FROM THE RECTOR: MORE TO LEARN
In the first essay in a collection honoring Notre Dame liturgical scholar Maxwell Johnson called, “The Relationship between Historical Research and Modern Liturgical Practice,” his now-emeritus Notre Dame colleague Paul Bradshaw writes that, in light of more recent scholarship, some of the words and rituals that were introduced in the 1970s in the name of recovering ancient practice miss the mark. One example is what the Prayer Book calls, without further explanation, “The Peace.” Roman Catholics call it, “The Rite of Peace.”
The missal explains that it is the rite “by which the Church entreats peace and unity for herself and for the whole human family, and the faithful express to each other their ecclesial communion and mutual charity before communicating in the Sacrament” (Roman Missal, 3rd. ed. , 37). However, for early Christians the kiss of peace was an expression of familial intimacy, of relationship—it was a kiss, not a handshake. As Bradshaw writes, “it was the KISS of peace,” not “the kiss of PEACE” (Living Tradition, ed. D. Pitt et al. , 8). And it was not about welcome, hospitality, or reconciliation. (The medieval and counterreformation tradition of passing around among the ordained at solemn Mass a piece of wood to kiss, of course, missed the mark, too.)
On the morning of the resurrection, Jesus tells Mary Magdalene, “go to my brothers and sisters and say to them, I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God” (John 20:17). In Paul’s earliest letter, he begins, “For we know, brothers and sisters beloved by God, that he has chosen you” (1 Thessalonians 1:4). For the record, when I see them, I kiss my sister, but I hug my brother. Words about familial relationships aren’t the only way the New Testament talks about the community of believers. I just can’t foresee the exchange of peace being much different from what it is now. For most of us it at least expresses a connection among the people in the assembly. The handshake is a start—even if it is a gesture we associate with meeting a stranger or someone we do not know well.
I think we’ve had success in other ways, though. The Prayer Book has given us opportunities to renew and deepen our understanding of God’s work among us. Two examples: the congregation chanting the role of Jesus in the passion gospels of Palm Sunday and Good Friday (no one is baptized to be Peter, much less Judas Iscariot or Pontius Pilate), and on Maundy Thursday all members of the congregation are invited to sit to have their feet washed, then in turn, to wash the feet of another.
Father Bradshaw has argued for a “creative tension” between what is old and what is new. He writes, “But we have to risk letting liturgy go wrong if it is to develop naturally at all, if it is to have any real chance of getting it right” (Living Tradition, page 255 n.). One new practice that can be encountered in many parishes and cathedrals in the Episcopal Church right now is an invitation to receive Communion without being baptized. Of course, the Prayer Book, and the canons of the church specify that only baptized persons may receive.
In the oldest parts of the New Testament, the argument is over whether Jewish Christians can share meals with Gentile Christians (Galatians 2:11–14). The Didache, or The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles, probably a late-first-century text (now thought to be contemporary with Matthew and Luke, and earlier than John) is the oldest to witness to only the baptized sharing in the Lord’s Supper. Is this the right thing? After surveying the question, Andrew McGowan does not find an answer to it in the New Testament. He writes, “The inclusive Jesus of history and the Gospels does not provide a clear or compelling model of communal meal practice without the matrix of the well-defined community that succeeded him” (“The Meals of Jesus and the Meals of the Church,” Studia Liturgica Diversa, eds. M. Johnson and L. Philips , 113–14).
Communion without baptism is now a large subject for Episcopalians. For many it is a settled matter, but not for me and others. For those of us who experience Christ’s Body and Blood as food to sustain the life we share even now with him, communion without baptism really does change the subject. I’m sure there are people who are brought to faith in part by being welcomed at the Lord’s Table. I freely acknowledge that I am tired of worrying about who is welcome to eat. As a pastor I don’t want to deprive the newly baptized out of the extraordinary one-time experience of the washing with water and the sharing of the Bread and the Cup together, of being born to new life and fed with new food. —Stephen Gerth
YOUR PRAYERS ARE ASKED FOR Yves, Heidi, Nancy, Rasheed, Dorothy, Toussaint, Linda, Renee, John, Steve, Thomas, Judi, Sam, Victoria, Catherine, Mazdak, Trevor, David, Abalda, Takeem, Arpene, Christopher, religious, Deborah Francis, religious, Pamela, religious, Rebecca, deacon, Paulette, priest, and Harry, priest; for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty; and for the repose of the souls of Jean Sanford and Charles Henry Howell, priest . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . July 12: 1926 Emilie Bromberg; 1953 James Wallace; 2001 Richard Rodney Kirk, priest.
IN THIS TRANSITORY LIFE . . . The Reverend Charles Henry Howell, rector, Christ Church, New Brighton, Staten Island, died on Sunday, July 5. He was 53 years old. I did not know him well, but we had sat together and chatted at many different events over the years. He was the son of a priest and brought a grace to conversation and his work that I’ve known in other colleagues whose parent was a member of the clergy. If memory serves, he had been rector of the parish in Michigan where President and Mrs. Gerald Ford had been married and were members. In a letter to the clergy of the diocese, Bishop Andrew Dietsche wrote that Father Howell lived with a congenital heart disease. Please pray for him, his wife, Elizabeth, and his daughter, Georgia, and for all who mourn . . . Jean Sanford, mother of Brother Ronald Fox, B.S.G., died on Tuesday, July 7, in Morris, Illinois. Br. Ronald has been a member of our wider parish community of friends for many years. Please pray for Jean, for Br. Ronald, and for all who mourn. —S.G.
