FROM THE RECTOR: CHRISTMAS WELCOME AND WITNESS
On Monday, December 1, I went up to the Yale Institute of Sacred Music to hear the Reverend Dr. Paul Bradshaw, professor emeritus of liturgical studies, University of Notre Dame, give a lecture. His topic was, “The Changing Face of Early Christian Worship.” He cautioned us that when it came to questions of early Christian worship, we probably need to think—if my notes are correct—about “probabilities” instead of “certainties.” That said, two probabilities seem to be very strong: (1) early Christian communities gathered for food and fellowship in the Lord’s name, and (2) it was expected that all present would be fed real food, food that sustained the body, not just the soul. It was out of this fellowship of food and also genuine care for the poor among the believers that what we come to know as Eucharist emerges.
For all sorts of reasons we certainly can’t reproduce early Christian life and fellowship, but I wonder how what we do know about the life and preaching of the emerging Christian witness to the Risen Lord in the first and second centuries can help us welcome and witness to each other about Jesus Christ today. And to enrich (or complicate) my reflections on the lecture, on the train ride home from New Haven I read an article by the Reverend Dr. Lizette Larson-Miller, professor of liturgical studies, Graduate Theological Union and the Church Divinity School of the Pacific, in which she remarked, “Rather than planning or preparing or creating meaningful worship services in our own image, a number of theologians have asked what would happen if and when we remember that the principal actor in the liturgy is God?” (“Consuming Time,” Worship 88 :542).
So, Christmas at Saint Mary’s. What will be our welcome to those who will come? What will be our witness? What will be my welcome and witness? What will be your welcome and witness? How might we sense that God is leading us in our worship?
The hospitality of ushers—at our doors on 46th and 47th Streets—is our opening. The decorations and music come next. The care which our sextons and others give to the church itself will matter. The preparation of the readers, servers, and clergy will matter. The presence and disposition of our regular worshipping congregation at the different services will matter more than many may think. I also think it will matter for our welcome and worship that for this parish community Christmastide still begins as the sun sets on Christmas Eve.
The Fourth Sunday of Advent is a quiet one at Saint Mary’s, liturgically and musically. Yes, the regular Sunday services are all on offer—and there’s beautiful music at Solemn Mass and Solemn Evensong. But in the middle of a culture and a city where the celebration of Christmas began weeks ago, here it will be a time of restraint.
The gospel of the day this year is the annunciation to Mary from Luke. At the Solemn Mass, “O come, O come, Emmanuel” will be sung at the preparation of the gifts. I’m looking forward more to the plainsong postcommunion hymn, “Redeemer of the nations, come.” It’s a fine translation of a fourth-century Latin text, attributed to Ambrose of Milan (340–397), with a beautiful twelfth-century tune. Christmas at Saint Mary’s is always a beginning, never the end of our season, never the end of our yearning to be with the Lord. —Stephen Gerth
YOUR PRAYERS ARE ASKED FOR Penny, Linda, Dorothy, David, Rosa, Adam, Eric, Maureen, Peter, Dina, Chris, Barbara, John, Francesca, Pauline, McNeil, Takeem, Rick, Arpene, Anthony, Vanessa, Mazdak, Babak, Paulette, priest, Harry, priest, and Edgar, priest; for all the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Matthew; and for the repose of the soul of Ella G. Kovats-Bernat . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . December 21: 1881 Reuben Chester Barrows; 1885 Louis M. Schmidt; 1887 Christopher Dixon Varley; 1889 Rose Schmidt; 1896 Harvey Lamb Lufkin; 1914 Ida Blume; 1943 Martha Gilbert Dickinson Bianchi; 1976 David Bruce Kennedy.
I PUBLISH THE BANNS OF MARRIAGE between Anthony Marcantuono and Vanessa Tarantino of North Arlington, New Jersey. If any of you know just cause why they may not be joined together in Holy Matrimony, you are bidden to declare it. This is the first time of asking. —S.G.
THE FRIDAYS OF THE CHRISTMAS SEASON are not observed by special acts of discipline and self-denial in commemoration of the crucifixion of the Lord. Friday abstinence returns beginning on the first Friday after the Epiphany, January 9, 2015.
