FROM THE RECTOR: LENT 2015
Lent has at least one thing going for it that seems really important to me these days: no one celebrates Easter early—at least, as far as I know. The commercial footprint of the holiday is far less than Christmas and, I suspect, far less than Halloween or Thanksgiving. Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, and Good Friday seem to provide some protection too.
Everything about the history of Lent, before and after the Reformation, is complex and often incorrect. The present Prayer Book requires the celebrant to begin explaining the season by reading these words, “The first Christians observed with great devotion the days of our Lord’s passion and resurrection” (BCP , 264). There’s absolutely no historical record to support that opening statement. As far as we know, the celebration of Easter Day, much less Lent, probably doesn’t begin any earlier than the middle of the second century (Paul Bradshaw and Maxwell Johnson, Origins , 48–49).
What comes to be called Lent emerges in the fourth century. Most likely, it was tied to preparation for baptism. Once the European and Mediterranean worlds were largely Christian, Lent becomes a penitential period for those who are baptized—and this is largely what it remains in our time. That said, I long for a period when the Holy Spirit will help us become evangelists for our time when increasing numbers of people belong to no community of faith.
At Saint Mary’s, though the number of services increases—because of Stations of the Cross on Friday nights, the simplicity of our services increases as well. During Lent, the word “alleluia,” that is, “Praise to the Lord,” and the hymn “Glory to God in the highest” are omitted. Most of all, the organ is played minimally—only enough to get us started when we sing hymns. With our parish choir available to our organist, he can lead and accompany our singing more than adequately with them. The absence of our great organ during Solemn Mass and Evensong lets us know this time is different.
Apart from Saint Joseph’s Day on March 19 and the Annunciation on March 25, Lent is observed on all of the Sundays and weekdays between Ash Wednesday and Palm Sunday—there are not quite forty of them, but that’s another lesson for another day. Holy Week begins on Palm Sunday. The Easter Season begins on Easter Eve.
In Lent, as at any other time of the year, the most basic pattern of worship for us is the weekly Sunday Eucharist. This tradition does in fact go back to the first Christians. They weren’t services though; they were meals. Because they believed in the Risen Jesus they knew that when they shared bread and wine they were feeding on the life-giving Christ.
The church will be open on Ash Wednesday from 7:00 AM until 8:00 PM. In addition to the clergy, sisters, and staff of the parish, many people will make it possible for us to welcome so many in the name of the Lord. I confess that when I impose ashes outside of the Masses (always celebrations of Christ’s death and resurrection), I usually add some mention of Easter before the person leaves, such as, “Have a holy Easter.” At this point in my life, I just don’t want to think about death without thinking about the resurrection of the dead.
YOUR PRAYERS ARE ASKED FOR Emil, Ino, Sean, Emily, Ben, Charlie, Vera, Dorothy, Abalda, Gerald, Penny, Linda, Eric, 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 15: 1909 Antoine Recousie; 1938 Elizabeth Nimmo Grossman; 1955 Mary R. Brettman; 1967 Nina Gay Dolan; 1973 Dorothy L. McCormack; 1978 Carrington Raymond; 1994 Florence N. Crawford.
THE FIRST DAY OF LENT: ASH WEDNSDAY, like Good Friday, is a day of fasting in the Episcopal Church. It is also a day when traditionally flesh meats are not eaten. The point of the fast on these days is to remind ourselves that we hunger for the Lord—not to eat so little as to be unable to work.
THE ORDINARY WEEKDAYS OF LENT are observed by special acts of discipline and self-denial. The Fridays of Lent are also observed traditionally by abstinence from flesh meats. Abstinence is not observed on Sundays in Lent (or on the Feast of Saint Joseph, March 19, or the Annunciation, March 25).
THIS WEEK AT SAINT MARY'S . . . Sunday, February 15, 10:00 AM, Adult Forum: Father Jay Smith will continue 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 . . . TheWednesday Night Bible Study Class will not meet on Ash Wednesday, February 18 . . . Confessions will be heard on Saturday, February 14, by Father Jay Smith, and on Saturday, February 21, by Father Stephen Gerth.
