FROM THE RECTOR: TOSSING CORPORALS
The first Book of Common Prayer (1549) didn’t mention what was to become a familiar phrase for Anglicans everywhere, “fair white linen.” It was introduced to the second English Prayer Book in 1552. This is the sentence from the 1552 book: The Table hauyng at the Communion tyme a fayre white lynnen clothe upon it, shall stand in the body of the Churche, or in the chauncell, where Morning prayer and Evening prayer be appointed to bee said” (The First and Second Prayer Books of King Edward VI, Everyman’s Library , 377). The present American Book of Common Prayer Book simply says, “The Holy Table is spread with a clean white cloth during the celebration” (page 406)—at Saint Mary’s the cloths used at the altar, small and large, are still linen.
The 1549 book did mention the “corporas,” which we call a “corporal.” It is the small square cloth spread on the fair linen on which the bread and wine to be consecrated are placed. The use of this small corporal has gained wide usage among Anglicans since the nineteenth century. This cloth was not always so small. Here’s a description of a tablecloth-sized “corporalem” used for the papal liturgy on Easter Day in the late seventh or early eighth century:
Then, a deacon goes to the altar and an acolyte comes forward with the chalice and, on top of it, the corporal. Raising the chalice in his left hand, he offers the corporal to the deacon to take off the chalice and spread upon the altar at the right hand end. He throws [Latin verb used is proiecto] the other end of the corporal to a second deacon, so that they may spread it out. (Alan Griffiths, Ordo Romanus Primus [ORP]: Latin Text and Translation with Introduction and Notes , 44.)
In other words, they were tossing the “corporal” across the altar. That corporal was a big tablecloth. It was the pope’s Easter morning Mass at the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore. There were going to be hundreds of small loaves (rolls) of bread on the altar. There was going to be a lot of wine around the altar, though only one large, two-handled chalice was on the altar for the consecration. (Wine was brought by many in small flasks, and was poured into bowls. These may or may not have been close to the altar during the prayer of consecration because of the large number of clergy in this major liturgy. [Ibid., 45].) What is theologically significant here is that the Eucharist, the bread and the wine, were being received by the congregation, and the Eucharist was still recognizable as food, real food. It’s fair to say that the Eucharist of the first millennium, described in ORP, barely survives the Middle Ages in Western Christianity.
The journal Worship describes itself as “A peer-reviewed international ecumenical journal for the study of liturgy and liturgical renewal.” Over the years I’ve read lots of great stuff in it. That said, the current issue opens with a column about the rubrics governing the use of the corporal in the current English-language missal of the Roman Catholic Church (Paul Turner, “Swaddling for the People of God,” Worship 90 (2016), 388–95). The author is a Roman Catholic priest, pastor, and scholar. He concedes that many will regard his concerns as overly obsessive (page 393). Still, he believes that some of those concerns are theologically significant.
One such is that the paten with the bread and the chalice with wine and water should only be placed on the corporal after the Prayer of Offering has been said by the priest. Father Turner wants to underscore that this ritual signifies that the bread and wine are offerings made by the people, and, further, that they signify all the offerings, or sacrifices, made by the people of God. He, therefore, resists any medieval allegorical understandings of the corporal. He writes:
The corporal is not the shroud of the dead Jesus. It is the swaddling of the still-breathing people of God, a people of faith, striving to please God with the actions of their lives. They need someone to praise God for their effort, and then—then—to help them put all of that, all of themselves onto one small square bit of cloth (page 395).
With respect, it seems to me that Father Turner has simply traded one allegory for another. A corporal is not a shroud or a swaddling cloth: it’s a cloth used at a table, a small napkin, a linen placemat. I believe that the backstory here is the reading back into the New Testament and church history of a huge chunk of the theology of the medieval Western Church and the Post-Reformation (and contemporary) Roman Catholic Church about the Eucharist and the priesthood. The Eucharist is nothing if it is not a meal, if it is not food; priests and bishops are stewards, not stand-ins, for Jesus Christ.