FROM FATHER JAY SMITH . . . Thank you so much to every member of the Saint Mary’s community who went out of their way during this busy time of year to celebrate the twenty-fifth anniversary of my ordination to the priesthood. Your kindness and great generosity have meant more to me than I can say. This parish has taught me so much, and meant so much to me and to José, that it was a great joy to both of us to be able to celebrate the day with all of you. It was wonderful to see so many friends at Coffee Hour on Sunday. If we didn’t have a chance to speak then, I look forward to being able to thank you in person when next we meet. You and all those you love are in my prayers. —Jay Smith
HELP DECORATE THE CHURCH . . . The Flower Guild would love to have some help decorating the church for Christmas. If you have a feel for flower arranging or “arts and crafts,” that’s all to the good. However, no such skills are required. The schedule is as follows: Saturday, December 20, 10:00 AM till around 6:00 PM. Among other things, the Guild will be looking for help stringing lights on the large Christmas tree in Saint Joseph’s Hall. Sunday, December 21, 1:00 PM to 5:00 PM, putting ornaments on the Christmas tree and beginning to work on the crèche. Monday, December 22, will be a day for the members of the Guild to do their arrangements. Speak to Rick Austill if you have talents in that area or if you think you could be helpful in other ways. On Tuesday, December 23, work will be done throughout the day and into the early evening. The Guild could particularly use some help between 5:00 PM and 9:00 PM. Wednesday, December 24, will be a busy day. Work will begin by 8:00 AM and go on until 3:00 PM. Helping hands (and strong backs) will be needed to bring things into the church. Thank you for your willingness to help!
AROUND THE PARISH . . . David Conrad, the partner of Deacon Rebecca Weiner Tompkins, had surgery on Wednesday. He faces a difficult period of recuperation. Please keep him and Rebecca in your prayers . . . Parishioner Penny Allen remains in hospital near her home in Ocean Grove, New Jersey, recuperating from several surgical procedures. Please keep her and her husband, Father Michael Allen in your prayers . . . Refreshments at Coffee Hour after the Solemn Mass on Sunday have been donated in memory of Sharon Geeta Singh, who was born on December 21, 1972. Sharon died last July after a long and courageous struggle with breast cancer . . . Congratulations to New York Polyphony whose new recording Sing thee Nowell has been nominated for a Grammy Award . . . Flowers are needed for Sunday, January 18 . . . We also hope to receive donations to defray the costs of the reception following the Solemn Mass on Epiphany, January 6. If you would like to make a donation, please contact Aaron Koch in the parish office . . . Sunday, December 21, is the 31st anniversary of the rector’s ordination to the priesthood . . . Attendance: Last Sunday 234.
THIS WEEK AT SAINT MARY’S . . . The Wednesday Night Bible Study Class will not meet on December 24 or 31, or on January 7. . . Monday, December 22, Saint Thomas the Apostle (transferred): Mass 12:10 PM and 6:20 PM . . . Wednesday, December 24, Christmas Eve: Music 4:30 PM, Sung Mass 5:00 PM; and Music 10:30 PM, Procession & Solemn Mass 11:00 PM . . . Thursday, December 25, Christmas Day: Solemn Mass & Procession to the Crèche 11:00 AM . . . Confessions will be heard on Saturday, December 20, by Father Stephen Gerth. Confessions are heard on December 27 and January 3 only by appointment.
A RECEPTION ON CHRISTMAS DAY . . . New this year: there will be a reception following Solemn Mass on Christmas Day. We hope many will appreciate the opportunity for extending the fellowship of the altar on this day. (And many thanks to those who have urged us to have this reception and those who have volunteered to make it happen.)
NEWS FROM THE BOARD OF TRUSTEES . . . At its December 15, 2014, meeting, board of trustees members Steven Heffner, Thomas Jayne, and Mark Risinger completed with the great thanks of their colleagues their four-year terms of service. The board elected Marie Rosseels and Leroy Sharer to serve four-year terms. Marie was elected vice-president, Mary Robison was re-elected secretary, and Clark Mitchell was elected treasurer. The board also elected Steven Heffner as assistant treasurer, a position that may be held by a parishioner who is not a member of the board. The rector serves ex officio as president of the board of trustees. —Mary Robison, secretary
CHRISTIAN EDUCATION . . . The adult-education class will not meet on December 21, 28, or January 4, 11, or 18 . . . The Wednesday Night Bible Study Class will meet again on Wednesday, January 14, 2015. —Jay Smith
STEWARDSHIP 2015 . . . As of Wednesday, December 17, we have received pledges from 139 households. $369,943.00, 87% of our $425,000.00 goal has been pledged to date. The month of December is a crucial time for the pledge campaign. Because the Budget Committee will be meeting soon to draw up a budget for 2015, we would like to receive all of our pledges by January 1. If you are planning to make a pledge, but are not yet sure of your financial situation for 2015, we suggest that you make a safe and reasonable estimate and submit a pledge card. You can always make adjustments during the coming year.
