FROM THE RECTOR: PENTECOST GOSPELS
What the Prayer Book now calls “The Day of Pentecost: Whitsunday” was originally a fifty-day season that began on the Sunday of the Resurrection. Our English word “Pentecost” comes from the Greek words for “fifty” or “fiftieth.” “Whitsunday” comes from “White Sunday”—a common term for this baptismal day in northern Europe where it’s much warmer at Pentecost than at Easter. (“White” referred to baptismal garments: think of the temperature in unheated buildings in late, not early, spring.)
The original season of Pentecost was prominent enough that it received a specific mention in the canons of the Council of Nicaea in AD 325: Since there are some who kneel on Sunday and during the season of Pentecost, this holy synod decrees that, so that the same observances may be maintained in every diocese, one should offer one's prayers to the Lord standing [Canon 20]. Of course, in the Christian West neither standing for prayer nor the Pentecost as a season survive Late Antiquity. Both practices have disappeared by the beginning of the Middle Ages.
In the fourth century, Ascension Day begins to be celebrated forty days after Easter. The Easter Season starts to fade away. In pre-1979 Prayer Books and the pre-Vatican II Roman Missals, Easter is really only an eight-day celebration: Easter Day through the First Sunday after Easter. The 1979 Prayer Book gave us a renewed fifty-day Easter season, and I think it’s one of the principal achievements of that book. That said, I think our American church is still living into it. I know I’m still learning new things.
A year ago I noticed that there were two possible gospel lessons for Pentecost. I don’t think I’ve ever used or heard the alternate selection, John 14:8–17, on the Day of Pentecost. This passage begins with Philip asking Jesus to show him and the other disciples the Father. Jesus responds, “He who has seen me has seen the Father.” It continues with Jesus teaching about him and his Father, the disciples’ relationship to Jesus, and the promise of the One Jesus calls “the Counselor” and “the Spirit of truth.” I’m going to preach on this gospel this Pentecost.
I had unthinkingly assumed that the first passage listed was the historic gospel for the day, John 20:19–23, the account in John of Jesus appearing to the disciples on the evening of the day of resurrection. Actually, this was the historic gospel for the First Sunday after Easter. The doors are shut, but Jesus is suddenly with the disciples. He greets them with his peace and shows them his hands and his side. He tells them he is sending them out to work just as the Father had sent him. Then he breathes on them and says, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” You and I still hear this passage every year on the Sunday after Easter, but the appointed passage now also includes what happened on that first Sunday after Easter Day: Jesus’ appearance to Thomas who did not believe the word that Jesus had risen.
The use of this passage (without Thomas) for Pentecost was an innovation of the 1969 Roman Catholic lectionary. I have a hunch that an anxious Roman Catholic Church chose this lesson to underpin the role of the ordained in their ecclesial community. I have a hunch that our then anxious Episcopal Church also adopted it because we were in the middle of the struggle to open Holy Orders to women.
There’s actually been a lot of movement, relatively speaking, on the selection of a gospel for Pentecost. There are additional choices in the 2002 Roman Catholic lectionary for this feast; there are additional choices in the Revised Common Lectionary. One might hope the Holy Spirit is trying to help us recover the power of Pentecost. —Stephen Gerth
YOUR PRAYERS ARE ASKED FOR José, Brian, Victoria, Edward, Catherine, Bill, Dennis, John, Mazdak, Trevor, Andrew, Barbara, David, Abalda, Linda, Takeem, Arpene, Deborah Francis, religious, Paulette, priest, Harry, priest, and James, bishop; and for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . May 24: 1917 Alleine D. Ward; 1934 Mary Sanders Barrett; 1982 Pearl Yerkes; 2001 Raymond Lee Duncan.
THIS WEEK AT SAINT MARY'S . . . Sunday, May 24, The Day of Pentecost . . . Monday, May 25, Memorial Day, Federal Holiday Schedule. The church will open at 10:00 AM and close at 2:00 PM. Only the noonday services will be offered, and the parish offices are closed . . . Friday abstinence is not observed during the Easter Season . . . On Saturday, May 23, confessions will be heard by Father Stephen Gerth. On Saturday, May 30, confessions will be heard by Father Jay Smith.
LITURGICAL NOTES . . . The Easter Season ends on Pentecost; the Season after Pentecost begins on Monday, May 25. Friday abstinence is observed beginning Friday, May 29. The readings for the Daily Eucharist and the Daily Office are for Proper 3. Sunday, May 31, is Trinity Sunday. —S.G.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . Parishioner Penny Allen traveled into Manhattan to attend the Wednesday Night Bible Study Class’s end-of-year supper this week. It was very good to see her. She continues with her physical therapy, but she has made a remarkable recovery. Please keep her and her husband, Father Michael Allen, in your prayers . . . Parishioner Edward Cabot was a passenger on the Amtrak train that derailed near Philadelphia on Tuesday, May 12. He was in the train’s second car. He was injured, but, we are very happy to report, he survived this terrible accident. He was at Mass on Sunday morning, and he continues to recuperate. Please keep Edward and all the victims of the derailment in your prayers . . . On Tuesday, May 26, at 10:30 AM, at the Convent in Mendham, New Jersey, Sister Monica Claire, n/C.S.J.B, will make her first vows in the Community of Saint John Baptist. Please keep her and her sisters in your prayers . . . The Rector will be away from the parish from Friday morning, May 29, through Sunday afternoon, May 31 . . . Hospitality Ministry: We hope to receive donations for the reception on the Eve of the Assumption, Friday, August 14. If you would like to make a donation, please contact the parish office . . . Attendance: Last Sunday 199.
