FROM FATHER PACE: MAY CHRIST FIND THIS CANDLE EVER BURNING
Something wonderful happens every day of the week at Saint Mary the Virgin during the Great Fifty Days of Easter. And what happens is very rare indeed. Here, in the middle of Times Square, beside the high altar, a Paschal candle burns brightly in its stand for all the faithful to see—every day! The Paschal candle is a symbol of the paradigmatic Easter Proclamation that Christ has risen from the grave and that the promise of eternal life has come forth from the empty tomb. The tradition at Saint Mary’s is as clear and simple as it is profound: from the time when the doors are opened in the morning until they are shut at night, the Paschal candle remains lit, proclaiming Christ’s victory over the darkness of sin and death.
There is an interesting story behind this year’s Paschal candle. As in years past, the candle is made of high-quality beeswax. (During the Easter Vigil, the Exsultet reminds us that the Paschal candle is an offering that the Church makes to God, through “the hands of [God’s] servants, the work of the bees, [God’s] creatures.”) This year’s candle is, however, by far the largest of the Paschal candles that we have ever purchased. In years past, as the Fifty Days of Easter went by, the candle grew ever smaller, burning down to just a few remaining inches. Many of us have wondered at times if the candle might actually burn itself out: “Is the candle going to last a full fifty days?” Each year, as the Paschal candle burns down, the five red grains of incense that are inserted, in the form of a cross, into the candle at the beginning of the Easter Vigil must be lowered periodically so they will not melt in the flame. In past years, as the end of Eastertide approaches, these grains of incense have been moved almost to the base of the candle, with only inches to spare.
But this year, a grand, six-foot candle was ordered so that there would be plenty of leeway! It was delivered in a huge, bulky, and very heavy box, and the candle was incredibly well packed to prevent any breakage during shipment. Just getting the candle out of its box took great care—it was a real exercise in faith! The candle was so tall and so heavy that our deacon Rebecca Weiner Tompkins had to enlist the help of the master of ceremonies during the Easter Vigil to carry it down the aisle to the chancel. Brendon Hunter, one of our experienced servers and one of the masters of ceremonies at this year’s Vigil, carried the candle at the front of the procession. In order to place the candle into its stand, Brendon had to climb a ladder and enlist the help of the clergy and his fellow servers. We all held our collective breath as the candle was gently lowered into the stand for the first time . . . and, remember, all of this took place in the dark!
Those of you who have attended an Easter Vigil will have seen the beautiful rituals surrounding the preparation of, and procession with, the Paschal candle. At the very beginning of the Vigil, with the church quiet and in complete darkness, the New Fire is lit and blessed. We pray that we may burn with heavenly desires and that, with pure minds, we may attain to the festival of everlasting light. Then the acolytes present the Paschal candle to the celebrant. The celebrant traces the cross upon the candle with a stylus and prays, “Christ yesterday and today, the Beginning and the End.” The Greek letters Alpha and Omega are then inscribed in the beeswax along with the numbers of the year. Then the celebrant says, “Alpha and Omega. His are all times and ages. To him be glory and dominion through all eternity.” Next, the five grains of incense are inserted, as the celebrant prays, “Through his holy and glorious wounds may Christ the Lord guard and preserve us.” Then a taper is lit from the New Fire and the Paschal candle is lit, and the celebrant prays, “May the light of Christ, rising in glory, dispel the darkness of our hearts and minds.” The candle is then carried to the chancel as the deacon chants three times, “The Light of Christ.” The light of the Paschal candle cuts through the darkened church as it is carried down the aisle. The people’s hand candles are lit, and the darkness is pierced by tiny points of light, the Paschal candle giving birth to each small flame.
The Paschal candle is used throughout the church year in several ways. After Eastertide is over, it stands beside the baptismal font in the baptistry, since it is the symbol of the eternal life that is found in the waters of baptism. At every baptism, you will see the Paschal candle burning beside the font, and the symbolism is clear: Jesus Christ is the Light of the World. The eternal life which Christ promises us is born in the waters of baptism. All of this comes together in the baptistry: light and life, fire and water, candle and font, all serving to remind us of Christ’s saving work. Jesus Christ, who is symbolized by the Paschal candle at Easter, is the same Christ who leads us from sin and death into a life that never dies, in and through the living waters of baptism. At the Thanksgiving over the Water during the rite of baptism (just after the water is so generously “sloshed” into the baptismal font by our clergy, to the surprise and delight of all who have gathered around the baptismal candidates), the deacon passes the Paschal candle to the celebrant, who then carefully eases the candle into the water. The imagery is profound: the Easter Vigil’s light and the Risen Lord whom it symbolizes are joined to the baptismal waters, which are about to be generously poured onto the heads of the baptismal candidates.