VISIT THE GIFT SHOP . . . Be sure to visit the Saint Mary’s gift shop over the holidays. We will be providing a gift-wrapping service on Sundays after the 11:00 AM service for a donation of $5 for each gift wrapped. A selection of paper and ribbon will be provided—while supplies last! Gift items are for sale include t-shirts, coffee mugs, CDs, rosaries, art work, and books. We also have post cards, Christmas cards, and cards for many occasions. We look forward to seeing you. —Dexter Baksh
MUSIC THIS WEEK . . . Johann Michael Haydn was born in 1737 in Rohrau, Lower Austria, five years after his more famous brother, Franz Josef. They were but two of twelve children born to their parents Mathias and Anna Marie, although most of the Haydn family’s children died in infancy. Both boys’ musical gifts appeared at an early age. Franz Josef became a chorister at Saint Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna and paved the way for his younger brother Michael, who entered the choir a few years later. It was at Saint Stephen’s that Michael received instruction in musical theory and practice, learning to play both the violin and the organ. He became so skilled at organ performance that he was appointed the cathedral’s deputy organist. His first known work, the brilliant Missa in honorem Sanctissimae Trinitatis, came in 1754. The Mass is thought to far outshine brother Josef’s first work of this sort. In 1759 the famous Benedictine Monastery of Göttweig acquired a Mass in C Major from Michael while none of Joseph’s Masses appear before 1762. In 1760 Michael was appointed Kapellmeister to the Bishop of Grosswardein, today Oradea in Northwestern Romania, but left that post two years later. In 1763 Michael relocated to Salzburg, where he remained until his death. In 1768 he married Maria Magdalena Lipp, a singer at the Salzburg Court, known to have taken part in Mozart’s early operas. Michael came to know the young Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, who seemed to be very impressed with Michael’s music. Michael’s reputation as a composer grew far beyond the confines of Salzburg and Austria, and in 1804 he became a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Music. Michael Haydn died in 1806. The Missa Sancti Gabrieli, MH 17, which we hear today, was written in the 1760s and was widely performed during the composer’s lifetime.
At the ministration of Communion we will hear a motet by Heinrich Isaac (1532–1594), Ecce virgo concipiet. The motet’s text is Isaiah 7:14, a text employed on a number of occasions during the liturgical year: the Communion motet appointed for a votive Mass of the Blessed Virgin during the season of Advent and for the feast of the Annunciation; communion antiphon for the Fourth Sunday of Advent; and the Introit appointed for the feast of the Maternity of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
The music at Solemn Mass this Sunday utilizes the Sabathil Harpsichord that was given to Saint Mary’s by Joseph Allen, and his wife, the late Mary Allen. We are grateful for the Allens’ generous gift and happy to inaugurate this instrument with the beautiful music of Johann Michael Haydn. —Mark Peterson
OUTREACH . . . New York Cares Coat Drive: The cold weather has clearly arrived in New York. The annual coat drive continues until the end of December. For more information about how and where to donate, please visit the New York Cares website . . . We continue to collect nonperishable items for our friends and partners at the Saint Clement’s Food Pantry. Cash donations are also most welcome . . . The spread of the Ebola virus in Liberia and in other parts of West Africa has been rapid in recent months, and, according to recent news reports, the numbers of those affected continues to mount. We have received requests from Liberian clergy working in our diocese to publicize ways that New York Episcopalians can help. You may visit the website of the Liberian Episcopal Community USA (LECUSA) to obtain more information.
MARK YOUR CALENDAR . . . Sunday, December 28, First Sunday after Christmas Day, Lessons & Carols at 5:00 PM . . . Thursday, January 1, Holy Name of Jesus, Sung Mass 11:00 AM . . . Monday, January 5, Eve of the Epiphany, Solemn Evensong 6:00 PM . . . Tuesday, January 6, The Epiphany, Sung Matins 8:30 AM, Noonday Prayer 12:00 PM, Sung Mass 12:10 PM; Organ Recital 5:30 PM; Solemn Mass 6:00 PM.
AWAY FROM THE PARISH . . . Wednesday, January 14, 2015, 1:15 PM, New York Public Library, Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, Fifth Avenue at 42nd Street, South Court Auditorium, A Lecture by T. Felder Dorn, Battle of the Bishops: A Slavery Controversy in Pennsylvania in 1863. Dr. Dorn will examine the responses of American Episcopal bishops in the period 1840–1875 to slavery and to the tumultuous events and issues that derived from that institution. The words and actions of Northern as well as Southern bishops will be discussed. The lecture will focus in a particular way on an affair that occurred in the diocese of Pennsylvania during the middle of the Civil War, when Bishop John Henry Hopkins, bishop of Vermont, wrote a pamphlet defending slavery and distributed the pamphlet in the Pennsylvania, an action that outraged the bishop of Pennsylvania, Alonzo Potter, who opposed slavery and who was offended by Hopkins’s interference in his diocese.