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 . . . The church and the parish offices are open on the regular schedule . . . Statements of giving through June 30 for those who make a pledge to the operating budget have been mailed . . . On Saturday, July 11, confessions will be heard by Father James Pace. On Saturday, July 18, confessions will be heard by Father Stephen Gerth.
STAFF TRANSITION . . . Business Manager Aaron Koch will be leaving Saint Mary’s in August to take a position at another parish here in the city—formal announcement will come from that parish in a few weeks. His last day with us will be Friday, August 7. I and many others wish him the very best. He’s done a remarkable job for us. Just before I left for sabbatical at the end of December 2008, I had telephone interviews with four candidates for this new position. Before leaving I told parish treasurer Steven Heffner that I would be tempted to interview him first and hire him. I think Steven and the rest of the committee met with all four. That said, I was delighted when I got a telephone call telling me Aaron got the job. Aaron and his family are active members of the congregation at the cathedral. He’s been a verger there for many years. His work experience and being a practicing Episcopal Christian helped him hit the ground running, as it were, here at Saint Mary’s. We’re going to miss him. I hope to have the job announcement posted by the end of the day on Monday, July 13. —S.G.
SAINT MARY’S AIDS WALK TEAM SAYS THANK YOU . . . We have good news to report about one of Saint Mary’s major outreach efforts. Thanks to parishioners and friends, the 2015 Saint Mary’s AIDS Walk team was more successful than ever in fundraising this year, our tenth year of walking. Our 18 members raised an amazing $56,813 and ranked No. 7 of all teams walking, up from No. 11 last year, No. 13 in 2013 and No. 32 in 2012. The Walk raised more than $4.88 million. We can’t thank you enough. Our team received 398 contributions from parishioners, family, and friends and from people all over the country. AIDS Walk 2016 will be on Sunday, May 15, Pentecost Sunday. We will be there, and we invite you to join us. —MaryJane Boland and Clark Mitchell, co-coordinators
AROUND THE PARISH . . . Many thanks to Grace Bruni and Jason Mudd for the delivery of charcoal for incense—12 forty-pound bags are needed to get us through the year . . . We expect Sister Deborah Francis, C.S.J.B., to return to Saint Mary’s later this week while Sister Laura Katharine, C.S.J.B., is away. She will be in California to visit her late sister’s family . . . Father Smith is on vacation. He returns to the parish on Sunday, August 2 . . . Attendance: Last Sunday 151.
FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES . . . Saint Mary’s Aeolian-Skinner organ was one of three featured in an article in The New York Times last weekend. The piece is a collaboration between Paul Jacobs, chair of the organ department at the Juilliard School, and retired NYT music critic James Oestreich. Mr. Oestreich’s words accompany a short video program in the online version of the article, “The Aeolian-Skinner organ at Saint Mary the Virgin is one of the most successful in New York City. The room itself magnifies the sound of the instrument. Think of American society not being homogenous, nor were the instruments built in America during this period, in the early 1930s. The sound is voluptuous. It is pleasant to the ear. And to experience the bloom of tone of this instrument is one of the most awesome musical experiences.”
MUSIC THIS WEEK . . . Hildegard von Bingen (1098–1179), born in West Franconia (now Germany), was the renowned abbess of a Benedictine monastery, a prophet and visionary, a writer and composer, and an early proponent of preventative health measures. The tenth child of a wealthy family and with few prospects for marriage, Hildegard was sent at an early age to a Benedictine house, where she embraced the order’s dedication to learning and excelled in languages, philosophy and theology, medicine, poetry and music. She suffered from what today might be considered migraines, but in time, she admitted to receiving visions from God. She exhibited great bravery in a tumultuous time and went up against rulers, bishops, and the pope in achieving what she felt was her mission as directed by God. Living into her 80’s, Hildegard is probably best known for a trilogy (1141–52) including Scivias, Liber Vitae Meritorum (Book of the Life of Merits), and Liber Divinorum Operum (Book of the Divine Works). These include records of her visions, many of which were apocalyptic, and her explanations of scripture and salvation history. She also wrote plays, poetry, and music, and many of her hymns and song cycles have been discovered and are actively performed today. At the ministration of Communion, we will hear one of those hymns, O viridissima virga, sung by Ruth Cunningham, who will accompany herself on the medieval harp. —Mark Peterson
OUTREACH AT SAINT MARY’S . . . Need help finding food or know someone who does? Call 1-800-5-HUNGRY (Why Hunger Hotline, Monday–Friday 9:00 AM–6:00 PM EST) or 1-866-3-HUNGRY (USDA National Hunger Hotline, 8:00 AM–8:00 PM EST) . . . 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.
AWAY FROM THE PARISH . . . Manhattanhenge: Sunday, July 12, 8:20 PM and Monday, July 13 at 8:21 PM, “[These are days] when the setting sun [will align] precisely with the Manhattan street grid, creating a radiant glow of light across Manhattan's brick and steel canyons, simultaneously illuminating both the north and south sides of every cross street of the borough's grid. A rare and beautiful sight.” July 12: Full sun on the Grid; July 13: Half sun on the Grid. Visit the Hayden Planetarium website for more information.