FROM THE RECTOR: NATIVITY OF JOHN
The Feast of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist, June 24, is a "Feast of Our Lord" that may be observed on a Sunday when June 24 is a Sunday. We did this in 2007 and in 2012. Because of how Easter Day falls and two intervening leap years, this possibility for a Sunday celebration of John's birth will not happen again until 2029.
John's birth is described by Luke in two short verses. Eight verses are needed by the evangelist to tell the story of the child being named "John." The great focus of this narrative is the song the evangelist places on the lips of John's father, Zechariah, a song we call, "The Song of Zechariah." It's also known by the first words of the Latin translation of the New Testament Greek, "Benedictus Dominus Deus," or simply the "Benedictus." These are the first words in English, "Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel; he has come to his people and set them free" (Luke 1:68). The Benedictus is an early Christian text. Its language about Christ is "phrased entirely in Old Testament language, unlike the developed hymns we find in post-50 Christian writings"(Brown, A Coming Christ in Advent , 53, n.21).
The fourth century brought the legalization of the Christian religion in the Roman Empire. It also brought about commemorations of events in the life of Jesus based on the chronologies of Luke's two books, his Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles (Bradshaw and Johnson, Origins of Feasts, Fasts and Seasons in early Christianity , 73). It's in the fourth century that Christmas Day begins to be celebrated in Italy (Ibid., 123). In the East and in the West commemorations of John's birth are recorded also in the fourth century (Adam The Liturgical Year , 152). The Presentation seems to have been celebrated in Jerusalem in the fourth century (Origins, 211). By the seventh century, the Feast of Mary Theotokos (God Bearer) on August 15, The Presentation on February 2, the Annunciation on March 25, and the Nativity of Mary on September 8 are all celebrated in Rome-and all with public processions (Ibid., 212).
There are great hymns for the day; two of them familiar Advent hymns, "On Jordan's bank the Baptist's cry," the text written by Charles Coffin (1676-1749), a French Latinist who served a term as rector of the University of Paris, and a sixth-century Latin hymn, "Hark! a thrilling voice is sounding." We also get to sing one hymn about John that links his birth with Jesus' nativity in a special way. The Latin text translated as "The great forerunner of the morn" is by Bede the Venerable (673-735), the translation by John Mason Neale (1818-1866). The tune is The Truth from Above, an English melody collected by Ralph Vaughn Williams (1872-1958). It's called that because of its use with following text, often sung here and elsewhere on Christmas Eve:
This is the truth sent from above,
The truth of God, the God of love:
Therefore don't turn me from your door,
But hearken all, both rich and poor.
Bede's text is the only one in the hymnal that uses this tune. It's a wonderful joining of the births of John and Jesus. John's nativity interrupts the regular rhythm of warm summer Sundays and invites us to remember the light that shone above Bethlehem in the dark and cool winter. -Stephen Gerth
THE FEAST OF SAINT PETER AND SAINT PAUL, APOSTLES, is celebrated on June 29. Like the Feast of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist, Saint Mary the Virgin (August 15), Holy Cross Day (September 14), and the Feast of Saint Michael and All Angels (September 29), we celebrate these feasts on Sunday when they fall on Sunday. (In 2019, Saint Michael and All Angels will be celebrated on Sunday, September 29.) This year June 29 is a Friday. In addition to the daily Eucharist at 12:10 PM, there will be a Sung Mass at 6:00 PM.
A celebration of the martyrdoms of Peter and Paul in Rome has been documented to the middle of the third century (Adam The Liturgical Year , 236). Luke's Acts tells the story of Paul's journey as a prisoner to Rome-then Peter disappears from Luke's narrative. In Paul's Letter to the Galatians (one of the seven New Testament letters "surely written by Paul" [Brown, An Introduction to the New Testament (1997), 419], Paul wrote, "when they saw that I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been entrusted with the gospel to the circumcised (for he who worked through Peter for the mission to the circumcised worked through me also for the Gentiles)" (Galatians 2:7-8). Did Peter make it to Rome? Given Peter's prominence in the gospels and Acts, it is worth noting that he is not mentioned elsewhere in the New Testament aside from the letters known as 1 Peter and 2 Peter, neither of which scholars think were written by the apostle (Senior and Harrington, 1 Peter, Jude and 2 Peter , 4-7, 235-37.) That said, one should not let one's concerns about later historical developments (e.g., the papacy-and that's just for starters) lead us not to appreciate the sacrifice and the mission of those who knew Jesus Christ. -S.G.
YOUR PRAYERS ARE ASKED FOR Dick, Eugenia, Ptolemy, Sheila, Marcy, Nadira, Peter, Ron, Rhonda, Eloise, Angie, Maxine, Anita, George, Alex, Dora, Marilouise, Dennis, Bob, Abe, Randy, Burt, Mike, Kyle, Greta, Karen, Melissa, Eugenia, May, Heidi, Ridhima, Marissa, Takeem, David, and Sandy; for Horace, Gaylord, Louis, Edgar, and Jude, priests; and for all the benefactors and friends of this parish.
GRANT THEM PEACE . . . June 24: 1932 Sarah Carpenter; 1993 William Ray Kirby; 2013 John DuBose Long.
THE ORDINARY FRIDAYS OF THE YEAR are observed by special acts of discipline and self-denial in commemoration of the Lord's crucifixion.
