The Angelus

Volume 17, Number 35

FROM THE RECTOR: ANXIOUS CHRISTIANITY

On Wednesday, July 22, we celebrated the Feast of Saint Mary Magdalene. It’s one of two days in the church year when the Prayer Book requires us to proclaim, if there be a Eucharist, John’s account of the Risen Jesus speaking to Mary Magdalene—the other day is Tuesday in Easter Week. Note: neither of these days is a Sunday.

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Volume 17, Number 34

FROM THE RECTOR: BOUNDEN DUTY AND SERVICE

Last weekend I went looking for a half-remembered phrase. I found it—almost as I remembered it—in the second of two “Offices of Instruction” in the 1928 Prayer Book. The Offices were new to the 1928 book. Massey Shepherd (1913–1990) wrote, “The 1928 revision revamped the Catechism into the present form of a general service of worship, designed not only for those preparing for Confirmation, but also for all ‘the people’ ” (The Oxford American Prayer Book Commentary [1950], 283).

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Volume 17, Number 33

FROM THE RECTOR: MORE TO LEARN

In the first essay in a collection honoring Notre Dame liturgical scholar Maxwell Johnson called, “The Relationship between Historical Research and Modern Liturgical Practice,” his now-emeritus Notre Dame colleague Paul Bradshaw writes that, in light of more recent scholarship, some of the words and rituals that were introduced in the 1970s in the name of recovering ancient practice miss the mark. One example is what the Prayer Book calls, without further explanation, “The Peace.” Roman Catholics call it, “The Rite of Peace.”

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Volume 17, Number 32

FROM THE RECTOR: REFORMED WORSHIP

I’ve subscribed for many years to Worship, which describes itself as an “international ecumenical journal for the study of liturgy and liturgical renewal.” The May 2015 issue led with an article by Nicholas Wolterstorff, professor emeritus of philosophical theology at Yale: “Reformed Worship: What Has It Been and Should It Continue So?” It’s an article I think I will come back to again.

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Volume 17, Number 31

FROM THE RECTOR: ONE FOUNDATION

While in seminary I went every year to my sponsoring parish for Christmas Eve. My rector thought I and my family should get used to me not being home for Christmas from the get go. (He was fine with my flying home on Christmas Day after church in the morning.) One year as I came into Saint Helena’s Church, Burr Ridge, Illinois, a few days before Christmas, the rector was there on a step ladder adjusting a veil on a statue of Mary. He turned to me and said, “They know you mean business when you dress your statues.” It was a great line.

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Volume 17, Number 30

FROM THE RECTOR: SHORTCHANGING MARK

In 2006 the General Convention of the Episcopal Church adopted a new lectionary for the Prayer Book. After a permitted three-year transition period, we began using this new lectionary on the First Sunday of Advent 2010. But, in the summer of 2012 the General Convention gave permission for bishops to permit the use of the original lectionary of the 1979 Prayer Book. Bishop Mark Sisk acted quickly. With his permission we returned to the original on July 22, 2012. Because of this timing, we missed August of Year B with the new lectionary, and with it, an important example of how both the original 1979 lectionary and the 2006 Revised Common Lectionary shortchange the Gospel According to Mark. The original 1979 lectionary took four Sundays in August from Mark and gave them to John; the new lectionary starts its taking for John at the end of July and gets five Sundays. But I get ahead of myself.

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Volume 17, Number 29

FROM THE RECTOR: MORE THAN GOOD INTENTIONS

This morning I tried to get a visitor who was sitting in one of the front pews of the nave to join us in the chancel for Morning Prayer. She smiled and seemed to welcome the invitation, but she stayed put. I’m sure visitors sometimes stay in the pews because they don’t know what they might be in for if they come forward. And sometimes newcomers really just like the view from the nave pews, and I certainly respect that.

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Volume 17, Number 28

FROM THE RECTOR: NOVELTY IN RITUAL

By the beginning of the thirteenth century, looking at the bread at Mass had replaced eating the bread and drinking the wine at Mass as the focus of worship. The Eucharist was no longer understood or experienced as food that nurtured and sustained life in Christ. Rubrics begin to appear that required the celebrant to receive at Mass—because Masses were being said where not no one, not even the celebrant, ate and drank. The Fourth Lateran Council in 1215 required all Christians to receive Communion at Easter so that they would receive the Eucharist at least once a year. It took a long time for the ritual of the Eucharist to catch up with this understanding of the Eucharist.

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Volume 17, Number 27

FROM THE RECTOR: TRINITY SUNDAY 2015

The Middle Ages gave Western Christians two new major feasts, Trinity Sunday and Corpus Christi. Both reflect very much the spiritual life of their times; and both represent a significant departure from the liturgical tradition of the church. They are “feasts of ideas” (A. Adam, The Liturgical Year [1981], 167); neither is associated with an event in the life of Jesus Christ as recorded in one of the gospels.

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Volume 17, Number 26

FROM THE RECTOR: PENTECOST GOSPELS

What the Prayer Book now calls “The Day of Pentecost: Whitsunday” was originally a fifty-day season that began on the Sunday of the Resurrection. Our English word “Pentecost” comes from the Greek words for “fifty” or “fiftieth.” “Whitsunday” comes from “White Sunday”—a common term for this baptismal day in northern Europe where it’s much warmer at Pentecost than at Easter. (“White” referred to baptismal garments: think of the temperature in unheated buildings in late, not early, spring.)

