FROM THE RECTOR: YEAR'S END
This Sunday, the Last Sunday after Pentecost, now identified as "Christ the King" in editions of the Prayer Book with the Revised Common Lectionary, is the fifty-third Sunday of the current church year-it began on November 27, 2016. This year the gospel lesson is Matthew 25:31-46, known as "The Great Judgment." Next year we will hear John 18:33-37, where Jesus is on trial before Pilate. (We also have the option in the original lectionary of hearing Mark 11:1-11, Palm Sunday-and I have preached on both over the years.) Although the 1979 lectionary and the Revised Common Lectionary omit John 18:38, "Pilate said to [Jesus], 'What is truth?' " I'm thankful that the Prayer Book gives us permission to include it, and we do.
In the third year of the lectionary cycle, both lectionaries appoint Luke 23:35-43, the mocking of Jesus on the cross and the salvation of the other wrongdoer. As in the second year, the 1979 lectionary gives permission for us to hear Luke's account of Jesus' triumphal entry (Luke 19:29-38). (For the record, in earlier Prayer Books, where there was no provision for the liturgy of the palms, accounts of Jesus' entry were only read at the Daily Office.)
There remains something artificial and profoundly anti-ecumenical about the Roman Catholic "Feast of Christ the King,"-an invention of Pope Pius XI in 1925. This was before the 1929 treaty he concluded with Mussolini that made Vatican City an independent sovereign state. The feast wasn't about Jesus Christ as much as it was about "anti-clericalism." Pius XI wrote, "The right which the Church has from Christ himself, to teach mankind, to make laws, to govern peoples in all that pertains to their eternal salvation, that right was denied" (Quas primas, 24)-and for Pope Pius, the authority of the Church was the authority of the pope. But the wider Christian community has had a feast of Christ's sovereignty, rooted in the events of his life, the Epiphany, since the first centuries of the Christian Era (Origins, 137). Christ's birth, his baptism, and his first miracle at Cana are all manifestations of his identity as Lord of Lords and King of Kings.
The gospel lessons in the second and third years of the lectionary cycle are already heard in the context of Holy Week. The gospel for this year is only in Matthew and is very much an expression of the theology of this gospel, where obedience is the way to salvation. I'm going to try to preach on it without the overlay of a human power rooted in anything but the humility and grace of God.
Pope Gregory I (bishop of Rome, 590-604) gave the church in Rome a four-week season of Advent as preparation for Christmas. After a feast of the Epiphany emerged in the East and the West and Christmas Day emerged in the West, a season of preparation came along. If I'm reading Bradshaw and Johnson correctly (The Origins of Feasts, Fasts and Seasons in Early Christianity ), important for us this week is that the beginning of the church year in Rome moved at some point from Christmas Day to the beginning of the four-week season we know as Advent (pages 167-68). The eighth-century Gelasian Sacramentary and the eighth-century Gregorian Sacramentary both begin the year with the celebration of the Nativity of the Lord. I'm not sure when that move happened-and I wouldn't be surprised if it happened at times in different places.
I've written before, and I'll write again, about the power of the prayers and hymns of Advent for my own journey in Christ. The first time I entered Saint Mary's-on November 18, 1998, to be interviewed for the position of rector-an organist was practicing the great Advent hymn used on this last Sunday of the year at Saint Mary's, "Lo, he comes, with clouds descending." It's one of my top three hymns, the others are "For all the saints" and "Hark! the herald angels sing." Happy Year End. -Stephen Gerth
YOUR PRAYERS ARE ASKED FOR
Jon, Linda, Jerry, Ingrid, Farive, Preston, Marcy, Barbara, Mike, Dick, Nicholas, Bobby, Gabby, Eleanor, Wendell, José, Noriko, Debbie, Sherri, Karen, Eugenia, May, Heidi, Takeem, Barbara, Jean, David, Sandy, Dennis, and George; for Monica Clare, religious; for Horace, Clayton, Mitties, Anne, David, Gaylord, Harry, Louis, Edgar, and Vern, priests; for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Mark; and for the repose of the soul of Dorothea Zastrow . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . November 19: 1903 Alice Ida Rapelyea; 1909 Walter H. Jackson; 1948 Michael Francis Pfan; 1949 Florence Holman; 1997 Ronald L. Cox; 2013 John Martin.
