FROM THE RECTOR: CHRISTMAS 2017
Christmas Day is a Sunday this year. We will celebrate all of our regular Sunday morning services, but not Sunday Evensong. The church will close at 2:00 PM. On Christmas Eve, Sung Mass of the Nativity will be at 5:00 PM and Procession & Solemn Mass will be at 11:00 PM. Christmas music will be at 4:30 PM and 10:30 PM.Read More
Only when Christmas Day is a Sunday, as it is this year, do I really get a chance to write for the Fourth Sunday of Advent. This year, not only is Christmas Day a Sunday, but one of our two Christmas stories is read, not on Christmas, but on the Fourth Sunday of Advent. Yes, you read that correctly.
The two New Testament Christmas stories are Matthew 1:18-25 ("Now the birth of Jesus took place in this way . . . ") and Luke 2:1-20 ("In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be enrolled . . . "). Yet the historic gospel lesson for Christmas Day in the West is John 1:1-14 ("In the beginning was the Word . . . "). Thomas Cranmer (1489-1556) used all three of these Christmas lessons in the First Book of Common Prayer (1549). He used Luke for the first Mass of Christmas and John for the second. He placed Matthew on the First Sunday after Christmas Day. Though Luke was omitted from the English book in the 1552 revision, it returned to the American book in 1892.Read More
As I write on the morning after our bishop's visitation on our patronal feast, I want those who were not able to be here to know that Bishop Andrew Dietsche preached a sermon on the annunciation to Mary that none of us who heard it will forget. He recently returned from a mission trip to southern India to see the work Anglicans are doing with the outcasts of South Asian society. You probably know the word "Untouchables." Mohandas Gandhi called the Hindus without a caste, "Harijans," that is, "Children of God." The most common name for the group now is "Dalit," from the Sanskrit word meaning "oppressed." Among the most despised are the very young girls who are given or sold by their families to become temple prostitutes. They can almost never leave. They have no education, no hope, no choice; they face a life of poverty, sexual abuse, shame, and violence. Their children are known as "children of God" because the names of their fathers are unknown. Gandhi's "Harijan" is a now a term of degradation.Read More
FROM THE RECTOR: PATRONAL FEAST 2016
On Wednesday, November 30, I was in West Feliciana Parish, north of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to visit a retired bishop of Louisiana, Charles Jenkins, and his wife, Louise Jenkins. They have been friends of mine since I served as Father Jenkins' curate in Baton Rouge. They are also friends of Saint Mary's. If memory serves, the bishop has known Saint Mary's since he was a seminarian. I continue to be thankful for the friendship, encouragement, and advice they have given me over many years.Read More
FROM THE RECTOR: A NEW ADVENT
Last Sunday during the announcements at Solemn Mass, I remarked to our visitors that there was nothing special about our music for Christ the King Sunday. I said, "It's this great all of the time." Since the beginning of the choir season in October, Dr. David Hurd and our singers have given us one extraordinary Solemn Mass after another. I've thanked them publicly at Mass; now I want to let the wider community know of my personal appreciation and of the appreciation that has been expressed by those at church.Read More
FROM OUR DEACON: TIME AWAY & BACK AGAIN
On All Saints' Day, I returned from my time off from Saint Mary's, which had coincided with the first half of a fellowship leave I was granted by Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC), where I've been a full-time English professor for thirty years. My award was for a half year with pay in support of a poetry writing project, preliminarily titled Afters and Befores, which takes its thematic purpose from some lines in T. S. Eliot's Four Quartets, "Burnt Norton": "Time present and time past/Are both perhaps present in time future/And time future contained in time past . . ." My manuscript of poems and prose poems in progress (two of which were recently published online) intends to illuminate the passage and evolution within a life now at middle age, lived fully, with all of the human concerns and complications-death, loss, aging, love, family, and so on.Read More
FROM THE RECTOR: A NEW PRAYER
