FROM FATHER SMITH: HOLY CROSS DAY
In Scripture we read, "We preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God" (1 Corinthians 1:23-24). In the Nicene Creed, we proclaim, "For our sake [our Lord Jesus Christ] was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered death and was buried. On the third day he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures." During the Eucharistic Prayer, we chant, "Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again." This is the Paschal mystery, the heart of the Christian faith.
This Mystery is paschal because it has to do with a Passover, a passage from life, to death, to life again. The gospel story is filled with movement. Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh, comes among us, and before you know it there is the Flight to Egypt and the return to Galilee. Then Jesus' ministry begins. After his baptism, Jesus is led by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness, but he doesn't stay there. After his struggle with Satan, he returns from the desert, and his work begins. He comes and goes. He talks to people, tells them stories, asks them questions, and changes lives. Then he moves on. He barely rests. He teaches, and heals, and proclaims God's kingdom. He is arrested, tried, condemned, and executed. Jesus dies, rises, and returns to the one he calls Father. He sends a Comforter, the Holy Spirit, but promises to come back again. In this story, there is always movement. When Jesus says, "Follow me," he means it.
But, still, in the middle of this story, there stands the cross, fixed and immovable. In normal circumstances, Jesus' death might make us turn our heads and walk away, uneasy, afraid, or disgusted. But, paradoxically, Jesus' death on the cross brings life. That's what all the New Testament writers tell us. For them, the movement in the gospel story comes to a halt at a place called Golgotha. Jesus the Christ, the Son of God, dies on the cross. The image of Jesus' death seems almost to make time stand still. In Matthew's gospel, when Jesus hangs, dying, on the cross, the whole land grows dark; when Jesus "breathes his last" the temple curtain is torn in two, the earth shakes, and tombs fall open (27:45-54). It scarcely matters whether those things "really happened" or not. At Golgotha, God does battle with evil, and sin, and death. Jesus dies, and the evangelist refuses to look away.
From the start, Christians have recognized the power of the image of Christ's death on the cross. Paul writes, "You foolish Galatians! Who has cast a spell on you, doing so in spite of the fact that in my sermons a picture of Jesus Christ marked by crucifixion was painted before your eyes?" (Galatians 3:1; J. L. Martyn, Galatians, The Anchor Yale Bible Commentaries 33A, New York: Doubleday, 281). For Paul, the image of Christ's suffering and death, and the story of his passage from life to death to life again, have the power to bring people to faith (Galatians 3:2).
Because of the power of the image of the cross, Christians have always tried to "paint" that image in word, art, and music. Ask a Presbyterian what she thinks about crucifixes, and you'll hear one thing. Start doing some research about crosses and crucifixes in Lutheran churches, and you'll hear something else and discover a complicated history. Ask an iconographer what the Orthodox think about crucifixes and you'll find out how deeply they've considered the question: three-dimensional crucifixes are problematic, icons of the cross are not; in an icon depicting the crucified Jesus, a balance must always be struck between Jesus' humanity and his divinity, his death and his resurrection. Apparently, for the Orthodox, an image of the cross must speak about the whole Paschal mystery.
But that is not true for all Christians. If you stand near the Calvary Shrine at the back of our own church, you'll see the devotion which that large, nearly life-size, crucifix inspires. All those Western Christians, many of them Latino, are content to consider Jesus' suffering and death, and to rest there for a time. The emotions attached to the image do not seem to disturb them. The crucifix seems to speak to them and their condition; and, of course, they know how the story ends.
The image of the cross often touches Christians in an intimate and deeply personal way. There is no "right" way to approach the cross or to imagine it. For a long time now, a crucifix at the Metropolitan Museum is the image that moves me most, that makes me stop, and think, and pray. Thirteenth-century, painted wood, made in Italy, this crucifix is not "realistic." Christ, fully clothed, dressed as king or high priest or both, is nailed to the cross. His sober, serene gaze meets mine and "causes me to wonder." This image, like the Orthodox icon, tries to tell the whole story. The cross isn't forgotten, butChrist "reigns from the tree."
This coming week, on Holy Cross Day, perhaps you might sit for a while and consider the word, the biblical passage, the image, or the music that speaks to you and makes you wonder. What is it about this horrible and beautiful image that makes you stop and say, "Yes, this was for me, this was for us"? --Jay Smith
YOUR PRAYERS ARE ASKED FOR Michael, Dick, Barbara, William, Karl, David, Sandy, Pearl, Donald, Patricia, Dorothea, Olutoyin, Eugenia, Peggy, Kathy, Mike, May, Heidi, Takeem, Jean, Barbara, Dennis, and George; for Matthew, Horace, Mitties, Anne, David, Ross, Gaylord, Harry, Louis, Edgar, and Vern, priests; for all victims of poverty, famine, violence, and disaster, especially the people of Houston, southeast Texas, Louisiana, Florida, and the Caribbean; for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Mark; and for the repose of the soul of Dwight Winborn . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . September 10: 1881 Margaret Rice; 1908 Louisa D. Gardiner.
