FROM THE RECTOR: CHRISTMAS 2015
As I write on Wednesday afternoon, December 23, the city is darkening with the early sunset at the beginning of winter and also with the dark clouds of rainstorm. Yet, the city is bustling. The sidewalks and streets are crowded. The church itself remains largely quiet. But flowers and greens have been delivered. Much work is being done; more will be done tonight after the church closes. Upstairs, the church staff is so ridiculously busy that everyone has a smile on his or her face. It’s great to hear Christmas hymns and music being practiced for the services on Thursday and Friday. Christmas is almost here. The power of this Good News is waiting for you and me. I can hardly wait.
Since 2005 there have been two Eucharists here on Christmas Eve, a Sung Mass at 5:00 PM and Procession & Solemn Mass at 11:00 PM. Christmas music is offered at 4:30 PM and at 10:30 PM. On Christmas Day, the Solemn Mass is at 11:00 AM and concludes with a procession of the clergy and congregation to the crèche. Saturday is the Feast of Saint Stephen; Mass will be at 12:10 PM. On Sunday, December 27, the regular Sunday morning schedule is observed. That evening, in place of Sunday Evensong, we will have a Service of Nine Lessons and Carols at 5:00 PM. It will all be glorious. Promise.
The Sunday gospels of Advent and the beginnings of the gospels of Matthew and Luke tell of God’s work in this world in very different ways. On the First Sunday of Advent we heard of the terror of a vision of the end of time. On the Second Sunday, we heard the beginning of Luke’s account of John the Baptist’s ministry, but as Luke’s narrative continued, we heard on the Third Sunday about a Christ of judgment. The births of John the Baptist and of Jesus themselves are far from terror. They are births of children who are loved. The terror will not come from them but will be done to them. In the end, God shows his great and enduring love for humankind by dying and rising.
When I was first ordained I thought Christmas services seemed to go very fast—perhaps because I was so worried about doing something wrong or something going wrong. At some point in my first years as a rector, I think I settled down and realized that there is something deeply important about our traditional Prayer Book Christmas celebration. I also realized that for most of us, but not all, our worship speaks to the faith in Christ that we have for ourselves and others as our lives unfold.
Every Christmas, like every day, is unique. I hope that the members and friends of Saint Mary’s will be able to celebrate Christ’s Nativity with faith and with great joy. These words come with my wishes that all of us may be surprised with new and renewed grace in our worship and in our homes. Merry Christmas. —Stephen Gerth
YOUR PRAYERS ARE ASKED FOR Charlie, Sylvia, Julie, Michelle, Mary Lou, Yolanda, Willy, Stephen, Chuck, Phillip, Gilbert, John, Walter, Martha, Sally, Sam, Peggy, Maxine, Jean, Quinn, Kenneth, Heidi, Rasheed, Billy, Karen, Catharine, Trevor, Takeem, Arpene, Hanoo, Pamela, religious, Sidney, deacon, Horace, priest, Paulette, priest, Gaylord, priest, and Harry, priest, and for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Matthew. . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . December 27: 1891 Ethel Moore; 1917 Mary Stewart Elliot Carswell; 1926 Arthur Whitson Perry.
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 . . . CONFESSIONS ARE HEARD ON THE SATURDAYS OF CHRISTMASTIDE ONLY BY APPOINTMENT.
OPEN DOORS: THE CAMPAIGN FOR SAINT MARY’S . . . Our Capital Campaign, which was launched on December 8, is off to a good start. Pledge cards continue to arrive. However, we have a long way to go. If you have not made a pledge, or if you did not receive a Campaign packet in the mail, we urge you to contact the parish office as soon as possible. You can find out more about the Campaign and our goals online.
INDIVIDUAL RETIREMENT ACCOUNT (IRA) DONATIONS . . . The “Qualified Charitable Distribution” provision of the tax code has been made permanent. It allows individuals to make direct gifts to charities from their IRAs (Individual Retirement Accounts) with no tax. Applicable only to those who are age 70 1/2 and older, this law allows you to transfer up to $100,000 from your IRA to Saint Mary's Open Doors campaign (or to pay your pledge!) with no taxable income. If you have not yet made a pledge to our campaign, this may make it possible for you to make a significant gift. You may want to speak to your IRA administrator or tax advisor as soon as possible.
