DECEMBER 25, 2016
FROM THE RECTOR: CHRISTMAS 2017
Christmas Day is a Sunday this year. We will celebrate all of our regular Sunday morning services, but not Sunday Evensong. The church will close at 2:00 PM. On Christmas Eve, Sung Mass of the Nativity will be at 5:00 PM and Procession & Solemn Mass will be at 11:00 PM. Christmas music will be at 4:30 PM and 10:30 PM.
The celebration of Christmas emerged in the fourth and fifth centuries in the midst of the
theological controversies concerning Christ's divinity and the nature of the union of two distinct natures, the divine and the human, in the one person, Jesus Christ. Our Prayer Book contains the definition of that union from the acts of the Council of Chalcedon in A.D. 451. It begins, "Therefore, following the holy fathers, we all with one accord teach men to acknowledge one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, at once complete in Godhead and complete in manhood, truly God and truly man . . ." (page 864).
The first evidence of the celebration of December 25 as the date of Jesus' birth comes from the city of Rome in the year 354 (P. Bradshaw and M. Johnson, The Origins of Fasts, Feasts and Seasons in Early Christianity , 123). Two gospel lessons are associated with the December 25 celebrations, Luke's story of Jesus' birth and the beginning of John who tells us who Jesus is-the Word made flesh (Ibid., 130).
If I read Adolf Adam (1912-2005) correctly, the epistles and gospels for Christmas Eve (Titus and Luke) and Christmas Day (Hebrews and John) are associated with December 25 in the oldest lectionaries we have-those from sixth-century Rome (The Liturgical Year, trans. Matthew O'Connell , 126; Enrico Palazzo, A History of Liturgical Books , 85). With our new Prayer Book, Christmas Eve now has a wonderful first lesson from Isaiah. The passage begins, "The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light . . . " (see Isaiah 9:2-4, 6-7). For me this lesson is the most emotionally powerful of all the lessons we hear at the Christmas Masses. It's one of three lessons I prefer not to read aloud at the Eucharist or at the Daily Office. (The other two are from John, the Healing of the Man Born Blind [9:1-41] and the Raising of Lazarus [John 11:1-44].) When I hear them, God seems more than real, more than close, more than present.
In his last year at seminary, Father Ryan Lesh sent me a copy of New Testament scholar Sandra Schneiders' book, The Revelatory Text: Interpreting the New Testament as Sacred Scripture, 2nd ed. (1999)-for which I remain thankful. In this second edition, Schneiders wrote that in the French edition of her book, the translator rendered the title as La Texte de la Rencontre (1995), which she called, "a felicitous play on "la tente de la rencontre" or the "meeting tent" where Moses and through him, the Israelites, encountered and conversed with God (page xix).
To those readers of this newsletter who are near and are able to be with us, I look forward to welcoming you at Christmas at Saint Mary's. To members and friends who treasure and support the witness and work of this parish who are unable to be with us, I want you to know that you are always with us in the Lord when we gather in his Name. Merry Christmas. -Stephen Gerth
OUR PRAYERS ARE ASKED FOR Jerry, Alexander, Edwin, May, Clara, Claudette, Robert, Nicole, Dolly, Melissa, Juliana, Heidi, Barbara, Jean, Catherine, Sam, Rita, Sharon, Donald, Linda, Penny, George, Burton, Takeem, Toussaint, Abraham; Sidney, deacon; Horace, Hamilton, Gaylord, Harry, Jay, Louis, and Carl, priests; all victims of war, poverty, famine, and disaster, especially the people of Syria; the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Mark; and for the repose of the soul of Julie Sandri . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . December 25: 1870 William Scott Brown; 1874 Elizabeth Robertson Stanley; 1915 Ethel Smith; 1936 Sara Emily Parker Peabody and Charles Lewis Carrsmann, Jr.; 1947 Grace Whittmore.
IN THIS TRANSITORY LIFE . . . Julie Sandri died on Tuesday night at Mount Sinai West Hospital (formerly Roosevelt Hospital). She died of pancreatic cancer almost exactly a year after she received her very difficult diagnosis. Julie was a longtime and faithful member of this parish. Her courage, wit, and faith during the past year have been an inspiration to those who knew and worshipped with her. Julie was, among other things, a musician, a teacher, a potter, an accomplished linguist, and a mother. She taught voice for many years at LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts. Members of her family, including her former husband, Tom Sandri, and their daughter, Vanessa, were able to be with her during the days before her death. Tom was with her when she died. Please keep Julie, Tom, Vanessa, their family and friends, Julie's students and colleagues, 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 13, 2017.