THE ORDINARY FRIDAYS OF THE YEARare observed by special acts of discipline and self-denial in commemoration of the crucifixion of the Lord.
THIS WEEK AT SAINT MARY'S . . . Saturday, September 9, 10:30 AM, the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine, Ordination of Matthew Jacobson to the Priesthood . . . Sunday, September 10, 10:00 AM, Father Matthew Jacobson's First Mass . . . Monday, September 11, 12:10 PM, Requiem Mass: For Those Killed in the Attacks of September 11, 2001 . . . Thursday, September 14, Holy Cross Day,Mass 12:10 PM and Sung Mass 6:00 PM . . . Friday, September 15, 6:30 PM, Centering Prayer Group, Atrium, Parish Hall, Second Floor. Please enter at 145 West Forty-sixth Street, just west of the main doors to the church, and press buzzer 1 in the vestibule. Then climb up one flight of stairs, make a U-turn, and climb up another small flight of stairs. The Atrium will be on your left.
A SPECIAL HOLY CROSS DAY . . . The Most Reverend Frank T. Griswold, XXV Presiding Bishop and Primate, will be with us as celebrant and preacher for the Sung Mass on Holy Cross Day, Thursday, September 14, 2017, at 6:00 PM. In retirement, Bishop Griswold maintains a very active schedule of preaching, teaching, and giving retreats. He will celebrate his eightieth birthday on Monday, September 18. We're not celebrating his birthday on Thursday night, but I hope that many may be able to be with us to greet him after the service and to wish him the very best for the next decade of his life. --Stephen Gerth
AROUND THE PARISH . . . Parishioner Brian Foster died on August 23, 2017. A Vigil Service for Brian was celebrated in the Mercy Chapel on the evening of August 30. A Mass of the Resurrection was celebrated the following day, Thursday, August 31, in the church at 10:00 AM. Burial followed later that day at Rockland Cemetery in Sparkill, NY . . . The rector returns from vacation on Saturday, September 9. He will be in church on Sunday, September 10 . . . Office Manager Chris Howatt returns from vacation on Monday, September 11 . . . Attendance last Sunday: 199.
ABOUT THE MUSIC . . . The guest cantor at the Solemn Mass on Sunday morning is bass-baritone Joseph Chappel. During the ministration of communion he will sing a setting of Love (III) from George Herbert's 1633 collection The Temple: Sacred Poems by Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958). Vaughan Williams' Love bade me welcome is the third of his Five Mystical Songs for baritone, chorus, and orchestra, composed on texts by George Herbert (1593-1633) between 1906 and 1911. In setting the Herbert poem, Vaughan Williams distinctively quotes a plainsong melody for O sacrum convivium, a clear Eucharistic reference, against Herbert's words "You must sit down, says Love, and taste my meat. So I did sit and eat."
Sunday's organ voluntaries continue a series, initiated on August 13, of the eight "Little" Preludes and Fugues," traditionally attributed to J. S. Bach (1685-1750). These pieces are now widely believed to have been composed by one of his pupils, very likely Johann Tobias Krebs (1690-1762), or his son Johann Ludwig Krebs (1713-1780). Of these eight preludes and fugues, four are in major keys of C, F, G, and B-flat, and the remaining four are in their relative minors of A, D, E, and G. The standard ordering of these eight pieces begins with BWV 553 in C Major and progresses up the scale to BWV 560, which is in B-flat. This morning's prelude will be BWV 556 in F Major, and the postlude will be BWV 554 in the relative minor key of D. BWV 556, for the prelude, is probably the least likely of the eight Preludes and Fugues to have been composed by Sebastian Bach. The prelude especially is stylistically much more suggestive of post-Baroque classical composition. Its accompanying fugue has a similar harmonic and textural simplicity and continues in a bright spirit. BWV 554, numbered second in the collection and played for the postlude, has an A-B-A-shaped prelude, as did BWV 556. The fugue is modest in length and follows logically after the prelude. --David Hurd
AFTER THE HURRICANES . . . If you are thinking about making a donation to help with relief and recovery efforts in Houston, southeast Texas, and the Caribbean, consider visiting the following websites: Episcopal Relief & Development, The Episcopal Diocese of Texas, The Church of the Holy Spirit, Father Josh Condon, rector.