Very gradually over the past month or so, I've realized that my experience of daily common prayer has changed. While praying the canticles, the creed, and the regular prayers, and sometimes even when officiating, I am going to a place where the words just seem to be coming out of my mouth without me reading or thinking them. It doesn't seem like memory to me. I don't have to think about it. It's almost involuntary. I sense I just need to be there in church at the right time for my spirit to be in a new place, aware in the now in a new way.Read More
FROM THE RECTOR: GUTTERS AND ROOFS
Most weeks Office Manager Chris Howatt and I meet with the job leaders for our renovations from the architectural firm Jan Hird Pokorny Associates, Inc. (JHP), and the construction firm West New York Restoration of CT, Inc. (WNY). The work began when scaffolding went up across the 47th Street façade on December 9, 2015. It went up then so that the terra cotta stones on the roof could be taken down and restored or replicated as required. The roof work is essentially complete save for the reinstallation of the terra cotta. I learned at this week's meeting that all of the new terra cotta units are on the truck. My hope is that most of the scaffolding will be down by Thanksgiving Day. The sidewalk bridge will remain in place because problems were discovered with the carved stones set around the 47th Street entrance and with the limestone ornamentation atop the Lady Chapel roof.
FROM THE RECTOR: CELEBRATING THE SAINTS
Most of the great festivals of the church year are associated in my mind with hymns. It really does feel like the morning of the resurrection when, at the end of the Great Vigil of Easter, we sing "Jesus Christ is risen today, Alleluia!" For me, it really is Christmas when the organ begins to introduce our final hymn at the Christmas Eve Masses, "Hark! the herald angels sing." At Epiphany it's "Brightest and best of the sons of the morning"-to the tune Star in the East. For Trinity Sunday it's "I bind unto myself today the strong Name of the Trinity." And of course for All Saints' Day, it's "For all the saints." This hymn will be sung at the 12:10 PM Sung Mass and at the 6:00 PM Solemn Mass on Tuesday, November 1, All Saints' Day
FROM MICHAEL DEVONSHIRE: REVEALING THE FAÇADE
"There is no sculptural art in America . . . You'll starve!" In this way, John Massey Rhind (1860-1936) was warned away from venturing to America in his ambition to follow his training as a sculptor and make his way in the United States. He ignored his father's admonition, and the Church of Saint Mary the Virgin is so much the better for it. In the creation of the church complex, John Massey is responsible for no fewer than six important sculptural images. The sculptures are presently in good condition, showing very little erosion of the surfaces, something that is generally expected in the New York City's atmosphere. Close inspection of the pieces is not possible, however, due to the protective netting and the sidewalk bridge.
FROM THE RECTOR: SHOWING UP
Last week I was a guest at the annual conference of the North American province of the Society of Catholic Priests (SCP), which took place this year in Atlanta, Georgia. SCP describes its "twin aims [as] the cultivation of priestly spirituality and the encouragement of catholic evangelism." The members of the North American province (SCP also has a European province) are bishops, priests, and deacons-both women and men-of the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada.Read More
FROM STEVEN HEFFNER: GIFTS OF TIME, TREASURE & TALENT
For more than ten years, I've had the honor of serving on the stewardship committee at Saint Mary's. I'm not sure that most people would consider service on the stewardship committee "an honor"--probably more like the unenviable task you try to duck! However, for me it's been a blessing. Even through a number of challenging financial times, I've had a front-row seat for an even greater number of miraculous responses from the Saint Mary's community and experienced a host of unexpected delights in the work of stewardship.
FROM THE RECTOR: FALL IS HERE
The first Sunday in October is the beginning of the regular schedule of services. The service times don’t change for us, but the parish choir is back to sing at Solemn Masses on Sundays and principal feasts. On summer Sundays, Morning and Evening Prayer are read. Beginning this Sunday and through Morning Prayer on Corpus Christi 2017, Sunday Morning Prayer is chanted and Solemn Evening & Benediction is offered on Sunday evenings. The Wednesday night Bible study is already underway; adult education returns this Sunday as well. Of course, our doors are open and the regular services of the church are offered daily. Fall is here.
