From the Rector: Thinking about Bread
A copy of David Power’s book Sacrament: The Language of God’s Giving (New York: The Crossroad Publishing Company, 1999) arrived in the mail this week. He’s a Roman Catholic sacramental theologian, professor emeritus, Catholic University of America. When I looked through the book for the first time, my eyes stopped on a section near the end entitled “Liturgical Practice.” This sentence caught my eye right away, “If there is one aspect of sacramental practice that needs attention more than anything else, it is the respect for the elements of bread, wine, oil, and water” (312). My hunch is that underlying his respect for sacramental elements is fundamental respect for God’s people.
In “The Good Friday Communion Debate” (Worship 81, January 2007), Patrick Regan, liturgical scholar, Benedictine monk and former abbot, described the reception of communion by Christians in Rome at several key historical points. In the eighth century, the pope and his entourage maintained the traditional practice of Christians in the city, no reception of Holy Communion. Because of the influence of the wider Christian world, the practice of communion on Good Friday was already normative in the city for almost everyone else. After a liturgy which would be very familiar to us today – devotions, John’s passion, solemn intercessions, consecrated bread would be brought from the sacristy and placed on the altar. The papal entourage would leave; then, communion was given to the people. At the parish churches where the pope did not appear, communion was given in both kinds, bread and wine.
This is not the whole story. The Gelasian Sacramentary from the seventh century describes rites for the distribution of bread and wine on Good Friday in parishes in Rome, but not in the papal liturgy. This would change, but in a regrettable direction. As late as the twelfth century, all who wish to receive communion may still do so. By the thirteenth century, only the pope is receiving communion.
As the Middle Ages begin, the Christian community of the Mediterranean world still experienced the Eucharist as meal, as sacred food. Eucharistic bread and wine were ordinary. Wafers for communion were yet to be invented; wine was still taken by the laity. What Aidan Kavanagh calls the “sustained fascination” of Western Christianity with “eucharistic questions” doesn’t get started until the eighth century and takes time to take control (see The Shape of Baptism: The Rite of Christian Initiation, New York, Pueblo Publishing Company, 1978, 160). In this earlier time, what we call the “Words of Institution” aren’t experienced as consecratory; they aren’t accompanied by bells and genuflections. Prominence is given to the sign of Jesus Christ’s presence that Jesus himself gave us: bread and wine. The work by Regan, Kavanagh and others suggests to me that daily communion in Christian homes with bread from Sunday’s Eucharist was known well enough in the Mediterranean world to continue to shape the Church’s understanding of Eucharist. I think it is fair to say that I have to work at Eucharist as meal.
During Mass on Assumption Eve I found myself wondering how we might make some forms of more ordinary bread work for Mass at Saint Mary’s. That’s not a simple thing. It is rare for us to celebrate Mass without visitors present who are probably not Episcopalian. Again, I am thinking about it and I will let you know if I can come up with any sensible options. Let me acknowledge too, that many of us have been to Mass where there is, frankly, little or no respect for the bread and wine. That’s not where I am headed. I think our practices at Saint Mary’s should be shaped by what is best, by what is old and new that God leads us to take out of the treasure he has given us. Jesus said, “My flesh is food indeed and my blood is drink indeed” (John 6:55). I think he intends for his Eucharist to be experienced as that, food and drink. I think it matters. Stephen Gerth
SUNDAY PRAYER LIST . . . Your prayers are asked for Carol, Kevin, Frances, Seymour, Linda, Benicio, Diego, Cindy, Rosemary, Autumn, Sándor, Margaret, Eva, Allan, Dorothy, Harold, Marcia, Stephen, Madeleine, William, Gert, Mary, Allan, and Rick; for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Marc, Benjamin, Steven, Andrew, and Patrick . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . August 23: 1918 Charles Ambrose Coburn; 1920 Cornelia Hatfield Colgate; 1929 Harold McCleave Brown
THIS WEEK AT SAINT MARY’S . . . Lunchtime Organ Recital, Friday, August 21, 1:15 PM, Max Kenworthy, recitalist . . . Monday, August 24, is the Feast of Saint Bartholomew the Apostle. Mass will be said at 12:10 PM and 6:20 PM . . . Tuesday, August 25, through Thursday, August 27, Sister Deborah Francis, C.S.J.B., and Sister Laura Katharine, C.S.J.B., will be away from the parish in order to attend community meetings at the convent in Mendham, New Jersey . . . Father Smith will hear confessions on Saturday, August 22; Father Gerth will hear confessions on Saturday, August 29 . . . Father Smith will be away from the parish Thursday, August 27, and Friday, August 28, officiating at a family wedding in Rochester, New York. He will return to the parish on Saturday, August 29.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . Many thanks to all who did so much to prepare and serve in so many ways for the Assumption! . . . Saint Mary’s Guild will meet next on Saturday, September 12, beginning with the 12:10 PM Mass. For more information about the parish altar guild and its work, please speak to one of the sisters or to Marie Rosseels. All are invited to come to spend some time with the guild’s members and to get a feel for what their work is like . . . Monday, September 7, Labor Day, Federal Holiday Schedule: The Parish Office is closed. The church opens at 10:00 AM and only the midday services are offered (Noonday Prayer 12:00 PM, Mass 12:10 PM). The church closes at 2:00 PM . . . Flowers are needed for Sunday, October 11, Sunday, October 25, and Sunday, November 1, All Saints’ Day. Please contact Father Smith or our business manager, Aaron Koch, if you would like to make a donation . . . Hospitality: If you would like to sponsor the reception following Solemn Mass on Holy Cross Day, Monday, September 14, please contact Father Smith . . . Outreach: Once again this year we will be working with AIDS Action International (AIA) to collect gifts and toys for families in need, especially for those families affected by HIV and AIDS. AIA’s annual event at the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine will be held on Tuesday, November 17. We will be delivering the gift items we’ve collected a few days before that. If you would like to make a donation, please contact Father Smith . . . Attendance: Assumption 347, Last Sunday 245.
