FROM THE RECTOR: TRANSFIGURATION PILGRIMS
With the new Prayer Book the Episcopal Church hears the story of Jesus’ transfiguration every year on the Sunday before the beginning of Lent. The story is found in Mark, Matthew, and Luke. This year we hear Luke 9:28–36. Briefly, Jesus takes Peter, James, and John up to the top of a mountain. There his uncomprehending disciples see his physical glory as God’s Son. As at his baptism, his Father’s voice is heard. In all three gospels, when Jesus and the disciples come down from the mountain and encounter the crowd that follows Jesus almost everywhere, a demon who has possessed a boy will be waiting for him (Luke 9:37–43a).
Kenneth Stevenson’s (1949–2011) book Rooted in Detachment: Living the Transfiguration (2007) begins with an introduction to an enormously influential icon of the transfiguration. It was created by Theophanes the Greek (c. 1340–c. 1410), and it hangs in the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow. Stevenson wrote of this icon that it “draws us into its own narrative, which is the life of God among us now” (page 4).
In the Christian East, the story of the transfiguration has helped to shape Christian theology and prayer. The Transfiguration has been celebrated there as a feast since the late fourth century (M. Shepherd, Oxford American Prayer Book Commentary , 247). In the West the transfiguration gospel has had neither festival nor a home until the renaissance. The gospel began to be read on a Sunday in Rome in 1474 (Stevenson, 13). For reasons that are entirely unknown, the transfiguration did not have a place in our American Prayer Book tradition until 1892.
I sense that there is more for me to know about the theology of the transfiguration and that new experiences of prayer await me. I suspect there’s much more for most of us, most years of our lives, in the story of the transfiguration than we ever find in the ashes of the First Day of Lent.
So, as I write on Friday morning, February 5, I am very aware that Ash Wednesday 2016 will be February 10. I would not fault myself were I to spend this entire article trying to encourage members of the local parish community to be here to help thousands who will enter our doors from the moment they open until they close, not to mention the four Masses that will be celebrated. Doorkeepers, or porters—nowadays, ushers—are an ancient ministry in the congregation. (Please be in touch with the parish office if you can help.)
But before we get to the First Day of Lent, the church reminds us of who we are, God’s children, transfigured in the waters of baptism. Theophanes’ icon is distinguished for many reasons. In it Jesus is shown paying great attention to his disciples as they ascend the mountain and also as they return. Going up the mountain, the disciples move with Jesus to a place where they will glimpse his glory and God’s plan for their own lives. Coming down, Jesus is with them in the journey they continue to make in this world. Like Peter, James, and John, we too are pilgrims of transfiguration. —Stephen Gerth
YOUR PRAYERS ARE ASKED FOR Julie, Luis, Matthew, Brent, Mary, Rob, Sylvia, John, Willy, Julia, Pearl, Noel, Jason, Stephen, Walter, Martha, Sally, Sam, Jean, Quinn, Heidi, Rasheed, Billy, Karen, Catherine, Trevor, Takeem, Arpene, Sidney, deacon, Paulette, priest, Gaylord, priest, and Harry, priest, and for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Mark and Nicholas; and for the repose of the soul of Broaddus Johnson, deacon . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . February 7: 1916 William Gordon; 1917 Albert Roswell Hosford; 1937 Adelaide Cleminshaw Norton; 1950 Newbury Frost Read; 1954 John Henry von Rummen.
THE 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 Saint Joseph’s Day (March 19). This year, the Feast of the Annunciation, March 25, will be celebrated on Monday, April 4.
THIS WEEK AT SAINT MARY'S . . . Saint Mary’s on Sunday: February 7, the Last Sunday after the Epiphany: Matins 8:30 AM, Mass 9:00 AM & 10:00 AM, Adult Forum 10:00 AM, Solemn Mass 11:00 AM, Evensong & Benediction 5:00 PM, Superbowl Party 6:00–9:30 PM . . . Wednesday, February 10, Ash Wednesday (please see next paragraph for details) . . . The Wednesday Night Bible Study Class will not meet on Ash Wednesday. The class resumes on February 17 . . . Friday, February 12, Evening Prayer 6:00 PM & Stations of the Cross 6:30 PM.
ASH WEDNESDAY . . . The church will open at 7:00 AM and close at 8:00 PM. Eucharists will be celebrated at 7:00 AM, 8:00 AM, 12:10 PM (Sung), and 6:00 PM (Solemn). The parish choir will sing at the 12:10 PM and 6:00 PM Masses. The imposition of ashes will be available while the church is open.
FRIDAYS IN LENT . . . Stations of the Cross will be prayed weekly on Fridays at 6:30 PM. You are invited to join us.
SUPER BOWL PARTY 2016 . . . The Annual Super Bowl Party will take place in Saint Joseph’s Hall on Sunday, February 7, beginning at 6:00 PM. This will be Super Bowl 50, so even if you aren’t a huge football fan, come for the fellowship, the food, the commercials, and the halftime show! Admission, for those who are able to pay, is $10.00. We also encourage those who attend to bring a dish to share. Beverages will be provided. Please contact Grace Bruni if you are bringing a dish to share.