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 . . . Parishioner Emil Bretzger had surgery at a hospital in New Jersey on Wednesday, February 11. We believe that he will be returning home on Thursday. Please keep him in your prayers . . . Flowers are needed for the Fourth Sunday in Lent, March 15, and for the Feast of the Annunciation, March 25. If you would like to make a donation, please contact the parish office . . . The Flower Guild is beginning to make plans for Holy Week and Easter. If you would like to volunteer to help decorate the church for Easter, please speak to Marie Rosseels or Chris LaCass . . . Father Gerth will be away from the parish from Saturday, February 14, until Tuesday, February 17 . . . Attendance: Last Sunday 236.
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. 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!
MUSIC THIS WEEK . . . Sunday, February 15, the Last Sunday after the Epiphany: John Ireland (1879–1962), an English composer and church musician, was born into a family of Scottish descent and some cultural distinction. His parents died soon after he had entered the Royal College of Music at the age of fourteen. He studied piano and organ there, and later studied composition under Charles Villiers Stanford. From Stanford, Ireland received a thorough knowledge of the classical repertoire, but as a young man he was also strongly drawn to Debussy and Ravel as well as to the early work of Igor Stravinsky and Béla Bartók. Influenced in this way, he developed his own brand of “English Impressionism,” related closer to French and Russian models than to the folk-song style prevalent in English music of the time. He was sub-organist at Holy Trinity Church, Sloane Street, London, and later became organist and choirmaster at Saint Luke’s Church, Chelsea, London, where he remained until his retirement. Ireland’s compositional output includes some chamber music and a substantial body of works written for piano, including his best-known piece “The Holy Boy,” now known in numerous arrangements. His songs to poems by A. E. Housman, Thomas Hardy, Christina Rossetti, John Masefield, and Rupert Brooke are a valuable addition to the English vocal repertoire. He also wrote hymns, carols, and other sacred choral music; to church musicians and choirs he is probably best known for the anthem “Greater Love Hath No Man.” His Communion Service in C, which we hear at the Solemn Mass on Sunday, dates from his time at Saint Luke’s and is a standard of English church music. At the ministration of Holy Communion we will hear the best known of nearly thirty anthems by Englishman Edward Bairstow (1874–1946), “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence,” based on a text taken from the ancient Liturgy of Saint James . . . At 4:40 PM on Sunday afternoon, the organ recital will be played by Phillip Lamb, organist at the Benedictine Abbey of Saint Mary in Morristown, New Jersey. His program includes works by J. S. Bach (1685–1750) and Louis Vierne (1870–1937). At Evensong & Benediction on Sunday at 5:00 PM, we will be joined by a guest choir from Grace Church, Nyack, New York. The choir, which is directed by Mr. Brandon Beachamp, will sing The Evening Service in C (“Collegium Regale”) by Herbert Howells (1892–1983) and a motet, also by Howells.
CHRISTIAN EDUCATION . . . The Wednesday Night Bible Study Class will not meet on Ash Wednesday. It will meet on February 25 and will begin reading at Isaiah 22. The class will not meet on March 4, when Father Smith will be out of town . . . On February 15, Father Jay Smith will lead the Sunday-morning adult-education class in a discussion of the Essential Elements of the Christian Life. On Sunday, the class will be discussing the ways in which the Bible has been read and heard in order to shape every aspect of the Christian life. This class would be useful for those thinking about 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 . . . During Eastertide (April 19, 26, and May 3), Deacon Rebecca Weiner Tompkins will be leading the class, once again, in a discussion of the links between theology and the arts: “And the angel said, ‘Be not afraid’ ”: God’s Ministering Messengers, From Scripture through the Arts and Literature. 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 . . . 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, bishop suffragan of New York.