COMPANIONS OF CHRIST. . . The three Holy Days after Christmas Day commemorate those who, in Latin, are known as Comites Christi, "Companions of Christ" . . . Monday, December 26 is the feast of Saint Stephen, Deacon and Martyr. The church will be open on the regular schedule, but the only services will be 12:00 PM Noonday Prayer and 12:10 PM Mass . . . On Tuesday, December 27, the feast of Saint John, Apostle and Evangelist, and on Wednesday, December 28, the feast of The Holy Innocents, in addition to the regular schedule of services, Mass will also be celebrated at 6:20 PM.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . George Taitt has been receiving treatment at the Brooklyn United Methodist Church Home. He hopes to return home soon . . . Linda Bridges continues to receive treatment at the Sarah Neuman Campus of the New Jewish Home in Mamaroneck, Westchester County . . . Abraham Rochester is at home and has been making good progress with his treatment and physical therapy. He and his wife, Suzanne, hope to be back at Saint Mary's periodically in the New Year . . . Dennis Smith is at home and is unable to come to Mass as frequently as in the past. He hopes to be here for Christmas and more frequently in the New Year . . . Please keep George, Linda, Abe, and Dennis in your prayers . . . The parish office will be closed on Monday, December 26 . . . The art exhibit, Water, Light, City: Paintings by Ricardo Mulero, continues in the Gallery in Saint Joseph's Hall. For more information, contact curator José Vidal. . . Our seminarian, Dr. Matthew Jacobson, has begun his Christmas break, though he will be with us, serving at the altar, on Christmas Eve. He will be taking the General Ordination Exams (GOEs) during the first week of January. Please keep Matt in your prayers . . . Attendance: Last Sunday 205.
FROM DR. DAVID HURD . . . At the musical prelude before both of the Christmas Eve Masses, the choir will sing a five-voice motet, Gaudete omnes by Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck (1562-1621) that appeared in his Cantiones Sacrae 1619, published in Antwerp. The legacy of Sweelink as an organist, composer and teacher is so highly regarded in his homeland that his likeness was featured on the twenty-five guilder note issued by the Central Bank of the Netherlands in 1971. However, Sweelinck's reputation and influence in his time-which bridged the late Renaissance and the early Baroque period-went far beyond his native Holland. He was among the first major composers of keyboard music, and his influence was foundational in shaping the North German organ tradition. The motet's Latin text, derived from Psalm 98, is presented in a lively and expressive context of skillful imitative polyphony.
I began a practice of sending out an original musical composition as a Christmas greeting in 1983, and I have done so every year to the present. The choir will sing two of them during the musical preludes. The 1988 Christmas greeting was a new setting of the first three stanzas of William C. Dix's 1867 poem "The Manger Throne." Dix's carol text had previously appeared as No. 548 in The Hymnal 1916 with music by Charles Steggall, also composed in 1867. The 1988 choral setting of three of Dix's four stanzas-with "alleluia" inserted in the middle of each-reflects at once a serenity and a brilliance in the night of Christ's birth. Pulitzer Prize-winning American poet Richard Wilbur's 1961 collection Advice to a Prophet, and Other Poems included "A Christmas Hymn," which has become well known as a hymn in recent years. My musical setting of Wilbur's words first appeared as No. 104 in The Hymnal 1982 and has since been included in many other hymnals. The hymn tune is a ballad-like art song and is dedicated to Lily Andújar Rogers under whose direction I sang as a child in the choir of boys and men of Saint Gabriel's Church, Hollis, New York. The anthem version heard this evening is a choral and instrumental overlay for the original hymn setting.
Included at the musical prelude before the 5:00 PM Sung Mass will also be works by the Italian Renaissance composers Costanzo Antegnati (1549-1624), Giovanni Paolo Cima (c. 1570-1630), and Luca Marenzio (1533-1599), arranged for brass quartet of two trumpets, horn, and trombone, and played by Saint Mary's Brass Ensemble under the direction of Christopher Bubolz.
The musical setting of the Sung Mass at 5:00 PM is the Missa Brevis by Andrea Gabrieli (c. 1533-1585). Andrea Gabrieli, uncle of the even more prolific Giovanni Gabrieli (c. 1556-1612), is credited with bringing international stature to the Venetian musical compositional culture, where the Netherlands school had previously been dominant. Andrea Gabrieli, composer and organist, is principally associated with Saint Mark's, Venice, where he was organist from 1566 until his death. It is in this post that his reputation as a composer soared, and he became known especially for his ceremonial music. Gabrieli's style included mediating the juncture of polyphonic and homophonic textures, use of voices and instruments together in choirs, and setting multiple choirs of musicians in vibrant dialogue with one another. The Missa Brevis is a relatively modest work in four voices. While much of the text of this setting is declaimed in rhythmic unison, imitative counterpoint and flowing melodic lines are also very much in evidence. The Agnus Dei has two independent tenor parts and, thus, the enhanced richness of a five-voice texture.
