FROM THE RECTOR: COUNTDOWN TO LENT
The first day of Lent will be ten days from Sunday. The countdown for the wider church community has begun in earnest. In parts of our country and the world which celebrate carnival before the beginning of Lent, the festival which began with Epiphany is coming to an end, too.
At Saint Mary’s, more people will come through our doors on Ash Wednesday than on any other day of the year—that’s certainly true at many other churches in the city as well. (Read on in this newsletter to learn how you can volunteer.) Those who come find, we hope, welcome and, in whatever way may happen for them, a real experience of worship.
Sunday, February 8, will be for us the Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany. With the annual variation of the date of Easter Day, the Prayer Book makes provision for eight Sundays after the Epiphany, along with one final Sunday before Lent that is called, “The Last Sunday after the Epiphany.” In earlier Prayer Books, the third Sunday before Lent was called, Septuagesima (70 days), the second, Sexagesima (60 days), and the last, Quinquagesima (50 days). This last Sunday before Lent really was fifty days before Easter Day. Septuagesima and Sexagesima were just convenient nicknames (Massey Shepherd, Oxford American Prayer Book Commentary , 118).
Nicholas Russo is an assistant undergraduate dean at Notre Dame and a liturgical scholar. His 2009 dissertation was on the origins of Lent. Last year he published what I think is a really useful survey of the very complex history of the season, which can be found online here. The last two sentences of his article may be ones to keep in mind as one begins to read the whole article, “As with most issues in the study of the early history of the liturgy, certainty is elusive and we must be satisfied with possibilities. Judicet lector: let the reader decide.”
I think it’s correct to say that Lent’s origins lie in the practice of a pre-baptismal fast that becomes common in the century after the gospels and the Acts of the Apostles are written. However, in Mark, Matthew, and Luke, Jesus fasts after his baptism. In Acts 8 we hear about a baptism in which fasting plays no role at all. First, we learn that the Ethiopian eunuch hears the good news from Philip. Then we read, “And as they went along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, ‘See, here is water! What is to prevent my being baptized?’ And he commanded the chariot to stop, and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him” (Acts 8:36–38). Nothing about baptism has been simple since.
In the years since I went to seminary, it’s become clear that baptisms at Easter may have been normative in very few places, and then only for a very short period of time—the mid-fourth century. That said, what continues to emerge is that Baptism, whenever it is celebrated, is the Easter event: Jesus Christ still rising from the dead in the lives of those being reborn to eternal life.
Christians for over 1000 years now have been preparing for the Christian Passover—Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Eve “by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God’s holy Word” (Book of Common Prayer , 265). We have more services in Lent than any other time of the year. That said, my own preference this year is to think about how I might be open to new ways of being aware that when I eat the bread and drink from the cup, I am feeding on the life-giving Jesus. The countdown to Lent is underway. —Stephen Gerth
YOUR PRAYERS ARE ASKED FOR Sean, Emily, Ben, Charlie, Vera, Amy, Dorothy, Abalda, Gerald, Penny, Robert, John, Linda, Eric, Maureen, Barbara, McNeil, Takeem, Arpene, Paulette, priest, and Harry, priest; and for all the members of our Armed Forces on active duty . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . February 8: 1884 Chatelier Cook; 2000 Melissa Suggs.
THE ORDINARY FRIDAYS OF THE YEAR are observed by special acts of discipline and self-denial, in commemoration of the Lord’s crucifixion.
STEWARDSHIP 2015 . . . We have met our goal! As of Monday, February 2, we have received pledges from 173 households. 100.7% of our $425,000.00 goal has been pledged to date. Thank you so much to all those who made a pledge for 2015 and to all those who continue to support Saint Mary’s so generously. It is our hope, of course, that everyone who has made a pledge this year will do their best to fulfill it. This helps us to keep within our budget and it allows us to continue our ministry. If you need to discuss your pledge or make alterations to it, please contact the finance office. If you have not yet made a pledge, but would like to do so, please contact the finance office or speak to a member of the Stewardship Committee: MaryJane Boland, Steven Heffner, or Marie Rosseels. It’s never too late to make a pledge.
THIS WEEK AT SAINT MARY'S . . . Sunday, February 8, 10:00 AM, Adult Forum: Father Jay Smith will begin his two-part series on the Essential Elements of the Christian Life, using Archbishop Rowan Williams’s book Being Christian: Baptism, Bible, Eucharist, Prayer as a source for the discussion . . . The Wednesday Night Bible Study Class, February 11, at 6:30 PM, in Saint Joseph’s Hall . . . Confessions will be heard on Saturday, February 7, by Father Jim Pace, and on Saturday, February 14, by Father Jay Smith.