There’s something beautiful about altar linens. The fair linens for our high altar are thirteen feet long. Linen is ironed damp. It takes two hours to press one of them. (This is one of Sister Laura Katharine’s ministries, for which we are very thankful.) The small linens take much care and time too. (Many thanks are also due to those who launder and iron the small linens and to all who bake bread for us.) My colleagues will bear witness that we handle all the altar linens with respect and care. We don’t toss corporals at Saint Mary’s. We are a lot more careful about spilling bread and wine than the clergy and people in the days of Ordo Romanus Primus. Times have changed, and theological understandings have developed. But, like that earlier generation of Christians, I hope we are very clear that the people of God are not infants needing to be wrapped in cloths, and that the Eucharist can only be the Eucharist if it is food indeed and drink indeed. —Stephen Gerth
YOUR PRAYERS ARE ASKED FOR Julie, Linda, Penny, Nancy, Guy, Mark, Brian, Joanna, Jason, Frances, Barbara, Sharon, Jean, Julia, Philip, Sally, Abraham, Juliana, Margaret, David, Heidi, Catherine, Donald, Sam, Burton, Toussaint, Dennis, Arpene, Takeem, Sidney, DEACON, John, Horace, Paulette, David, Gaylord, Harry, Louis, PRIESTS, and Russell, BISHOP; and for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Mark and Nicholas, and for the repose of the souls of Noel Armoogan, Stephen DiRubba, and Theodore Hickman, PASTOR . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . September 18: 1915 Mary Augusta Ward; 1934 Ida Virginia Goodall; 1940 Myrna French Cloudman; 1955 Louis Herbert Gray; 2009 Maria Luppi.
IN THIS TRANSITORY LIFE . . . The Reverend Theodore Hickman, pastor of Duryea Presbyterian Church in Brooklyn, New York, and moderator of the Presbytery of New York City, died suddenly last week. He was fifty-one years old. He was a close friend of former interim organist and music director, Mark Peterson. Please keep Theodore, his wife Celeste, their family and friends, Mark, and all who mourn in your prayers.
THE ORDINARY FRIDAYS OF THE YEAR are observed by special acts of discipline and self-denial in commemoration of the crucifixion of the Lord.
THIS WEEK AT SAINT MARY'S . . . Affordable Latino Art Sale in Saint Joseph’s Hall, Friday, September 16, 6:00–9:00 PM, and Saturday, September 17, 3:00–6:00 PM . . . Wednesday, September 21, Saint Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist, Mass 12:10 PM and 6:20 PM . . . On Wednesdays, the daily 12:10 PM Eucharist is a Sung Mass; on Thursdays the daily 12:10 PM Eucharist is a Mass with Healing Service.
MUSIC NOTES . . . Gregg Carder, tenor, will be the cantor at the Solemn Mass on Sunday morning. During the distribution of Communion he will sing an aria by J. S. Bach (1685–1750), “Sheep may safely graze,” which was originally known by the German incipit Schafe können sicher weiden. This aria is the most familiar portion of Bach’s Hunting Cantata, “Was mir behagt, ist nur die muntre Jagd” (“The lively hunt is my heart’s desire”), BWV 208. This earliest of Bach’s secular cantatas was composed in 1713 to mark the thirty-first birthday of Duke Christian of Saxe-Weissenfels (1682–1736). The original German text, which draws on classical mythology, is by Salomon Franck (1659–1725), the Weimar court poet of that time. The English text sung this morning is by Benedict Ellis. On Sunday, the organ voluntaries are two of the eight “Little” Preludes and Fugues, a set of concise organ pieces traditionally attributed to Bach. More recent scholarship suggests that they were actually compositions of a Bach pupil, very likely Johann Tobias Krebs (1690–1762), or his son Johann Ludwig Krebs (1713–1780). The uncertainty of the origin of these works notwithstanding, these eight Preludes and Fugues have figured largely in the instruction of generations of organists and are widely performed in liturgical settings. —David Hurd
A GIFT TO THE PARISH . . . Steve Ginther, who was received into the Episcopal Church here at Saint Mary’s, is a member of our noonday congregation. He grew up on a ranch in Colorado. His mother, Barbara Ann Ginther, died in 2014. His father, Ben Ginther, died a year later. We often prayed for Steve’s parents during their final illnesses and after their deaths. Though we see less of Steve these days, since he no longer works in the neighborhood, he paid us a visit on Monday. He gave us a lovely gift: a pyx that had belonged to his mother. Mrs. Ginther was a lay Eucharistic minister, who often took the Sacrament to the sick and homebound of her parish. The pyx that she used is lovely and well-made. It has been blessed by its use. We will now be able to use it here at Saint Mary’s to take Communion to the sick of our parish. —James Ross Smith
AROUND THE PARISH . . . Parishioner Linda Bridges remains at New York-Presbyterian Weill Cornell Medical Center for tests and treatment. Please keep her in your prayers . . . Parishioner Abraham Rochester is still at home, and his recuperation is going very well. He is now able to walk two blocks each morning to buy the newspaper, his wife, Suzanne, tells us. Please keep Abe, Suzanne, and their family in your prayers . . . The New York Repertory Orchestra, which rehearses and performs an annual series of five concerts here at the parish, held its first Thursday-night rehearsal last week in the church. The Orchestra, whose music director is David Leibowitz, has become a part of the Saint Mary’s community. We are happy to have them back after their summer break. Their first concert will take place on Saturday, October 15, at 8:00 PM. The program includes music by Vaughan Williams, Mendelssohn, and Prokofiev. More information is available online . . . Adult Education: The Wednesday Night Bible Study Class begins its fall semester on Wednesday, September 21, at 7:00 PM, after the evening Mass, in Saint Joseph’s Hall. This year we will be reading Saint Paul’s Letter to the Romans . . . The Adult Forum resumes on Sunday, October 2, at 10:00 AM. Seminarian Matthew Jacobson will discuss his summer internship in Rome . . . Homeless Ministry: We are looking for donations of clothing for distribution to the homeless in our neighborhood: jeans and slacks in a variety of sizes for both men and women; packs of new underwear and socks for both women and men; sweaters, sweatshirts, jackets and coats; dress shirts and outfits suitable for job interviews, and other items. Sister Monica tells us this week that we are especially short of women’s underwear, in various sizes. Cash donations to this ministry are also welcome! . . . Altar Flowers are needed for the following Sundays: October 16, 23, and 30; and November 6 and 13 . . . Attendance: Last Sunday 223; Holy Cross Day 64.