FROM THE RECTOR: OUR PRAISE AND THANKSGIVING
In my seminary years we learned that the sharp division between the Christian and Jewish communities, as reflected in most of the New Testament, arose after the Great Jewish Revolt (AD 66–70). It seems that for some time scholars have placed the hardening of this division toward the end of the period called “Late Antiquity,” AD 200–700 (C. E. Fonrobert, “Judaizers, Jewish Christians, and Others,” The Jewish Annotated New Testament , 555). So I wasn’t surprised to find, at the beginning of Through the Eye of a Needle: Wealth, the Fall of Rome, and the Making of Christianity in the West, 350–550 AD (2012) by Peter Brown, that Professor Brown writes about commonalities in the earlier part of this period.
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.
FROM FATHER SMITH: IN MEMORIAM
Like many New Yorkers, I remember that September 11, 2001, was a startlingly clear, cool, sunny early-autumn day here in the city. It is incongruous that one of the things that we remember about that terrible day is the weather. We do so, I suppose, because for many of us the memories of the day are so vivid and so visual, and because the smoke and the ash that blanketed lower Manhattan on that Tuesday morning were such a shocking and cruel violation. As all who read this know, on the morning of September 11, 2001, Al Qaeda terrorists boarded and then hijacked three commercial airliners and carried out coordinated attacks against the World Trade Center and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., killing everyone on board the planes and nearly 3,000 people in the buildings and on the ground. A fourth plane crashed into a Pennsylvania field, killing all on board, after passengers and members of the crew attempted to take control from the hijackers. Many others survived the attacks but were injured. (See http://www.history.com/topics/9-11-timeline.)
FROM FATHER SMITH: EVERYDAY EATING
A couple of months ago, one late Saturday afternoon, I preached a homily to a small congregation here at Saint Mary’s. It was warm in the church. We’ve had some pretty hot days here in New York this summer, and the church doors were open. But it was mercifully quiet out there in our neighborhood. They’re building a hotel on the corner of Forty-seventh Street and Seventh Avenue, and that has slowed traffic down to a trickle. The sound of outraged drivers honking their horns is an everyday occurrence. You learn to speak up, or, when it gets really bad, you close the doors. But it was Saturday afternoon getting on toward evening. The construction workers had gone home, and the late-night weekend revelers, who only emerge after the sun goes down, were still taking their naps. It was quiet in the church as we welcomed the Lord’s Day, and that was nice.Read More
FROM THE RECTOR: DIMINUTION
While away from the parish earlier this year, I ended up attending the main service of a significant urban Episcopal parish in a significant town. As I entered I was handed a bulletin that identified the service as “Holy Eucharist, Community & Song.” Before the service the celebrant spoke to us about the special service we would be having that day. We learned there had been a workshop the day before and that the content of the workshop would be shaping our morning worship. This announcement seemed to assume that everybody present knew and understood the parish’s liturgical traditions and customs. There was no acknowledgment that visitors might be present; it was very much what I call “club religion.”
FROM THE RECTOR: AUGUST NEWS
During my first year at Saint Mary’s, a parishioner observed that if one didn’t work hard in the summer, the fall would be overwhelming. That doesn’t mean people don’t get vacations; what it means is that there’s usually a lot going on. I want to tell you about some of the things that are happening here at the parish.
FROM THE RECTOR: BIBILICAL INCLUSION
The Prayer Book gives permission to lengthen any lesson at the Daily Office. Reading the Bible and being honest about all of what it says and doesn’t say, I believe, is the greatest defense our minds and hearts can have against fundamentalism in all its forms. So, at Saint Mary’s we omit nothing from the New Testament at the Office. The Old Testament, however, presents different challenges.