THIS WEEK AT SAINT MARY'S . . . Sunday, June 24, The Nativity of Saint John the Baptist, Sung Matins 8:30 AM, Mass 9:00 AM, Mass 10:00 AM, Solemn Mass,11:00 AM, Evening Prayer 5:00 PM . . . Wednesday, June 27: Homeless Drop-in Day, 2:00 PM . . . Friday, June 29, Saint Peter and Saint Paul, Apostles, Mass 12:10 PM, Sung Mass 6:00 PM . . . Friday, June 29, 7:00 PM, Centering Prayer Group, Atrium, Parish Hall, Second Floor.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . Parishioner Dick Leitsch is gravely ill. He's being cared for at the Dawn Greene Hospice at the Mary Manning Walsh Home. He is not able to receive visitors. Please keep him in your prayers . . . Father Jay Smith will be away from the parish on vacation until Monday, July 9 . . . Father Gerth will be away from the parish from Friday, June 29, until Monday afternoon, July 2. While he is away, Father Jim Pace will be in residence, and Father Park Bodie will be celebrant and preacher for the 10:00 AM and 11:00 AM Masses on Sunday, July 1 . . . Attendance: Last Sunday 202.
NYC PRIDE 2018 . . . Sunday, June 24. Check in for Episcopalians is at 3:00 PM. The formation block is Seventeenth Street between Seventh and Eighth Avenues. Other details: Section Number 7; Order Number within the section is 39. Tips for the Day: Wear comfortable shoes; stay hydrated; if you don't need to bring a bag or backpack, please don't-the New York Police Department will be searching bags. If you have access to Facebook, you may find updates on the Facebook page of the diocese of New York's LGBT Concerns Committee.
OUTREACH AT SAINT MARY'S . . . If you would like to make a donation to the Diocese of New York's Caribbean Recovery Fund, you may do so online. From the diocesan website, "[The Recovery Fund is meant] to pay for the work that we propose to do and/or support in this region. This is distinct in nature and purpose from the activities of Episcopal Relief & Development, which directs funds toward the Episcopal Church's broader efforts in recovery. The Caribbean Recovery Fund will be available for individuals and churches in partnership to make requests for specific infrastructure and ministry projects, partnerships, and mission with the Diocese of Puerto Rico and other areas in the Caribbean" . . . Donations and volunteers are needed for our next Drop-in Days on June 27 and July 11, and for the many requests for assistance between Drop-in Days . . . Please contact Sister Monica Clare if you would like to volunteer for this important ministry or if you would like to make a donation . . . We 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.
ABOUT THE MUSIC . . . The cantor on Sunday at the Solemn Mass is bass-baritone Brian Mummert who has sung several times at Saint Mary's in the past year. During the ministration of Communion, he will sing a setting of the poem Love (III) by George Herbert (1593-1633), composed by Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958). Vaughan Williams's Love bade me welcome is the third of his Five Mystical Songs for baritone, chorus, and orchestra, composed between 1906 and 1911 on texts also by George Herbert. 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."
The organ Prelude today, Rhosymedre, also by Vaughan Williams, is the second of his Three Preludes on Welsh Hymn Tunes. Published in 1920, the three preludes were composed to be played either as a set or separately. They were dedicated to British organist and composer Alan Gray (1855-1935), who was organist at Trinity College, Cambridge, from 1893 to 1930. The hymn tune Rhosymedre (Lovely), 587 in The Hymnal 1982, was composed by John Edwards (1806-1885). Vaughan Williams's prelude on this tune, doubtless his most well-known organ work, exploits the tune's inherent lyricism, harmonized in chords rich with added sevenths. Today's Postlude is also an organ setting of a Welsh tune. Paul Manz (1919-2009), distinguished American Lutheran organist, composer and teacher, was especially known for his organ improvisations on hymns and chorales. Many of these improvisations occurred at his acclaimed hymn festivals and were later transcribed and published. His bright and assertive prelude on Cwm Rhondda, published in 1974, has become an American standard. -David Hurd
LOOKING AHEAD . . . Friday, June 29, Saint Peter and Saint Paul, Apostles . . . Wednesday, July 4, Independence Day . . . Monday, July 23, Saint Mary Magdalene (transferred) . . . Wednesday, July 25, Saint James the Apostle . . . Monday, August 6, The Transfiguration of Our Lord Jesus Christ . . . Tuesday, August 14, The Eve of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary . . . Wednesday, August 15, The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary . . . Friday, August 24, Saint Bartholomew the Apostle . . . Monday, September 3, Labor Day.
AT THE GALLERIES . . . At the Jewish History Center, 15 West Sixteenth Street, New York, NY (between Fifth and Sixth Avenues): 1938 Projekt: Posts from the Past. From the Center's website, "Eighty years after the events of 1938, how does one grasp the mixture of horror and surprise felt by the victims of the Nazi regime? One significant way is to look at the letters, diaries, and photographs saved by German Jews and their families. Using documents from our archives and those of several partner institutions, the Leo Baeck Institute - New York | Berlin will update www.1938projekt.org with personal stories based on documents from our own collections and the collections of partner institutions-one for each day in 1938. These materials illustrate the range of reactions and emotions that individuals and families had as they struggled to escape Germany and Austria in order to survive. In addition, significant world events are described alongside the calendar entries to provide a broad context for the individual stories."