The Angelus

Saint Michael and All Angels

A couple of weeks before last Easter, I ordered a copy of a commentary on the Revelation to John. When I started working on this sermon, at first I didn’t realize that I had something to turn to on the subject of angels. The word “angel”—“messenger”—to be clear, always a heavenly messenger—appears 178 times in the New Testament—of the 178, 77 are in the Revelation to John.

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The Burial of the Dead, Yolanda Goldbyng Travieso, 1931-2019

Our Prayer Book still uses a traditional word for our opening prayer of a Eucharist or other service of worship: collect. The Sunday collects, or prayers, are prayed through the week except on a feast day or at a special service like today. The collect for this Burial Mass addresses God as “one whose mercies cannot be numbered.”[1] It’s one of many words in our service that proclaim our confidence, our faith, and our love.

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The Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Transferred)

My article for our Angelus newsletter for this week of September 8 was called, “Some September Celebrations.” I wrote about Holy Cross Day, September 14, Saint Michael and All Angels, which will fall on Sunday, September 29, this year. I mentioned the special Sung Requiem on September 11. About the Nativity of Mary I wrote, “There is one traditional commemoration of Mary still omitted by our Episcopal Church, but one which has found a home in the Church of England and other churches of the Anglican Communion, the Nativity of Mary on September 8.” It turns out I was wrong.

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The Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Solemn Mass, by the Rector

Last Sunday we heard the beginning of the fourteenth chapter of Luke. On a sabbath day Jesus went to the house of a leader of the Pharisees to eat. A man comes, finds Jesus, and is healed. This causes great consternation to the group of Pharisees who are there. Then Jesus spoke to those present about seeking out the most humble place at a banquet: “For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but those who humble themselves will be exalted.”[1] There were also words about generosity to those who were poor: “And you will be happy . . . you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”[2]

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The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Solemn Mass, by the Rector

Father Donald Garfield was rector of Saint Mary’s in 1967 when Archbishop of Canterbury Michael Ramsey preached in this pulpit. Ramsey’s chaplain was Father John Andrew, whom many of you knew, and who became rector of Saint Thomas Church in 1972. I never met Father Garfield, who died in 1996, but from conversations with Father Andrew and with my predecessor here, Father Edgar Wells, I know Father Garfield and Father Andrew enjoyed each other’s company.

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The Transfiguration of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Sung Mass, by the Rector

In 1981, Professor Enrique Nardoni, who taught both New Testament and theology, wrote an important article about the verse that appears in Mark before Mark begins his account of the transfiguration.[1] Matthew and Luke both follow Mark closely. Luke puts that verse this way, “But I tell you truly, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God.”[2] Then Luke continues, “Now about eight days after these sayings he took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray,”[3] the story of the transfiguration. On the mountain these three apostles see the Christ in glory. But they do not understand what they have seen.

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The Eighth Sunday after Pentecost, Said Mass, by the Rector

In my homily last evening at our Sunday Vigil Mass, I didn’t mention yesterday’s mass shooting in El Paso, Texas. But awakened with the news of a second mass shooting in Dayton, Ohio, in the early hours of this morning, I want to say something about this evil that is abroad in our country in our lifetime. Living and working at Saint Mary’s, I know I listen and worry when I hear the sirens of more than one ambulance at a time passing by the church. Things have happened here, and evil things can happen here again.

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The Seventh Sunday after Pentecost, Solemn Mass, by the Rector

I dislike the readings appointed for the daily Eucharist on Thursday after the First Sunday in Lent so, that if I can, I avoid being celebrant and preacher that day. The lesson is from the part of the book of Esther that belongs to the Apocrypha.[1] The psalm for that day is the same as today’s, Psalm 138, with its words, “When I called, you answered me.”[2] The gospel is Matthew’s version of the last part of today’s gospel from Luke: “Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.”[3]

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The Third Sunday after Pentecost, Solemn Mass, by the Rector

In Mark, when Jesus leaves Capernaum in Galilee, his disciples go looking for him to bring him back. When they find him, Jesus says, “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also; for that is why I came out.”[1] And that is what he does. But in the parallel passage in Luke, when the people of Capernaum try to stop him from leaving. Jesus says to them, “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other cities also; for I was sent for this purpose”—the same language used by Gabriel to Mary: “I was sent to speak to you, and to bring you this good news.”[2]

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The Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ: Corpus Christi, Solemn Mass, Procession through Times Square & Benediction, by the Rector

I was surprised earlier this week when I realized that I’ve never written a sermon on Luke’s account of Jesus’ last supper. As I started to work, I came across this comment from the late biblical scholar G. B. Caird, “the Lucan account of the Last supper is a scholar’s paradise and a beginner’s nightmare.”[1] I think I now know why the church has shied away from its use in the Lectionary. Luke’s is by far the most distinctive and most complex of the New Testament accounts of the last meal Jesus and his disciples shared with words about the bread and the cup. The others are from Mark, Matthew, and Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians.[2]

