FROM THE RECTOR: ADVENT TO CHRISTMAS
For reasons that are mostly lost to history Advent is the most complicated season of the church year. By comparison, all of the others are pretty straightforward. I first learned the phrase “liturgical bleeding” in connection with Advent from Father Louis Weil while his student at Nashotah House. Now something else has happened. In my lifetime, Christmas has “bled,” if you will, in the other direction in church and in society. That said, Advent is still Advent officially in the Episcopal Church, and at Saint Mary’s, Christmas is still Christmas. I don’t want to miss any of it.
For the Fourth Sunday of Advent the traditional entrance chant begins with a verse from Isaiah, “Shower, O heavens, from above, and let the skies rain down righteousness; let the earth open, that salvation may sprout forth” (Isaiah 45:8). On Christmas Eve, the chant is from the psalter, “The Lord said to me, ‘You are my Son: today have I begotten you’ ” (Psalm 2:7b). On Christmas Day it begins, “To us a child is born, to us a Son is given” (Isaiah 9:6).
I invite you to come to Mass on Sunday, December 20. The gospel this year is the visitation of Mary to Elizabeth (Luke 1:39–56). Mary is next mentioned by Luke as she and Joseph head for Bethlehem. With some great Advent hymns, not to mention the other appointed lessons, we will look forward to the proclamation of Christ’s birth on Christmas Eve and on Christmas Day.
And speaking of Christmas, the origins of this celebration on December 25 are complicated and also mostly lost to history. I recently came across a really good article, “How December 25 Became Christmas” by liturgical scholar Andrew McGowan, dean, Berkeley Divinity School at Yale, on the website “Bible History Daily.” Many will remember Father McGowan was our preacher for Maundy Thursday this year. His article is a great summary of what we know about the origins of this celebration on this date.
After the Solemn Mass on Christmas Day, I will head to Massachusetts to visit my brother and his family for a couple of days. Our father, many may remember, died last year on Christmas Eve just before the 5:00 PM Mass. After 32 years as a member of the clergy, I’m very used to being physically away from family on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. That said, I feel their presence and their love even when I am away. Now that my parents are both dead, I feel their presence in the Lord too.
I like short titles for these newsletter articles—they fit better on the web page for one thing. But were this title more complete, it would probably be, “Advent to Christmas to Easter.” At our best, our faith in Jesus’ death and resurrection shapes our lives and guards our souls. I wish you a very Merry Christmas. —Stephen Gerth
YOUR PRAYERS ARE ASKED FOR Charlie, Sylvia, Mary Lou, Yolanda, Willy, Stephen, Chuck, John, Phillip, Gilbert, Angelo, Nancy, Jennifer, Christopher, Daniel, Walter, Martha, Sally, Sam, Peggy, Maxine, Jean, Quinn, Kenneth, Heidi, Rasheed, Catherine, Trevor, Takeem, Arpene, Hanoo, Blake, and her unborn child, Pamela, religious, Sidney, 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 souls of Beverly Ruth Neuhaus, deacon, and Jae Chung, priest . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . December 20: 1884 Louis M. Schmidt; 1886 Maggie E. Troy; 1898 Margaret Gillan; 1901 Mary Amelia Lee; 1902 Hartman Vreeland; 1904 Louisa Camps; 1921 Elizabeth de Mandeville; 1936 Edwin G. Wagenseller.
IN THIS TRANSITORY LIFE . . . The Reverend Deacon Beverly Ruth Neuhaus died on Friday, December 11. Deacon Neuhaus was for many years a social worker. Her commitment to the issue of hunger led to her participation in the Staten Island Interfaith Coalition of Feeding Ministries and the Staten Island Task Force on Hunger. After her ordination to the diaconate, she served three parishes on Staten Island. Her husband died in 1999. She is survived by two daughters . . . The Reverend Jae Wook Chung, priest associate at the Church of Saint Ann, Sayville, Long Island, died on Wednesday, December 16, at Stony Brook Medical Center. He was forty-two years old and is survived by his wife, Shin, and four young children. Father Chung was a priest of the Diocese of Long Island, and was a colleague and friend of Bishop Allen Shin and Deacon Anthony Jones. Please keep Deacon Neuhaus, her daughters and friends, Father Chung, his wife and children, his family and friends, and all who mourn in your prayers.
THE FRIDAYS OF CHRISTMASTIDE are not observed by special acts of discipline and self-denial in commemoration of the crucifixion of the Lord. Traditional Friday abstinence resumes on Friday, January 8, 2016.
