The Angelus

Volume 13, Number 48

From the rector: AUTHORITY OF RITE

Louis Weil called my attention to a quotation in an article by the Jesuit scholar Robert F. Taft in the current issue of Worship (85, September 2011, 406), the liturgical journal published by the monks of Saint John’s Abbey (Roman Catholic), Collegeville, Minnesota.  Taft was writing about the distinction some liturgical theologians have made between what the church does in worship (theologia prima – primary theology) and what the Church thinks about worship (theologia secunda – secondary theology).  I had actually read the article once, but with Father Weil’s note, I made a point of reading the article again with more care.  It’s gotten me to think about the authority of Prayer Book worship.

Near the end of his article, Father Taft quoted the late Thomas J. Talley (1924-2005), a priest of the Church who was professor of liturgics at the General Theological Seminary from 1971 until 1990.  Talley had written about attending the last Sunday Mass of the day at a local Roman parish.  The celebrant was a young, recently ordained priest who gave no impression that he had any special interest in or knowledge of the liturgy.  The “youngster” knew what he needed to know to do the job.  For Talley, the young priest’s basic competency in doing what the Roman tradition required him brought far more to the table than the priest knew or understood.  Talley wrote,

This liturgy was what the [Vatican II] reform had produced, and it was clear, strong, direct and profoundly archaic.  That is to say, as with all good ritual, it was powerfully authoritative.  I could see no way in which the election or appointment of a new liturgy committee could alter that authority, for it was not made on the premises.  While there may well have been older layfolk there for whom this liturgy was still new, for me it was as old as the history of our people, and as fresh as it has ever been in those twenty centuries.  Now I simply do not have the sensitivity or the ingenuity or the erudition to generate that sense of authority.  And neither, I am sure, did that kid.  That kind of authority resides in the ritual itself.”  (Thomas J. Talley, “The Future of the Past,” in id., Worship: Reforming Tradition [Washington, DC: The Pastoral Press, 1990], 152-53)

Since the Protestant Reformation in England, the authority of rite in the Anglican tradition has been carried by the Book of Common Prayer and the Authorized Version of the Bible.  Cranmer’s work has stood the test of time in many ways.  With respect, no liturgy in the English language will ever sound or feel right if it does not reflect his work.  It is mostly through the words of our Prayer Book and Scripture that we Episcopalians have known the authority of rite.  Revisions of the Prayer Book and the Bible have not altered the ability of these texts to carry this authority – when they are used with even a minimum understanding and care by the laity and clergy of the Church.  For that matter, worship in the Roman or any other Christian tradition requires a minimum understanding and care by a community and its leaders to be something other than a drill.

In my first three weeks on the job after seminary, as a deacon – not yet a priest, I had three graveside funerals using the old Prayer Book.  In the older rite, there was no provision for a sermon and the person who had died was not mentioned by name.  The service began with words of Scripture that speak to the heart of the Good News of Jesus Christ: “I am the resurrection and the life saith the Lord: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and believeth in me, shall never die” (The Book of Common Prayer [1928], 325).  The rite carried, and still carries, the authority not only of the Gospel of Christ, but of the time in the past when humans first closed the eyes of the departed and threw dirt on their dead to cover them.

I prepared for ordination at Nashotah House Seminary.  In the early 1980s it was a far different place than it is today.  Its faculty had been formed in the Anglo-Catholic tradition.  Worship was at a highpoint.  The new Prayer Book was used – both traditional and contemporary rites – because the seminary was training us to serve where we were needed by the Church.  The standard was high, not just the ritual.  There was a conviction that the worship of the seminary community should reflect the best thinking about common prayer.  I think it is fair to say it succeeded in many good ways.

Not so long ago, a priest who had been ordained less than three years explained to me why the traditional gesture used by the presider at Mass with the Lord’s Prayer wasn’t as “welcoming” as it should be.  This priest stretches out hands to the assembly instead of opening them heavenward to God.  Not every move I make at the altar comes down from Jesus and the disciples, but raised and open hands does.  Even if I ever thought I had a better idea, I can’t imagine I would use it.