Benjamin Britten (1913-1976) is recognized as one the most important twentieth-century English composers. His setting of the anonymous thirteenth-century macaronic carol "Of one that is so fair and bright," sung during the administration of Communion, was composed in 1930. It is a dialogue between two choruses, each comprising four voices. Chorus I's phrases sung in English are met with Chorus II's responses in Latin.
At the Solemn Mass on Christmas Eve and on Christmas Day, the musical setting of the Mass is Missa O Magnum Mysterium of Tomás Luís de Victoria (1548-1611). Victoria, considered the most important Spanish composer of Renaissance polyphony, was born in Avila, the seventh of eleven children. He began his musical education as a choirboy at Avila Cathedral, and his classical education at San Gil, a Jesuit school for boys founded in 1554. By 1565, Victoria had entered the Jesuit Collegio Germanico in Rome, where he was later engaged to teach music and eventually named maestro di cappella. Victoria knew and may have been instructed by Palestrina (1525-1594), who was maestro di cappella of the nearby Seminario Romano at that time. During his years in Rome, Victoria held several positions as singer, organist, and choral master, and he also published many of his compositions. He was ordained priest in 1575 after a three-day diaconate. There are twenty authenticated Mass settings of Victoria. The Missa O Magnum Mysterium, dated 1592, is one of fifteen of Victoria in the style of Missa parodia. In this case, Victoria parodies his own motet of the same title, which had been composed twenty years earlier in 1572. Victoria's manner of parody normally resists the usual practice of beginning each Mass movement with a clear reference to the motet from which its themes are derived. Rather, he skillfully selects his borrowed themes and applies them where they best serve their new texts. Missa O Magnum Mysterium is in four voices until the Agnus Dei, which adds a second soprano voice singing in canon at the unison.
On Christmas Eve, the motet sung during the administration of Communion is a setting of O Magnum Mysterium I composed for my 2013 Christmas greeting. This often-set text, with its reference to animals beholding the new-born Lord lying in a manger (Isaiah 1:3 and Luke 2:7) and its blessing of the Virgin (Luke 1:42) is a responsory for Matins of Christmas. The motet's slow movement, complex harmony, and choral textures, which range from four to seven voices, evoke an atmosphere of mystery and wonder. On Christmas Day, Victoria's motet O Magnum Mysterium will be sung at the Solemn Mass. Victoria's four-voice setting of this text is a Renaissance masterwork of reflective expressiveness. Merry Christmas. -David Hurd
ADULT EDUCATION . . . The Adult Forum on Sunday mornings has begun its Christmas break. Classes resume in January, when Dr. Charles Morgan will lead a three-part series (January 15, 22, and 29), Dealing with the Hard Stuff: Talking about Anger. Charles is a member of the parish and a practicing psychiatrist. Last season he led several sessions on dying, death, and grief in the Dealing with the Hard Stuff series . . . The Wednesday Night Bible Study Class has begun its Christmas break. The class will resume on January 11, 2017, at 6:30 PM in the Nursery.
HOMELESS MINISTRY AT SAINT MARY'S . . . Plans are moving ahead for our first Drop-In Day. The plan is this. On a weekday afternoon in February, two or more volunteers will greet our homeless guests in the Mission House, and two or more volunteers are needed also to accompany them downstairs to our clothes closet. They will then have the opportunity to receive needed clothing items, as well as a bag with toiletry items, our recently designed book of prayers, as well as some information about the parish. At some point, if not in February, we hope to have a social worker or two present on these Drop-In Days to discuss other services. We hope also to have a chance to talk to our guests to hear more from them about the struggles they face in the Times Square neighborhood and to discover ways to shape our ministry based on the actual needs of the homeless in our area . . . Our Wish List: as the weather grows colder, we are looking for donations of socks, blankets, sleeping bags, sleeping mats, toothpaste, toothbrushes, coats, backpacks, gloves, winter hats, earmuffs, rain ponchos, and, most important, gift cards for McDonald's and Dunkin' Donuts. If you'd like to volunteer to help distribute clothing and other items, please contact Sister Monica. We are grateful to all those who have been supporting this ministry so generously. -Members of the Homeless Ministry Committee
CONCERTS AT SAINT MARY'S . . . Saturday, January 21, 2017, 8:00 PM, Miller Theatre at Saint Mary's, New York Polyphony, Palestrina's "Marcellus Mass." Tickets may be purchased online.
LOOKING AHEAD . . . Friday, January 6, The Epiphany, Sung Mass 12:10 PM, Organ Recital 5:30 PM, Solemn Pontifical Mass 6:00 PM, the Right Reverend Allen K. Shin, celebrant and preacher . . . Wednesday, January 18, The Confession of Saint Peter. The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity begins . . . Wednesday, January 25, The Conversion of Saint Paul. The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity Ends.