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Trinity Sunday, Solemn Evensong, by the Rector

Matthew’s gospel ends with these words. I quote the King James Version that I memorized as a child: Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.[1]

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The Seventh Sunday of Easter, Solemn Evensong, by the Rector

If you know the story of Moses and the burning bush, you realized that the lectionary editors left out part of the story as we usually hear it. Moses questioning God about his name. So, “God said to Moses, ‘I am Who I am.’ And [God] said, ‘Say this to the people of Israel, “I am has sent me to you.” ’ ”[1] I think the revelation of the name of God is the highpoint of the passage. Why the omission?

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The Marriage of Shayleigh Dickson and Richard Page, by the Rector

Shay and Rich are the first couple who have ever asked me to preach on the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount. It’s the first and by far the longest of five sermons given by Jesus in Matthew. Its words are among the most well-known passages of the New Testament. My own favorite words are these:

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The Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Said Eucharist, by the Rector

Generally, the earliest short prayer addressed to Mary is dated to the third century. It’s known by its Latin beginning, Sub tuum praesidium: To your protection we flee, holy Mother of God [“God bearer”]: Do not despise our prayers in [our] needs, but deliver us from all dangers, Glorious and blessed Virgin.[1]

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Ascension Day, Solemn Mass, by the Rector

New Testament Professor Joel Marcus, in his commentary on today’s gospel lesson from the last chapter of Mark, draws our attention to a narrative in the early part of Mark to help us to understand its ending. He refers his readers to the story “of storm-tossed disciples, surrounded by darkness and rising waves, and afraid they are about to perish.”[1] Wind and sea are calmed. Then, Jesus said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?”[2] Saint Mark’s answer to fear and to suffering is faith.

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The Fourth Sunday of Easter, Solemn Evensong, by the Rector

Over a year ago, I started adding explanations for any additions to or reordering of the appointed readings. After hearing today’s lesson from Exodus, you might be surprised to read this note: “Other details of the priestly vestments (Exodus 28:5–29, 39–43) are omitted by the lectionary.” In other words, we heard a total of 14 verses that describe the vestments. There are 30 more. I am glad of that omission.

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The Fourth Sunday of Easter, Solemn Mass, by the Rector

If I may call it the “Sunday Lectionary Lottery,” I think it’s fair to say that Matthew is still the winner—as he was in the historic one-year lectionary, originating in sixth- and seventh-century Rome,[1] which held sway until the liturgical reforms of the 1960s produced the three-year lectionary scheme. The runner up, if you will, is Luke. For some years now, I’ve thought the big loser was Mark. But I’m close to thinking that the big loser is John. He didn’t get his own year. I’m not sure why Anglicans, Lutherans, and others still use a lectionary structured by the theological framework of the Roman Catholic Church, but we and they do.

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The Third Sunday of Easter, Solemn Mass, by the Rector

There is widespread scholarly agreement that John’s gospel originally ended with the last words of what we call the twentieth chapter. That chapter begins, “Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb.”[1] That morning the Risen Jesus made himself known to Mary Magdalene and that evening to all the disciples save Thomas.

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The Burial of the Dead, Norman Richard Austill, 1955–2019, by the Rector

In the last winter of the Second World War, a Church of England Benedictine monk published what remains one of the most influential books on Christian worship. His name was Dom Gregory Dix. The book was The Shape of the Liturgy.[1] That said, it turns out that much of Dix’s scholarship has not stood the test of time. But its influence was such that it directed the next generation of scholars to a better understanding of what we know and what we don’t know about the origins of the Christian Eucharist. One very important thing has stood the test of time: words Dix wrote about his faith.

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Easter Day, Solemn Mass, by the Rector

The literal Greek at the beginning of today’s gospel lesson is wonderfully vivid to my American English ear. It begins, “And on the first day of the Sabbaths”—perhaps a phrase used in Hebrew or Aramaic for the word “week”—“while the dawn was deep,”[1] [the women who had come with Jesus from Galilee, who stood at a distance from the cross, seen him die, and laid in the grave,[2]] went to the tomb, found the stone rolled away, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord. And it happened that they saw two men standing before them in dazzling apparel—angels. Fear—awe—overtook them. They bowed their faces to the ground—worship. The [angels] said to them, words that can reach through grief, “Why do you seek the Living One among the dead? He is not here; he has been resurrected. Remember what he said to you when he was . . . in Galilee.”[3] Then we have a statement by the evangelist of the faithfulness of the women who were Jesus’ disciples: “[the women] remembered [Jesus’] words.”[4]

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