STEWARDSHIP CAMPAIGN 2016 . . . This year’s Campaign is going well, but there is still much to do. As of December 18, $335.227.00 has been pledged to date. This is 79% of our 2016 goal of $425,000.00. Please call the finance office. Our staff will be happy to fill out a pledge card for 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.
THIS WEEK AT SAINT MARY'S . . . Sunday, December 20, The Fourth Sunday of Advent, Mass 9:00 AM & 10:00 AM, Solemn Mass 11:00 AM, Evensong & Benediction 5:00 PM . . . Adult Forum: The Adult Forum has begun its Christmas Break . . . Monday, December 21, Saint Thomas the Apostle, Mass 12:10 PM and 6:20 PM . . . Thursday, December 24, Christmas Eve, Music 4:30 PM and Mass 5:00 PM; Music 10:30 PM and Procession & Mass 11:00 PM . . . Friday, December 25, Christmas Day, Mass & Procession to the Crèche 11:00 AM . . . Saturday, December 26, Saint Stephen, Deacon and Martyr, Mass 12:10 PM . . . On Saturday, December 19, confessions will be heard by Father Stephen Gerth. On Saturday, December 26, confessions are heard only by appointment.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . Congratulations to parishioner Adam Morrow who is now a trustee for the “Trustees of the Estate and Property of the Diocesan Convention of New York” (TEP). The TEP was established in 1877 to set up to receive and hold in trust property for the benefit of the diocese, its churches, and its institutions . . . The Annual Christmas Appeal was mailed on Friday, December 18. In the Appeal letter, the rector discusses the need to provide some increased security in the church for some hours during each day . . . If you would like to volunteer to decorate the church for Christmas, please contact Marie Rosseels . . . The Reverend Canon C. Allan Ford was named a Canon Theologian at the Diocesan Convention in recognition of his contributions to the diocese and to mark the fiftieth anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood. Canon Ford is a friend of Saint Mary’s. There will be a celebration of Canon Ford’s anniversary at Saint Margaret’s Church, Staatsburg, New York, on December 20, at 4:00 PM . . . December 21, is the thirty-second anniversary of the rector’s ordination to the priesthood . . . Attendance: Last Sunday 217.
FROM THE ORGANIST & MUSIC DIRECTOR . . . The Fourth Sunday of Advent brings us to the threshold of Christmas, and the sense of expectation that has been simmering away throughout the month is on the verge of coming fully to the boil. The music for this week uses some modern techniques of composition that somehow seem entirely suitable for this feeling. The American composer William Albright (1944–1998) combines a preference for harmonically opulent chordal sounds with patterns that introduce “clusters” of pitches. The result—as in the Christe eleison—can be a shimmering sound world: motion and movement are somehow made both still and expectant. A similar essence is heard at the start of the Sanctus where the upper voices chant small melodic ideas against one another at different speeds and the lower voices sing of heaven and earth being “full of thy glory” in a mysterious, slow response. This sense of mystery returns in the beautiful Agnus Dei; a series of rich, low chords is answered by a tiny distant bell. Contemporary Latvian composer Ērics Ešenwalds (b. 1977) uses equivalent rich harmonies, drawn from “clusters” in his work O Emmanuel that we hear as today’s communion motet. Here the chords are derived from the ancient plainchant theme that is used for the last of the great “O antiphons” heard in the week before Christmas: “Come and save us, O Lord our God.” —Simon Whalley
MARK YOUR CALENDAR . . . Sunday, December 27, The First Sunday after Christmas, A Service of Nine Lessons and Carols 5:00 PM . . . Monday, December 28, Saint John the Evangelist (transferred), Mass at 12:10 PM and 6:20 PM . . . Tuesday, December 29, The Holy Innocents (transferred), Mass at 12:10 PM and 6:20 PM . . . Thursday, December 31, Christmas Weekday, Mass 12:10 PM. The church will close at 2:00 PM . . . Friday, January 1, The Holy Name, Sung Mass 11:00 AM.
ADULT EDUCATION . . . The Wednesday Night Bible Study Class: The class will not meet on December 16, 23, or 30, nor on January 6. The class will resume on Wednesday, January 13 . . . Adult Forum, Sundays at 10:00 AM: . . . 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 . . . January 24, To be announced . . . Sunday, January 31 & February 7, Deacon Rebecca Weiner Tompkins will lead a two-part series entitled Concerning Conversion: Considering Christian Turning and Transformation Through Poetic Texts. . . Six Sundays in Lent (February 14, 21, 28 & March 6, 13, and 20) Father Peter Powell will continue his series on the The Succession Narrative: 2 Samuel 11-20; 1 Kings 1-2. —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