The Paschal candle also plays a prominent role at funerals. The candle always precedes the coffin into the church and is placed beside the coffin at the crossing, once again reminding us that every funeral is a celebration of Easter: In Christ Jesus, the dead will rise in glory!
At Saint Mary’s, our traditions and liturgies are very rich; the symbolism behind everything that is seen, sung, smelled, heard, or tasted, becomes the source of memories that can last a lifetime. Eastertide begins at the Vigil and continues on Easter Day, the first Sunday of Easter. Six Sundays of Easter follow, giving us seven Sundays of Easter in all. Just before the Seventh Sunday of Easter we celebrate Ascension Day (this year on May 14). Eastertide concludes on the Day of Pentecost, which falls this year on May 24. We still have some days left to celebrate. And so, happy Easter! May Christ, the Morning Star who knows no setting, find his light ever burning in our hearts. —James C. Pace
YOUR PRAYERS ARE ASKED FOR Bill, Dennis, Hank, Herman, John, Steve, McNeil, Daniel, Mazdak, Trevor, Brayden, Andrew, Barbara, David, Dee, Emily, Abalda, Linda, Eric, Takeem, Arpene, Paulette, priest, and Harry, priest; and for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . May 3: 1947 Rachel Howland; 1969 Arthur E. Howlett.
THIS WEEK AT SAINT MARY'S . . . The Wednesday Night Bible Study class will meet on May 6, at 6:30 PM, in Saint Joseph’s Hall . . . Friday abstinence is not observed during the Easter Season . . . Confessions will be heard on Saturday, May 2, by Father Jay Smith and on Saturday, May 9, by Father Jim Pace.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . The rector will return from vacation this weekend and will be in church on May 3. The diocesan priests’ conference, scheduled for May 4–6, has been cancelled. We expect that Father Gerth will be in the office next week . . . Attendance: Last Sunday 205.
EARTHQUAKE IN NEPAL . . . The members and friends of Saint Mary’s will no doubt have been reading about the devastating earthquake in the Himalayan nation of Nepal. One of our sextons, Harka Gurung, is from Nepal. His family and many of his friends live in Pokhara, Nepal, around 135 miles west of Katmandu, Nepal’s capital. Pokhara was spared the worst effects of the earthquake and its aftermath, and Harka tells us that his family and friends are fine. Episcopal Relief and Development (ERD) is now accepting donations to assist with the relief effort. We invite you to consider making a donation. Please keep Harka, his family, and the people of Nepal in your prayers.
AIDS WALK 2015 . . . Last year, the Saint Mary’s AIDS Walk Team, fourteen people strong, ranked eleventh in fundraising among all teams walking. The Team raised $39,883 from more than 250 generous donors. The Team’s goal this year is to raise at least $40,000 and to walk in solidarity with people living with HIV and AIDS and with those who support and care for them. We invite you to join our Team and raise money or to make a donation to the Saint Mary’s AIDS Walk Team. You can join or contribute by clicking on this link. You can also direct your questions to Father Smith or to co-leaders MaryJane Boland and Clark Mitchell. If you have trouble with the link, type this URL into your browser https://ny.aidswalk.net/Team/View/7543/Saint-Mary-the-Virgin-0445 in order to access the website.
FEASIBILITY STUDY . . . Our façade is covered by scaffolding, our roof leaks in some places, some of our paintings have suffered water damage, and we have poor access for people with disabilities. A small group of parishioners, working with the Episcopal Church Foundation, has taken the lead in a feasibility study to determine whether we can raise the funds necessary to correct this situation and to plan for Saint Mary's future. If you have given any financial support to Saint Mary's in the last five years, we mailed a case statement and questionnaire to you this week; if we have your e-mail address, the questionnaire is coming electronically. The opinions of our friends and parishioners are invaluable to us in planning for the future, and we urge you to complete the questionnaire. If you did not receive your mailing, please call the parish office, at 212-869-5830, Ext. 10, and leave a message. A member of the planning committee will return your call.