HELP US WELCOME PEOPLE ON ASH WEDNESDAY . . . The church will be open from 7:00 AM to 8:00 PM. In addition to the scheduled services, ushers are needed all day to welcome and assist people. Randy Morgan is usher chair. Please let him know if you can be here to help during the course of the day. The parish office will be glad to put you in touch with him.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . Father Gerth will be away from the parish from Saturday, February 14, until Tuesday, February 17 . . . Attendance: Last Sunday 286; Presentation 149.
PARISH POTLUCK DINNER . . . On Saturday, February 21, there will be a Saint Mary’s Community Potluck Dinner in Saint Joseph’s Hall, following the Evening Mass, between 6:00 and 8:00 PM. Our friends who spend part of the day resting in the church, some of whom are homeless, will be invited to join us for dinner once again. As of February 5, around 25 Saint Marians have volunteered to attend the supper and bring a dish to share. We also plan to have a clothing and toiletries table for our homeless guests. If you would like to participate, if you have questions, or if you would like to make a donation, please contact Father Jay Smith or Chris LaCass. We hope to see you on the 21st! —Jay Smith
MUSIC THIS WEEK . . . Sunday, February 8, the Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany: Herbert Howells (1892–1983) is considered by many to be the most gifted English composer of the generation following Elgar, Vaughan Williams, and Holst. His musical abilities and ambitions burgeoned at London’s Royal Academy of Music, and he quickly distinguished himself as a student of Stanford and Parry. In later years, Howells would become one of the Academy’s most well-known teachers, serving on the faculty for almost sixty years. Howells was an outstanding organist, and many of his earliest works were written for organ. In spite of health issues (which kept him from military service during the First World War), Howells continued to thrive and did, in time, marry. In 1936, Howells’s only child, a nine-year-old son, died of polio, and the event left its mark on Howells in a way that affected his compositional output for the rest of his life. His work took on an intense spirituality and profound depth, and for some critics, opened a new chapter in church music. Although he wrote twenty sets of morning and evening canticles for the Anglican Church, Howells wrote very few Mass settings. The last of these, Missa Aedis Christi, was written in 1958 for the collegiate chapel at Christ Church College, Oxford. This work, which we will hear at the Solemn Mass on Sunday, shows great dignity while achieving an accomplished integration of music with text. The organ is used ad libitum during the Gloria only, while the remainder of the Mass is sung unaccompanied. At the ministration of Holy Communion we hear a moving motet from the Russian Orthodox Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom by Mikhail Ippolitov-Ivanov (1859–1935), a composer known primarily for his lush orchestral compositions . . . At Evensong & Benediction on Sunday at 5:00 PM, we will be joined by two guest choirs, the parish choir of Trinity Church, Ossining, and the parish choir of the Church of Saint James the Less in Scarsdale. Mr. Dale Bonenberger, who is well known to many Saint Marians, is the director of music at Trinity Church and Justin Bischof is the director of music at Saint James the Less. Mr. Bonenberger and Dr. Bischof will play the organ recital that begins at 4:40 PM on Sunday. Mr. Bonenberger will play works of Adolphe Hesse (1808–1863) and Franklin Ritter (b. 1934) and Dr. Bischof will play a Suite (An Improvisation) in three movements. —Mark Peterson
CHRISTIAN EDUCATION . . . The Wednesday Night Bible Study Class met on February 4 and had a very interesting discussion of violence and the use and misuse of the Bible, religion, and political ideologies, both in the past and in our own time. We talked about how our reading of the Bible and, in particular, our reading of Israel’s prophets helps us to address these issues. The class will meet next on Wednesday, February 11. The class is reading the Book of the Prophet Isaiah this year. Next time, we will begin reading at chapter 19 . . . On February 8 and 15, Father Jay Smith will lead the Sunday-morning adult-education class in a discussion of the Essential Elements of the Christian Life. This class would be useful for those preparing for Baptism, Confirmation, or Reception . . . On the Sundays in Lent (February 22 and March 1, 8, 15, 22 & 29) Father Pete Powell will continue his series on The Gospel of John . . . All the Sunday-morning adult-education classes begin at 10:00 AM and are held in the Arch Room on the second floor of the Mission House. —Jay Smith
MARK YOUR CALENDAR . . . February 18, Ash Wednesday . . . Fridays in Lent, Stations of the Cross 6:30 PM . . . Wednesday, February 25, Saint Matthias, Mass 12:10 PM & 6:20 PM . . . Sunday, March 8, Daylight Saving Time begins . . . Thursday, March 19, Saint Joseph, Mass 12:10 & 6:20 PM . . . Wednesday, March 25, The Annunciation, Sung Mass 12:10 PM; Solemn Pontifical Mass 6:00 PM, The Right Reverend Allen K. Shin, suffragan bishop of New York.