AIDS WALK 2015 . . . The AIDS Walk last Sunday was a success in every way, raising $4.88 million, more than last year; fielding more than 30,000 walkers and fundraisers, including a very strong team from Saint Mary’s. Thanks to extraordinary generosity from parishioners and friends of our Team, we raised more than $55,000 and rank somewhere in the Top Ten of all the teams that walked! It's not too late to take part in Saint Mary’s success, since contributions will be accepted up until June 12. You may make a donation online, or you can give a check to Father Jay Smith (checks should be paid to the order of AWNY). In late June, we will give a report of the final numbers and the details of our success. Questions can be referred to Father Smith or to co-leaders MaryJane Boland and Clark Mitchell. In the meantime, all the members of the Saint Mary’s Team would like to express their gratitude to all of you. —MaryJane Boland & Clark Mitchell
MUSIC THIS WEEK . . . Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756–1791), the renowned Austrian composer, was among the greatest and most prolific composers in history. A child prodigy, Mozart wrote more than 600 works, including forty-one symphonies, twenty-seven piano concertos, sixteen operas, nineteen piano sonatas, and many other chamber works. Made famous by his stunningly original operas, Mozart also wrote two dozen Masses during his life, some as commissioned works, others written as free works. The Missa brevis No. 8 in C Major, K. 258, which we will hear at Solemn Mass on Sunday, is one of three Masses composed by Mozart, probably in 1776. It is scored for four soloists, four-part choir, violins, oboes, clarini (high-pitched trumpets), trombones and basso continuo (most probably a small organ). Although classed as a Missa brevis (Latin for “brief,” or “short,” Mass), the inclusion of trumpets in the scoring makes it a Missa brevis et solemnis (Solemn Mass). At the ministration of Holy Communion we will hear the motet, Dum complerentur dies, by Tomás Luis de Victoria (1548–1611), one of the great liturgical composers of the late Spanish Renaissance. Though not particularly prolific, Victoria is, nonetheless, remembered for his flawlessly composed Mass settings. The rather rare motet that we hear during Communion was first published in 1589 in the Liber primus motetorum. Having been written specifically for the Day of Pentecost, it is a musical depiction of the rushing wind that filled the house in which the Apostles were gathered . . . On Sunday afternoon at 4:40 PM, Stephen Buzard will play the organ recital. He will play Maurice Duruflé’s Prélude, Adagio, et Choral Varié, Op. 4 (“Veni, Creator”). Stephen is an assistant organist at the Saint Thomas Church, Fifth Avenue, New York City. The final organ recital and the final Evensong of the season will take place next week, Trinity Sunday, May 31. —Mark Peterson
OUTREACH AT SAINT MARY’S . . . We continue to collect nonperishable food items for our outreach partner, the Food Pantry at Saint Clement’s Church, 423 West Forty-sixth Street . . . If you would like to find out more about the work of Saint Vincent’s School for Handicapped Children in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, please speak to Father Gerth.
PLEASE MARK YOUR CALENDAR . . . May 31, Trinity Sunday . . . June 1, The Visitation (transferred) . . . Sunday, June 7, The Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ: Corpus Christi. Our summer service schedule begins at Evening Prayer on Corpus Christi . . . Thursday, June 11, Saint Barnabas, Mass 12:10 PM & 6:20 PM . . . Wednesday, June 24, Nativity of Saint John the Baptist, Sung Mass 12:10 PM and 6:00 PM . . . Monday, June 29, Saint Peter and Saint Paul, Mass 12:10 PM and Sung Mass 6:00 PM.
AWAY FROM THE PARISH . . . Saturday, May 30, 2015, 12:00 PM–4:00 PM, African Burial Ground National Monument, 290 Broadway, Celebration. The word “Pinkster” is derived from the Dutch word “Pinksteren,” which means Pentecost. Pinkster is recognized as the oldest African-American holiday, dating back to the colonial period. The African influence on Pinkster dates from the fifteenth century in the Bantu regions of Congo and Angola. Since the 1970s, New Yorkers have resurrected Pinkster festivals throughout the metropolitan area. The African Burial Ground National Monument and the African-American Pinkster Committee of New York invite all New Yorkers to a commemorative celebration on Saturday, May 30. More information is available online . . . June 26–27, 2015, 7:00 PM, Miller Theatre at Columbia University, 2960 Broadway at 116th Street, Voodoo: A Harlem Renaissance Opera, by Harry Lawrence Freeman: “Rediscover the operas of Harry Lawrence Freeman (1869–1956). [Freeman was] dubbed the ‘colored Wagner’ by contemporary journalists. His music blends Western classical music with spirituals, popular dance music, and jazz. Voodoo tells the story of a love triangle between three former slaves on a Louisiana plantation during Reconstruction. A Harlem resident, Freeman gained acceptance in classical music between the 1920s [and the] 1940s. The opera is being produced by Morningside Opera, Harlem Opera Theater, and the Harlem Chamber Players.” Tickets may be purchased online.