For the record, at the grave I still have the coffin lowered before I begin the committal.  The words are from the Prayer Book.  They matter there, and so does the sound of dirt falling on the coffin.  Only words like these, and gestures like these, can carry our grief, our love, and our hope.  This is the authority of rite.  Stephen Gerth


YOUR PRAYERS ARE ASKED FOR Mary, George, Vivek, Lee, Valerie, Rita, Donald, Sharon, Bob, Julia, Dorothy, Gert, Rick, Emil, religious, Paul, PRIEST, and John, priest; and for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Mark, Christine, and Rob . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . October 23: 1899 George Washington Truet; 1913 Charles Vincent Smithley; 1944 Louise Eustis; 1973 Hoxie Neale Fairchild; 1985 Adolphe Barreaux.


THE ORDINARY FRIDAYS OF THE YEAR are observed by special acts of discipline and self-denial in commemoration of the crucifixion of the Lord.


THIS WEEK AT SAINT MARY’S . . . Sunday, October 23, 10:00 AM, Episcopal Traditions & Customs: Using the Prayer Book – The Structure of the Eucharist – Led by Father Stephen Gerth; the class meets in the Arch Room on the second floor of the Mission House . . . The Vestments of Saint Mary’s exhibit continues on Sundays in Saint Joseph’s Hall through the last Sunday in October . . . Sunday, October 23, 1:30-3:00 PM, Vertical Tour at the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine . . . Monday, October 24, Saint James of Jerusalem (transferred), Morning Prayer 8:30 AM, Noonday Prayer 12:00 PM, Mass 12:10 PM, Evening Prayer 6:00 PM, Mass 6:20 PM . . . The Wednesday Night Bible Study Class continues on October 26, at 6:30 PM, in the Arch Room on the second floor of the Mission House . . . Friday, October 28, Saint Simon & Saint Jude, Morning Prayer 8:30 AM, Noonday Prayer 12:00 PM, Mass 12:10 PM, Evening Prayer 6:00 PM, Mass 6:20 PM . . . Father Gerth will hear confessions on Saturday, October 22.  Father Jim Pace will hear confessions on Saturday, October 29.


AROUND THE PARISH . . . The West 47th Street doors to the church are expected to remain closed for repair through Friday, October 28 . . . Parishioner Mary Gossy broke her ankle recently.  She is recovering at the home of family members here in New York.  Please keep her in your prayers . . . Father Powell’s sermon at the Solemn Mass on Sunday, October 16, has been posted on the parish web page . . . The annual All Souls’ Day letter was mailed on Wednesday.  Please return your prayer requests for the All Souls’ Requiem Masses as soon as possible . . . Thank you to parishioners Dick Leitsch and Scott Holman who spent many hours this past week organizing and sending out the All Souls’ Day mailing . . . Thank you to all those who worked so hard to make last Saturday’s Oktoberfest and Hymn Sing such a great success.  Thank you so much to all those who brought food to share.  We were blessed with great abundance, delicious choices, and much variety!  More than fifty people attended the event and it continues to be a wonderful way to spend time together and to introduce others to the parish.  A special word of thanks is due to Saint Andrew’s Guild members Grace Bruni and Marie Rosseels, who did much of the organizational work involved.  Also, many thanks to James Kennerley, Rosemary Kulp, Julia Heard Miranda, Rick Miranda, Jason Mudd, Sharon Singh, and Richard Theilmann for all their help before, during, and after the event . . . We are still looking for donors to sponsor the receptions on All Saints’ Day (November 1) and Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary (December 8).  Please contact Aaron Koch or Father Smith if you’d like to make a donation . . . The Stewardship Committee plans to mail stewardship packets during the week of October 24.  The members of the committee are MaryJane Boland, chair; Steven Heffner; and Marie Rosseels.  We invite you to give the appeal your prayerful consideration.  Please pray for the success of this year’s campaign . . . Attendance: Last Sunday 255.


NEW AND PROSPECTIVE MEMBERS RECEPTION . . . On Monday, November 14, at 6:30 PM, in the Rectory, following 6:00 PM Evening Prayer, we will host a reception for all those who are new to the parish and those who would like to find out more about Saint Mary’s.  The reception lasts for about an hour, and refreshments will be served.  If you would like to attend, please contact Father Jay Smith.  Latecomers should come to the Rectory entrance at 144 West 47th Street.


A WOMEN'S GROUP AT SAINT MARY'S . . . You are invited to join the women of Saint Mary's for tea to share your ideas and thoughts about how we might connect with each other.  Because we're an urban church with parishioners from all over the metropolitan area, we know that sometimes it can be a challenge to get to know each other outside of services.  At this meeting, we'll enjoy refreshments at a parishioner's home and consider ways we can support each other and encourage fellowship.  Please come and join the discussion and meet some new people.  All are welcome, including children! Our first meeting is scheduled for Thursday evening, November 3, from 6:00 to 9:00 PM at a parishioner's home in Manhattan.  Please contact the church office (212-869-5830) if you'd like to join us, and we will send you more details about the meeting, including the location.