WE NEED YOUR HELP . . . Both our Hospitality Ministry and the parish’s Flower Guild depend on the gifts of our members and friends. We invite you to make a donation to sponsor the holy-day receptions on Ascension Day (May 14), the Eve of the Feast of the Assumption (August 14), All Saints’ Day (November 1), the Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary (December 8), and on the holy days in 2016. We also hope to receive donations to support our hospitality efforts on Sundays. We are no longer able to provide food and beverages on Sundays or holy days as generously as we have in the past without such donations. Our Flower Guild also needs your support. We are looking for donations for flowers for May 17, May 24 (Day of Pentecost), June 7 (Corpus Christi), June 14, June 28, all Sundays in July and August, and the Eve of the Assumption (August 14). A flower donation allows the donor to include a dedication in the Sunday, or holy-day, service bulletins marking the death of a friend or family member or a special event such as a baptism, wedding, ordination, wedding anniversary, or birthday. The Flower Guild also welcomes general donations to its Fund so that it can provide flowers on those days for which no special donation has been made. In order to make a donation to these ministries, please contact the Parish Office.
MUSIC THIS WEEK . . . Franz Joseph Haydn (1732–1809), was a leading composer of the Classical period. Called the “Father of the Symphony,” Haydn usually used his second name, which is sometimes spelled using its German form, “Josef.” Haydn was the brother of Michael Haydn, himself a highly regarded composer, and Johann Evangelist Haydn, a renowned tenor. A life-long resident of Austria, Haydn spent most of his career as a court musician for the Eszterházy family. The Missa brevis Sancti Johannis de Deo that we hear at Solemn Mass on Sunday is one of Haydn’s most cherished works. The Mass is also known as the “Kleine Orgelmesse” (“Little Organ Mass”) because of the extensive organ solo in the Benedictus. Written in 1775, this is one of Haydn’s most charming small-scale settings. With its emphasis on accessibility, brevity, and practicality, it was much admired during his lifetime and thereafter. Since it is a Missa brevis, several clauses of the text in the Gloria are set simultaneously in different voices. In its original version, the Gloria lasts less than a minute. At the ministration of Holy Communion we will hear the prized motet by Englishman William Byrd (c. 1540–1623) on the text, “I will not leave you comfortless” (John 14:18). Byrd wrote the motet at a time when Latin was giving way to English in the newly formed Church of England . . . On Sunday afternoon, May 3, at 4:40 PM, Michael Chad Levitt will play the organ recital. His program includes works by Felix Mendelssohn (1809–1847), Louis Marchand (1669–1732), Frank Bridge (1879–1941), Guillaume-Gabriel Nivers (1632–1714), and Jean Langlais (1907–1991). Following the recital, at the service of Evensong & Benediction, which begins at 5:00 PM, we will welcome the parish choir of Grace Church, Brooklyn Heights, directed by Paul Richard Olson. The choir will sing The Evening Service in A minor by Richard Farrant (c. 1525–1580) and a motet by Heinrich Schalit (1886–1976). —Mark Peterson
CHRISTIAN EDUCATION . . . The Wednesday Night Bible Study Class will meet on May 6. This will be the final class of the academic year. The class will not meet on May 13, since Father Smith will be out of town. The class’s annual end-of-year dinner will take place on May 20 . . . On Sunday, May 3, at 10:00 AM, Deacon Rebecca Weiner Tompkins will conclude her series in the Adult Forum, “Be not afraid,” the angel said: God’s Ministering Messengers, From Scripture into Poetry . . . On Sunday, May 10, at 10:00 AM, Zachary Roesemann will give a presentation in the Adult Forum on icons and his work as a painter, or writer, of icons. Zachary is a full-time professional iconographer who has recently become a parishioner here at Saint Mary's. He apprenticed with Father John Walsted here in New York and now paints icons for churches and homes around the world. Illustrating his talk with slides, Zachary will speak to us about what icons are, their history and theology, and how they are made, as well as a bit about his own calling to be an iconographer. Icons have become immensely popular among Anglicans as we reclaim this part of our shared ancient Christian heritage. Come find out why! -James Ross Smith
PLEASE MARK YOUR CALENDAR . . . Wednesday, May 13, Eve of Ascension Day, Solemn Evensong 6:00 PM . . . Thursday, May 14, Ascension Day, Sung Mass 12:10 PM and Solemn Mass 6:00 PM . . . Sunday, May 17, AIDS Walk 2015.
AWAY FROM THE PARISH . . . Sunday, May 3, at 3:00 PM, at the House of the Redeemer, at 7 East Ninety-fifth Street, New York City, Saint Mark's Gospel, KJV. The House of the Redeemer will host a benefit performance of the Gospel of Saint Mark, performed by Tom Bair. Tom is married to the Rt. Rev. Geralyn Wolf, XII Bishop of Rhode Island. Bishop Wolf and Mr. Bair are good friends of Saint Mary’s and have often worshipped here. Ticket reservations may be made online or by calling 212-289-0399.