A NOTE FROM THE RECTOR . . . I’m going away early for the workshop, Leadership in Ministry, that I attend every spring and fall in Lost River, West Virginia. Usually I leave on a Sunday afternoon and return on Wednesday. This time I’m leaving on Friday afternoon, September 23, so that I can visit my mother’s grave over the weekend with my uncle and aunt who live in Silver Spring, Maryland. My mother was buried in the churchyard of her parish, Trinity Church, St. Mary’s City, Maryland. I haven’t been there since her funeral in 2013. I want to see her gravestone at least once—and eat at one of her and my stepfather’s favorite seafood restaurants. —S.G.
INVITATION TO A CONCERT . . . On Saturday, September 24, 2016, at 2:00 PM, at Grace Church, 33 Church Street, White Plains, NY, Hatsuhiko (“Hats”) Kageyama, tenor, will be hosting, and performing at, a special concert, along with a number of other musicians, both vocalists and instrumentalists. A special guest also performing at the concert will be the Right Reverend Allen K. Shin. Bishop Shin, a former curate here at Saint Mary’s, is the bishop suffragan of the diocese of New York. He is also a baritone and an accomplished singer. “Hats and His Friends in Concert” will benefit the Anglican Diocese of Tohoku in Japan, as well as “Lifting Up Westchester” at Grace Church. Admission is $20. A reception will follow the concert. For more information, please contact Hats Kageyama by e-mail.
LOOKING AHEAD . . . Thursday, September 29, Saint Michael & All Angels, Mass 12:10 PM and Sung Mass 6:00 PM. Father Jim Pace will celebrate and preach at 6:00 PM . . . Tuesday, October 18, Saint Luke the Evangelist, Mass 12:10 PM and 6:20 PM . . . Monday, October 24, Saint James of Jerusalem (transferred), Mass 12:10 PM and 6:20 PM . . . Friday, October 28, Saint Simon and Saint Jude, Apostles, Mass 12:10 PM and 6:20 PM . . . Tuesday, November 1, All Saints’ Day, Sung Mass 12:10 PM, Organ Recital 5:30 PM, Solemn Mass 6:00 PM. The Most Reverend Frank T. Griswold is the celebrant and preacher . . . Wednesday, All Souls’ Day, 12:10 PM Sung Mass and 6:00 PM Solemn Mass . . . Sunday, November 6, Daylight Saving Time ends.
AWAY FROM THE PARISH . . . At the Metropolitan Museum, Fifth Avenue at Eighty-second Street, Jerusalem 1000–1400: Every People Under Heaven, September 26, 2016–January 8, 2017. From the museum’s website, “This exhibition will illuminate the key role that the Holy City played in shaping the art of the period from 1000 to 1400. While Jerusalem is often described as a city of three faiths, that formulation underestimates its fascinating complexity. In fact, the city was home to multiple cultures, faiths, and languages. History records harmonious and dissonant voices of people from many lands, passing in the narrow streets of a city not much larger than midtown Manhattan. This will be the first exhibition to unravel the various cultural traditions and aesthetic strands that enriched and enlivened the medieval city. Over 200 works of art will be gathered from some sixty lenders worldwide. Nearly a quarter of the objects will come from Jerusalem, including key loans from its religious communities, some of which have never before shared their treasures outside their walls. Jerusalem 1000–1400: Every People Under Heaven will bear witness to the crucial role that the city has played in shaping world culture, a lesson vital to our common history.”