Radical Welcome: Embracing God, The Other and the Spirit of Transformation. She teaches and directs programs in mission, reconciliation, and formation at General Theological Seminary in New York City.