ADULT EDUCATION . . . On Sunday, February 7, at 10:00 AM, on the second floor of the Mission House, Deacon Rebecca Weiner Tompkins will give the second part of her two-part series, entitled Concerning Conversion: Considering Christian Turning & Transformation. This class will focus on a number of poetic texts whose theme is conversion, examining the form, content and rhetoric of conversion, beginning with the defining experiences of Saint Paul and Saint Augustine, continuing with Alabaster, Donne, Crashaw, and Dryden, and ending with several poets of the modern period, from T. S. Eliot to Franz Wright . . . Next up: Sundays in Lent (February 14, 21, 28, March 6, 13, and 20), Father Pete Powell continues his series on The Succession Narrative: 2 Samuel 11–20; 1 Kings 1–2.
LENTEN QUIET DAY . . . Saturday, February 20, 9:30 AM to 3:00 PM, Lenten Quiet Day, led by Sister Monica Clare, C.S.J.B. We will gather at 9:30 AM for coffee and introductions. The first address is at 10:00 AM. The second address is at 11:00 AM. The noonday services begin at 12:00 PM. Lunch follows at around 1:00 PM. The third address will begin at 2:00 PM. Final prayers and dismissal will take place around 3:00 PM. Opportunities for quiet in the church and Saint Joseph’s Hall will be provided. All are welcome. Please RSVP if you plan to attend so we can make plans for lunch. A $10.00 donation for those attending would be welcome.
STEWARDSHIP CAMPAIGN 2016 . . . This year’s Campaign is going well, and we are very close to reaching our goal, but there is still some work to do. As of Thursday, February 4, we have received $399,473.00 in pledges for the coming year. This is 94% of our 2016 goal of $425,000.00. If you haven’t pledged yet, please call the finance office. Our staff will be happy to fill out a pledge card for you. If you have questions about stewardship, please ask to speak to a member of the Stewardship Committee, MaryJane Boland, Steven Heffner, or Marie Rosseels; and help us to reach our goal so we can continue our ministry and presence in Times Square.
AROUND THE PARISH . . .Flowers are needed for the Fourth Sunday of Lent, March 6, and for all the Sundays in Eastertide . . . Attendance: Last Sunday 253; Candlemas 198.
FROM THE ORGANIST & MUSIC DIRECTOR . . . One might expect to hear the Missa “Tu es Petrus” by Palestrina (1525–1594) on the Feast of Saint Peter and Saint Paul (June 29) or whenever the relevant portion of Matthew speaks of Christ’s calling Simon Peter. This Sunday the lectionary does not give us that passage, but we do encounter the beautiful moment in the Acts of the Apostles when Peter’s dream, or trance, leads him to the abrogation of the law of Moses and to the acceptance that all nations are included among God’s people. How fitting that in the Solemn Mass, when our own spiritual appetite is satisfied, we might be reminded of a comparable hunger: Peter’s experience of craving and satiation brings about realization that God has granted repentance and salvation to the Gentiles. When we celebrate “the church” as Palestrina does in our Mass setting and motet, it is good to recall this visionary passage and remember the richness that Peter’s sense of inclusivity signifies. There is also something especially fitting that the choral texture for both Mass and motet is six-part. This allows both for colorful contrasts of trio textures—and there are plenty of those to enjoy throughout—but also for opulent harmonic thinking; and in the last Sunday before Lent it is good to feast on music of special richness. Let us enjoy also singing our final “Alleluias” for a while. —Simon Whalley
HOPE COUNT 2016 . . . Because of last week’s blizzard, the HOPE Count scheduled for Monday night and Tuesday morning, January 25–26, 2016, was postponed. The Count will now take place on Monday, February 8, from 10:00 PM until 4:00 AM. During the Count, some 3,000 volunteers will help the New York City Department of Homeless Services (DHS) to conduct its annual Homeless Outreach Population Estimate (HOPE), a HUD-mandated citywide community volunteer effort to count each chronically homeless person living in public spaces across the five boroughs during the coldest time of the year. A Saint Mary’s Team has been formed to help with the count. If you had already registered for the Count and if you plan to participate in the Count on February 8, you need do nothing more. You are already registered. If you would like to join the Team, please do the following: go to the Hope Count website to register; when asked, indicate that you are a member of “The Church of Saint Mary the Virgin, Times Square Team”; when asked to sign up for a training site, choose PS 191–Amsterdam School, 210 West 61st Street, 10023; then contact Father Jay Smith to tell him that you have joined the Team. The HOPE Count is an opportunity to get involved in New York City's effort to reduce chronic street homelessness at a time when the number of homeless people in New York City is on the rise. —Jay Smith
OUTREACH AT SAINT MARY’S . . . We are collecting warm clothing (coats, jackets, scarves, hats, and gloves) for distribution here at the parish. Please bring donations to the parish kitchen on Sunday or contact Father Jay Smith . . . We continue to collect nonperishable food items for our outreach partner, the Food Pantry at Saint Clement’s Church, 423 West Forty-sixth Street . . . The Saint Mary’s Book Sale continues on Sunday mornings. All proceeds are used to serve those in need at Saint Mary’s, in our neighborhood, and beyond . . . 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). —J.R.S.
MARK YOUR CALENDAR . . . Wednesday, February 24, Saint Matthias, Mass 12:10 PM & 6:20 PM . . . Saturday, March 19, Saint Joseph, Mass 12:10 PM & 6:20 PM.