STEWARDSHIP CAMPAIGN 2016 . . . This year’s Campaign is going well, but there is still much to do. If you have not yet made a pledge for the coming year, we urge you to do so before year’s end. 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 . . . Saturday, December 26, Saint Stephen, Deacon and Martyr, Mass 12:10 PM . . . Sunday, December 27, The First Sunday after Christmas Day, Mass 9:00 AM & 10:00 AM, Solemn Mass 11:00 AM, A Service of Nine Lessons and Carols 5:00 PM . . . Adult Forum: The Adult Forum has begun its Christmas Break . . . Monday, December 28, Saint John, Apostle & Evangelist (transferred), Mass 12:10 PM and 6:20 PM . . . Tuesday, December 29, The Holy Innocents (transferred), Mass 12:10 PM and 6:20 PM . . . Thursday, December 31, Morning Prayer 8:30 AM, Noonday Prayer 12:00 PM, and Mass 12:10 PM. The church closes at 2:00 PM . . . Friday, January 1, The Holy Name of Jesus, Sung Mass 11:00 AM.
THE BOARD OF TRUSTEES at its December 14, 2015, meeting acknowledged with great thanks the service of Peter Dannenbaum and Mary Robison who completed four-year terms. The board elected Steven Heffner and David Jette to four-year terms. The new board elected Marie Rosseels vice president, Clark Mitchell treasurer, and David Jette secretary. The Rector, ex officio, serves as president of the board.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . John McHale has joined the staff as the parish’s new bookkeeper. He will be working two days per week, normally Monday and Wednesday. John is a faithful Roman Catholic and is active in his parish. He is married and has one daughter. He and his family live on Long Island . . . We are very grateful to former business manager Aaron Koch, who very generously continued to help us while we searched for and trained our new bookkeeper . . . Linda Lees has left the parish staff. We wish her the best in her future endeavors . . . 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 . . . The Rector will be away from the parish from the afternoon of Christmas Day until Monday evening, December 28 . . . Attendance: Last Sunday 257.
FROM THE ORGANIST & MUSIC DIRECTOR . . . On Sunday, December 27, the First Sunday after Christmas Day, the Mass setting at the Solemn Mass will be Missa O magnum mysterium by Tomás Luis de Victoria (c. 1548–1611). The motet at Communion is O magnum mysterium, also by Victoria. Pictures of oxen and donkeys in the stable and in our crèche scenes have contributed to the Nativity imagery of our childhood. Even though there is no mention of these animals in the New Testament birth narratives, they have become an integral part of our experience of Christmas. In the text of O magnum mysterium—a responsorial chant from the Matins of Christmas—we encounter this image again. We are familiar with the way in which Saint John, at the start of his Gospel, unfolds the great mystery of the incarnation. The great Prologue to John’s gospel reaches its climax with the complex idea that “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth” (1:14). But in this Christmas chant text the “great mystery” is earthier, though no less profound theologically. The “mystery” here is that animals see the infant Christ lying in a manger; the humility of the moment where God lies helpless, as a fragile child, is deeply moving. Composers across the generations have shared this sense of marvel and written music that sets out both the fragility of the moment and the immensity of the wonder. Victoria’s version starts with a single exposed melodic idea that slowly accumulates the other voices as the work progresses. The seeming emptiness of the very start soon turns to warmth as the whole choir joins in, and by the close an “alleluia” brings joy and affirmation. We hear this motet at the Communion today, and the composer’s parody mass is our setting for the day. Overt references to the motet are few, but the opening of the Sanctus certainly reminds us of that delicate sense of wonder. —Simon Whalley
MARK YOUR CALENDAR . . . Tuesday, January 5, The Eve of the Epiphany, Solemn Evensong 6:00 PM . . . Wednesday, January 6, The Epiphany, Sung Matins 8:30 AM, Noonday Prayer 12:00 PM, Sung Mass 12:10 PM, Organ Recital 5:30 PM, Solemn Mass 6:00 PM . . . Monday, January 18, The Confession of Saint Peter the Apostle, Noonday Prayer 12:00 PM, Mass 12:10 PM. This day is also Martin Luther King, Jr., Day. The church will open at 10:00 AM and close at 2:00 PM. Only the noonday services are offered and the parish offices will be closed . . . Monday, January 25, The Conversion of Saint Paul the Apostle, Mass 12:10 PM and 6:20 PM . . . February 10, Ash Wednesday.
ADULT EDUCATION . . . The Wednesday Night Bible Study Class: The class will not meet on December 30 or 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
AWAY FROM THE PARISH . . . Saturday, February 13, 10:30 AM, at the Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine, Blessed Absalom Jones Celebration, Bishop Dietsche, celebrant and the Rev. 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.