CENTERING PRAYER AT SAINT MARY'S . . . From Desert Banquet: A Year of Wisdom from the Desert Mothers and Fathers, edited and with commentary by Father David Keller (Liturgical Press, 2011): "Abba Evagrius said, 'If you long to pray then avoid all that is opposed to prayer. Then when God draws near he has only to go along with you.'" [Father Keller then writes], "This is such great advice. It is so simple. Yet the path from 'if you long to pray . . .' to a life of prayer is not easy. The catchphrase is 'avoid all that is opposed to prayer.' We may say, 'I'm too busy.' 'There is never enough time.' 'My mind wanders.' 'I can't find a good place.' 'There are children all around and they need my attention.' 'I'm not sure what to do.' 'I don't like the silence.' 'I can't stay still.' 'My schedule changes all the time.' 'I don't want to change.' What opposes your prayer? How can your longing for God be fulfilled? What decisions will you have to make to honor your longing? Even though there are many venues and methods for prayer, Evagrius's advice requires some action. 'showing up' is the hard part. Then, with a twinkle in his eye, Evagrius reminds us that whenever and however we pray, God is already waiting and desires 'only to go along with you.' Do not lose heart." The Centering Prayer Group normally meets on Fridays at 6:30 PM in the Atrium, on the second floor of the Mission House. On Friday, September 8, the Group will gather at 7:15 PM, after the Evening Mass. We invite you to "show up" and give this form of contemplative prayer a try. All are welcome.
A FIELD TRIP TO THE MET . . . On Sunday, September 17, at 3:00 PM, Father John Beddingfield, rector of Holy Trinity Church, East Eighty-eighth Street, will be leading a field trip to the Metropolitan Museum on Fifth Avenue to view the exhibition, Cristóbal de Villalpando: Mexican Painter of the Baroque. Father Beddingfield has very generously invited Saint Marians to join his group from Holy Trinity. From the field-trip flyer, "We'll begin by looking at the massive Moses and the Brazen Serpent and the Transfiguration of Jesus, recall the biblical stories, notice some of the symbols, and talk about some of the interesting religious dynamics operating around the painting. Then we'll look at some of Villalpando's other paintings, including the recently discovered Adoration of the Magi, on loan from Fordham University, and The Holy Name of Mary, from the Museum of the Basilica of Guadalupe in Mexico City. Because we have received a nonprofit discount, the cost is only $5.00 per person, but we are limited to 25 people, so RSVP is essential. We will meet at the Eighty-first Street, ground-level entrance to the Metropolitan Museum of Art 2:45 PM. RSVP at firstname.lastname@example.org.
OKTOBERFEST . . . The annual Oktoberfest Potluck Supper and Hymn Sing will take place on Saturday, October 7, from 6:00 PM until 9:00 PM, in Saint Joseph's Hall and the Choir Loft. David Hurd, organist and music director, will play the organ at the Hymn Sing and will take requests from the assembled Saint Marians and their friends. Please join us. Bring a friend and a dish to share. All are welcome.
HOMELESS MINISTRY . . . Donations needed: For our Drop-in Days, we are looking for donations of basic lightly used or new clothing items of all sizes for both men and women--packs of new underwear and socks; T-shirts and blouses; jeans, chinos, and khakis; washcloths; toothbrushes; and individually packaged hand wipes or towelettes. Donations can be left in the parish kitchen (if you are able, tell Father Smith, Sister Monica Clare, or Clint Best that you have left items there for the Clothes Closet). We are grateful to all those who continue to support this important ministry . . . We also continue to receive nonperishable food items for our outreach partner, Saint Clement's Food Pantry. Please place those items in the basket near the ushers' table at the Forty-sixth Street entrance to the church.
LOOKING AHEAD . . . Thursday, September 21, Saint Matthew the Evangelist, Mass and Healing Service 12:10 PM and 6:20 PM . . . Friday, September 29, Saint Michael and All Angels, Mass 12:10 PM and Sung Mass 6:00 PM. (The Reverend Matthew Jacobson is the celebrant and preacher at 6:00 PM.) . . . Sunday, October 1, 2017, Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost, Academic-Year Schedule begins: Sung Matins 8:30 AM, Mass 9:00 & 10:00 AM, Solemn Mass with Choir 11:00 AM, Solemn Evensong & Benediction 5:00 PM.
AWAY FROM THE PARISH . . . The Peccadillo Theater Company, at the Theatre at Saint Clement's, 423 West Forty-sixth Street (between Ninth and Tenth Avenues), September 21-October 21, George Kelly's 1924 comedy The Show-Off, starring Annette O'Toole. From the theater's website, "Notable for its masterly blending of comedy and drama and meticulous attention to the ordinary details of everyday life, The Show-Offrevolves around a working-class Irish family in North Philadelphia in the mid 1920s. Mr. and Mrs. Fisher and their three adult children are thrown into a state of turmoil when Amy, their middle child, brings home a preposterous suitor named Aubrey Piper. A compulsive liar with delusions of grandeur, Aubrey meets his match in Mrs. Fisher, the crusty, no-nonsense matriarch of the family. A battle of wits ensues and the outcome is a vindication (of sorts!) of the American con man. Penned by Pulitzer Prize-winning author, George Kelly, The Show-Off has earned its reputation as one of a handful of classic American stage comedies that continue to 'hold up' decades after being written." Special Preview: Monday, September 25 at 7:00 PM. Opening Night: Thursday, September 28 at 7:00 PM. Tickets may be purchased online. The artistic director of The Peccadillo Theater Company is Dan Wackerman, and its managing director is Kevin Kennedy. Dan is also the director of The Show-Off. Dan and Kevin often worship with us on Sunday mornings.