FROM THE MUSIC DIRECTOR . . . The prelude before the Solemn Mass on Sunday is Andante tranquillo from Sonata III, Opus 65, by Felix Mendelssohn (1809–1847).  The setting of the Mass ordinary is Messe für Doppelchor, also by Mendelssohn.  Mendelssohn was one of the finest composers of the early Romantic period.  His exceptional musical abilities were recognized early in his lifetime.  He toured Europe frequently, visiting England alone ten times, conducting premieres of his works and performing solo recitals.  Mendelssohn composed several eight–part movements of the Mass ordinary in German for the Lutheran liturgy: the Kyrie eleison, Ehre sei Gott (“Gloria”) and Heilig (“Sanctus”), but he omitted the Credo and the Agnus Dei.  The Agnus Dei has been adapted to the German text by James Kennerley from an eight-part setting of a Passiontide work, Herr, gedenke nicht unser.  At the ministration of Communion, the choir sings the motet Verleich uns Frieden, also by Mendelssohn . . . On Sunday, October 23, at 4:40 PM, Joseph Ripka will play the organ recital.  Mr. Ripka is from Stonington, Connecticut.  James Kennerley


PLEASE MARK YOUR CALENDAR . . . Monday, October 31, Eve of All Saints’ Day, Solemn Evensong 6:00 PM . . . Tuesday, November 1, All Saints’ Day, Sung Mass 12:10 PM, Organ Recital 5:30 PM, Solemn Mass 6:00 PM, and Reception 7:30 PM . . . Wednesday, November 2, All Souls’ Day, Sung Mass 12:10 PM and Solemn Mass 6:00 PM . . . Daylight Saving Time ends on Sunday, November 6, 2011, 2:00 AM . . . Monday, November 14, 6:30-7:30 PM, New and Prospective Members Reception, in the Rectory, after 6:00 PM Evening Prayer . . . Sunday, November 20, The Last Sunday after Pentecost: Commitment Sunday.  Pledge cards are offered . . . Wednesday, December 7, Eve of the Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Solemn Evensong 6:00 PM and Legacy Society Reception 7:00 PM . . . Thursday, December 8, Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Sung Matins 8:30 AM, Noonday Prayer 12:00 PM, Sung Mass 12:10 PM, Organ Recital 5:30 PM, Solemn Mass 6:00 PM, Reception 7:30 PM.


THE ARTS AT SAINT MARY’S . . . Friday, October 21, 8:00 PM, byrd ensemble . . . Saturday, October 22, 8:00 PM, The New York Repertory Orchestra.  Admission is free. Dvorak: Othello Overture; Patterson: Saxophone Concerto (New York City Premiere); Sibelius: Symphony No. 4 . . . American Globe Theatre (AGT), October 28–November 19.  Hamlet.  Directed by John Basil, AGT’s Artistic Director.  Thursday-Saturday at 7:30 PM, Sunday at 3:00 PM.  For tickets and information, call 212-869-9809 between 9:00 AM and 5:00 PM . . . Sunday, November 6, 8:00 PM, Choral Spectacular: The Tenebrae Choir, Nigel Short, director.  For tickets: or telephone 917-524-6474 . . . Sunday, November 13 at 8:00 PM, Organ Concert, Giampaolo di Rosa, soloist.  Works by Liszt, Bach in addition to improvisation on submitted themes.  Admission is free . . . December 1 and December 2 at 8:00 PM, and December 3 at 3:00 PM, Holiday Concert by The Choral Society, John Maclay, conductor.  Works by Gabrieli, Bernstein, Pärt, and favorite audience carols.


AWAY FROM SAINT MARY’S . . . Members of the Community of Saint John Baptist will be leading two “Celtic Journeys” in the coming year: Ireland, May 6-16, 2012, and Cornwall and England’s Southwest, September 9-18, 2012.  For more information, please speak to one of the sisters or visit . . . The Peccadillo Theater Company at the Theatre at Saint Clement’s presents a revival of Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman’s classic and very funny play, The Man Who Came to Dinner.  Limited engagement, November 25-December 18.  Directed by Dan Wackerman.  Dan is a good friend of Saint Mary’s and often worships with us on Sunday mornings.  Call 212-352-3101 for tickets or visit