FROM THE MUSIC DEPARTMENT . . . The prelude at Solemn Mass this Sunday will be the chorale prelude on Vater Unser (“Our Father”) by Georg Böhm (1661-1733). The prelude will be played by James Kennerley, music director and organist. Mr. Kennerley is also cantor for the service. At the ministration of Communion, Mr. Kennerley sings the motet Lord, what is man, Z. 192, by Henry Purcell (1659-1695). The song was published in the second volume of Henry Playford’s Harmonia Sacra, or Divine Hymns and Dialogues, in 1693. The text is by William Fuller (1608-1675), bishop of Lincoln, and expresses, in vivid musical terms, one person’s amazement at the mystery of the incarnation and Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross. Despite its religious subject, it is probable that it was performed for private edification rather than as part of a service. This would also account for the extreme ranges of expression – including recitative, virtuosic flourishes and several time-meter changes. The postlude is one of a number of pieces that has traditionally been attributed to Johann Sebastian Bach, although the absence of the composer’s manuscript, as well as a number of stylistic inconsistencies, would suggest that it was written by another composer, perhaps Buxtehude, who wrote a number of pieces similar to this one. James Kennerley
CONCERTS & RECITALS AT SAINT MARY’S . . . Friday, August 21, 2009, 1:15 PM, Max Kenworthy, organ (admission free) . . . Monday, August 31, 2009, 7:00 PM (admission free/suggested donation $20.00) Baroque 4x4 Concert . . . Tuesday, September 1, 2009, 7:00 PM (admission free/suggested donation $20.00) Baroque 4x4 Concert . . . Saturday, October 3, 2009, 3:00 PM, Ryan Jackson, organ; Saturday . . . October 24, 2009, 8:00 PM, The New York Repertory Orchestra, David Leibowitz, music director and Gretchen Windt, mezzo-soprano. For a complete listing of Concerts & Recitals at Saint Mary’s please go to the parish web site!
LOOKING AHEAD . . . In September there are three weekdays with special services. Tuesday, September 8, is the Nativity of Mary. There will be a Sung Mass at 6:00 PM in addition to the 12:10 PM Mass . . . Monday, September 14, is Holy Cross Day. In addition to the 12:10 PM Mass, Solemn Mass will be celebrated at 6:00 PM. At the conclusion of both Masses, a relic of the True Cross will be offered for veneration. Following the evening Mass, as is our custom, there will be a reception in Saint Joseph’s Hall . . . Tuesday, September 29, is the Feast of Saint Michael and All Angels. In addition to the 12:10 PM Mass, there will be a Sung Mass at 6:00 PM . . . On October 4, the parish choir returns to sing on Sundays at Solemn Mass and Solemn Evensong & Benediction returns weekly through Trinity Sunday.
The Calendar of the Week
Sunday The Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost
Monday Saint Bartholomew the Apostle
Tuesday Louis, King of France, 1270
Friday Augustine, Bishop of Hippo, 430 Abstinence
Saturday The Beheading of John the Baptist
Eve of the Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost
Sunday: 8:30 AM Morning Prayer, 9:00 AM Said Mass, 10:00 AM Said Mass, 11:00 AM Solemn Mass,
5:00 PM Evening Prayer. Childcare is available from 9:00 AM until 1:00 PM all Sundays of the year.
Monday–Friday: 8:30 AM Morning Prayer, 12:00 PM Noonday Office, 12:10 PM Mass, 6:00 PM Evening Prayer. The Wednesday Mass is sung and when possible incense. The Thursday Mass includes anointing of the sick. Holy Days as announced.
Saturday: 12:00 PM Noonday Office, 12:10 PM Mass, 5:00 PM Evening Prayer, 5:20 PM Sunday Vigil Mass.
Confessions are heard on Saturdays 11:30-11:50 AM & 4:00-4:50 PM.