The Angelus

Volume 17, Number 15


At this point in my life I am only a little surprised when I hear or read something new in the Bible. It’s been happening on and off for years now, and that’s not because I haven’t basically heard or read almost all of it before. This week’s surprise: Joseph wept when he heard his brothers talking about him.

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Volume 17, Number 14


Lent is underway at Saint Mary’s. Ash Wednesday was a very cold day in the city, but still there were people waiting for the first Mass and for ashes when the doors opened at 7:00 AM. The last person receiving ashes got them in Saint Joseph’s Hall just after 8:00 PM. I was on ash duty again at the very end of the day—and was able to give ashes to a very grateful man who had slipped in as the last set of doors was closing. It was a good beginning for Lent. There’s more to come, and I would like to tell you about it.

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Volume 17, Number 13


This morning, Friday, February 20, I read the first lesson at Morning Prayer, Father Smith the second. My reading was from Deuteronomy, his from the Letter to Titus. His reading began with words for “older men”; so I pulled out the Bible I keep at my stall and followed along. You see, today I turned 61. Whether I like it or not, I think I have to accept the reality that I am an “older man.” Ouch.

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Volume 17, Number 12


Lent has at least one thing going for it that seems really important to me these days: no one celebrates Easter early—at least, as far as I know. The commercial footprint of the holiday is far less than Christmas and, I suspect, far less than Halloween or Thanksgiving. Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, and Good Friday seem to provide some protection too

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Volume 17, Number 11


The first day of Lent will be ten days from Sunday. The countdown for the wider church community has begun in earnest. In parts of our country and the world which celebrate carnival before the beginning of Lent, the festival which began with Epiphany is coming to an end, too.

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Volume 17, Number 10


Egeria is the name of a fourth-century Christian woman, who may have been a nun. She traveled from Spain to the Holy Land between AD 381 and 384. We know this because she kept a travel diary about her pilgrimage. Copies of Egeria’s diary were circulated well into the medieval period. However, by the twelfth century all known manuscript copies of the diary seem to have been lost. In the late nineteenth century, a copy of the middle part of the diary, but only the middle part, was rediscovered (Wilkinson, Egeria’s Travels, 3rd. ed., [1999], 1). The loss of the other sections of Egeria’s diary is regrettable, but, still, the surviving portion tells us a great deal about the worship of the church in Jerusalem.

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Volume 17, Number 9


This Sunday marks the end of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which sprang to life in 1968, as a joint effort of the World Council of Churches and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity of the Roman Catholic Church. It’s helpful to recall that its origins were here in the diocese of New York. The Reverend Paul Wattson and Sister Lurana White were Episcopal religious. In 1909, they and their communities (followed a decade later by their episcopal visitor, the third bishop of Delaware) became Roman Catholics. There are always many issues when people leave. One of the contested issues of the day was the decision of the Protestant Episcopal Church in 1907 to permit ministers of other denominations to preach in Episcopal parishes. For Wattson and White, Rome was the locus of Christian unity. I think most other Christians would say the locus of Christian unity is Jesus Christ.

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Volume 17, Number 8


When the Right Reverend David Stancliffe, 77th bishop of Salisbury, England, from 1993 until 2010, was with us as celebrant and preacher for our patronal feast on December 8, 2005, he chided me gently about our not beginning Mass with a confession of sin. When I replied—and I wish I could remember my exact words—with a remark about us having an uncluttered entrance rite, he and I both smiled. Bishop Stancliffe had served for many years on the Liturgical Commission of the Church of England and was chairman of the Commission from 1993 until 2005. We both understood that the issues surrounding the entrance rites were not simple. As Roman Catholic Archbishop Annibale Bugnini (1912–1982) wrote about the beginning of the reformed rite in his own church, “This is one of the most debated parts of the new Order and, I may add, one of the most debatable” (The Reform of the Liturgy 1948–1975, [1990], 375).

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Volume 17, Number 7


At Saint Mary’s we are iconophiles. We love our images. The arguments of the Byzantine and Reformation-era iconoclasts do not move us. We are not idolaters. We know the difference between an image and the thing that the image represents. The many statues, paintings, carvings, and crucifixes in our building help us to worship and venerate. We do not worship them. Our images often lead us back to the Bible and to our tradition. They inspire reflection. They help us to “do theology.” They arouse questioning and they help us to pray.

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Volume 17, Number 6


First, words about the Epiphany. This year our celebration begins on Monday, January 5, with Solemn Evensong on the eve. As is our custom, a quartet will sing the canticles and a motet; the congregation, as always, will do most of the singing. There’s no sermon or Eucharistic benediction at our evensongs on the eves of the principal feasts. It’s a lovely, prayerful service that lasts forty minutes.

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Volume 17, Number 5


My brother called a little less than twenty minutes before the 5:00 PM service on Christmas Eve. He was calling to tell me that our father had just died. My father had had pneumonia and had been in the hospital for the last couple of weeks, much of that time in the intensive care unit. He was eighty-two years old, born in 1932 on what, twelve years later, would become D-Day, June 6. Ralph and I only talked for a few minutes. It occurred to me that if I didn't share the news right away, I would be able to preside and preach at the Mass-and that's what I did.

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Volume 17, Number 4


On Monday, December 1, I went up to the Yale Institute of Sacred Music to hear the Reverend Dr. Paul Bradshaw, professor emeritus of liturgical studies, University of Notre Dame, give a lecture. His topic was, “The Changing Face of Early Christian Worship.” He cautioned us that when it came to questions of early Christian worship, we probably need to think—if my notes are correct—about “probabilities” instead of “certainties.” That said, two probabilities seem to be very strong: (1) early Christian communities gathered for food and fellowship in the Lord’s name, and (2) it was expected that all present would be fed real food, food that sustained the body, not just the soul. It was out of this fellowship of food and also genuine care for the poor among the believers that what we come to know as Eucharist emerges.

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Volume 17, Number 3


Liturgical color, along with flowers and other outward and visible signs, began to return to worship in the Anglican Communion in the wake of the Oxford Movement. Color has become a visual guide to the calendar of the church year for most Christians. As these signs returned, the question of color arose. No one particular color scheme has ever been prescribed. History presents a wide variety of practices. That said, for the most part Anglicans have generally come to use the color schemes most other Christian denominations use.

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Volume 17, Number 2


“Upon a clear, cold and windy afternoon of November 1867,” two men, Henry Kingsland Leonard and the Reverend Thomas McKee Brown, after conversations with each other and the bishop of New York, found vacant lots on West Forty-fifth Street, owned by John Jacob Astor, Jr. Upon learning they were to be used for a new parish for Longacre Square, Astor gave the land to the new parish with the following stipulation, “that the Church should be free [that is, would charge no pew rents], and positively orthodox in management and working” (Newbury Frost Read, The Story of St. Mary’s [1931] 16–17).

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Volume 17, Number 1


I never thought much about the shape of the Advent season until I read a footnote in a short book by the late New Testament scholar Raymond Brown (1928–1998). Concerning the “end of time” focus (church term: eschatology) of Advent readings he wrote, “We should conclude the eschatological emphasis with Christ the King and prepare for Christmas by a different type of Sunday readings” (Christ in the Gospels of the Ordinary Sundays [1998] 36). I wondered for a number of years what Father Brown thought those different readings might be until I asked Jay Smith, who had been Brown’s student, if he knew: Brown thought we should prepare to hear the Christmas stories (Matthew 1:18–25; Luke 2:1–14) by reading what Matthew and Luke wrote at the beginning of their narratives to introduce them.

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