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Volume 17, Number 25


FROM THE RECTOR: FINDING MORE EASTER

One of my favorite collects begins, “Almighty and everlasting God, increase in us the gifts of faith, hope, and charity” (The Book of Common Prayer [1979], 235). Since the deaths in 2013 of my mother and last Christmas of my father, I sense that I have experienced an increase in faith. The experience has not been any kind of reverie or dream, but a greater, almost physical, awareness of interior space, a very quiet place. No words, just awareness.

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Volume 17, Number 24

FROM THE RECTOR: EASTER IMAGES

At the end of April I was on vacation in Florence, Italy. I was last in Florence in 2008; but I had not been inside the Pazzi Chapel and the adjacent museum, which are part of the Santa Croce parish complex, since my first visit there in 1997. The Pazzi Chapel (with its echoing acoustics) is fun—though I think it would be very hard to read or sing a service in it. Of all the things I saw on this trip to Florence, Venice, and Rome, it was a painting in Santa Croce’s museum that moved me most: the Descent of Christ to Limbo, signed and dated 1552, by Agnolo di Cosimo (1503–1572), known as Il Bronzino, or Agnolo Bronzino.

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Volume 17, Number 23

FROM FATHER PACE: MAY CHRIST FIND THIS CANDLE EVER BURNING

Something wonderful happens every day of the week at Saint Mary the Virgin during the Great Fifty Days of Easter. And what happens is very rare indeed. Here, in the middle of Times Square, beside the high altar, a Paschal candle burns brightly in its stand for all the faithful to see—every day! The Paschal candle is a symbol of the paradigmatic Easter Proclamation that Christ has risen from the grave and that the promise of eternal life has come forth from the empty tomb. The tradition at Saint Mary’s is as clear and simple as it is profound: from the time when the doors are opened in the morning until they are shut at night, the Paschal candle remains lit, proclaiming Christ’s victory over the darkness of sin and death.

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Volume 17, Number 22

FROM FATHER SMITH: STAINED-GLASS FORTY-SIXTH STREET

Spring seems finally to have arrived in New York City, and this week we’ve been able to keep the church doors open for much of the day. This is a welcome change. It’s been a long winter, and it’s nice, at last, to feel a breeze coming in through the doors. I like looking down the church’s cool, dark aisle to Forty-sixth Street, able now to see and hear more clearly what’s happening in the neighborhood. From inside the church, the open doors become a kind of sunlit frame. One can see the comings and goings of those who work and live nearby. Some people hurry by, preoccupied, without a glance inside. Others pause to look through the open doors and to wonder about, and experience, the sights, sounds—and smells—of Saint Mary’s.

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Volume 17, Number 21

FROM THE RECTOR: GENOCIDE REMEMBRANCE

I confess that I completely missed the commemoration for Genocide Remembrance on April 24 that Holy Women, Holy Men (2009) included when that volume was approved for “trial use” by the General Convention. In my defense, it’s a volume that proposed more than one hundred new commemorations, not including those added since the adoption of the 1979 Prayer Book.

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Volume 17, Number 20

FROM THE RECTOR: LARGER EASTER

Some of us were still in the baptistry on Saturday night as the procession of the congregation from the font—down the side aisle to the back of the church, then up the main aisle—approached the chancel steps. There were two joyful baptisms at vigil, one adult, one child. The paschal candle led this procession. We buy an undecorated candle; this year’s was taller than in recent years. It seemed exactly right. It was for me one moment of a really wonderful and happy Holy Week.

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Volume 17, Number 19

FROM THE RECTOR: EASTER 2015

In her discussion of John’s account of Jesus raising Lazarus from the grave, New Testament scholar Sandra Schneiders writes that the theological concern of this story is “the problem of death in the community of eternal life” (Written That You May Believe [2003], 175). How does the community of eternal life live with the continuing reality of death? In raising Lazarus, Jesus, who is resurrection and life, shows “eternal life conquers death without abolishing it” (p. 182).

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Volume 17, Number 18

FROM THE RECTOR: JAMES WILLIAM DENNIS, JR., 1937–2015

Jim Dennis died on Monday morning, March 23, 2015, at home at the side of his husband, John Delves. He was 78 years old. He had been a member of Saint Mary’s for 18 years. His funeral will be on Monday in Holy Week, March 30, at 10:00 AM here at his parish church. His ashes will be interred in the vault in the Lady Chapel at the end of the Mass. May he rest in peace.

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Volume 17, Number 17

FROM THE RECTOR: GERALD JAMES CAMPBELL McKELVEY, 1943–2015

Gerald McKelvey died on Monday, March 16, 2015, at Mount Sinai Hospital. He was 71 years old. He had been a member of Saint Mary’s for 29 years. His funeral will be on Thursday, March 26, at 10:00 AM here at his parish church. His ashes will be interred in the vault in the Lady Chapel at the end of the Mass. He is survived by his wife, Maria-Liisa Lydon McKelvey, and his three children. May he rest in peace.

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Volume 17, Number 16

FROM THE RECTOR: EASTER CHOICES
 
Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been taking some time to wrap up our lectionary preparations for Holy Week and Eastertide. There are many choices to be made, which is largely, I think, a good thing.

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