IN THIS TRANSITORY LIFE . . . Dorothea Zastrow, aunt of parishioner Ingrid Sletten, died on November 14, 2017. She was 92 years old. Please pray for her, for Ingrid, and for all who mourn.
THE ORDINARY FRIDAYS OF THE YEAR are observed by special acts of discipline and self-denial in commemoration of the crucifixion of the Lord.
. . . Five weeks ago we kicked off our 2018 Stewardship Campaign, sending stewardship packets to nearly 1,000 members and friends of Saint Mary's. The Campaign has gotten off to a promising start. Some statistics: as of Monday, November 20, we have received 63 pledges and $222,610.00 has been pledged. This is 53% of our pledge goal of $425,000.00. Nearly 44.1% of those who pledged for 2017 made pledges for 2018 during these first weeks of the Campaign.
This coming Sunday is Commitment Sunday and we hope that many Saint Marians will offer their pledge cards at Mass and Evensong. We are very eager to meet our stewardship goal this year. If you are able to make a pledge soon, this will allow the Budget Committee to make plans for the coming year. We also urge all those who made a pledge for 2017 to fulfill that pledge no later than December 31, 2017.
To make a pledge for 2018, please fill out a pledge card and mail it to 145 West Forty-sixth Street, New York, NY 10036; place your pledge card in the collection basket at Mass; or make a pledge online. We are extraordinarily grateful to all those who made pledges for 2017 and to those who have already made a pledge for 2018. To learn more about stewardship or the Stewardship Campaign, please speak to Father Gerth or to a member of the Stewardship Committee (MaryJane Boland, Steven Heffner, Brendon Hunter, or Marie Rosseels, chair).
GIVING TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 28. . . Giving Tuesday was started in 2012 by the 92nd Street Y and the United Nations Foundation as a response to commercialization and consumerism in the post-Thanksgiving season (Black Friday and Cyber Monday). We hope that you will consider making a gift to Saint Mary's on Tuesday-to the Stewardship Campaign, to the Open Doors Capital Campaign, and/or to our Homeless Ministry-so that we can continue our ministry to and for our members, friends, and neighbors.
THIS WEEK AT SAINT MARY'S . . . The Wednesday Night Bible Study Class will meet on November 29 at 6:30 PM in Saint Benedict's Study . . . Thursday, November 30, Saint Andrew the Apostle, Mass 12:10 PM and 6:20 PM . . . Friday, December 1, 6:30 PM, Centering Prayer Group, Atrium, Parish Hall, Second Floor. Please enter at 145 West Forty-sixth Street, just west of the main doors to the church, and press buzzer 1 in the vestibule. Then climb up one flight of stairs, make a U-turn, and climb up another small flight of stairs. The Atrium will be on your left . . . Sunday, December 3, First Sunday of Advent.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . We've had word that former parishioner Jon Bryant, who now lives in Washington, D.C., has been hospitalized. Please keep him in your prayers . . . Parishioner Barbara Klett is doing physical therapy and continuing her recuperation at a rehabilitation facility on the Upper East Side. She hopes to be able to return home soon . . . Sunday, November 26, in Saint Joseph's Hall, Sister Laura Katharine's Final Candle Sale. Prepare for Advent and Christmas: Candles are being offered at a steep discount-40% off the original price, with an additional discount if you buy 4 or more candles of any size. If you wish to make an appointment to buy candles at another time, please contact the parish office . . . Sister Laura Katharine and Sister Monica Clare will be away from the parish beginning Tuesday, November 28. They will be at the convent in Mendham, New Jersey, attending meetings with their community's bishop visitor, the Right Reverend Allen Shin. They will return to Saint Mary's on Friday, December 1 . . . Attendance: Last Sunday: 177, Thanksgiving 75.
ADULT EDUCATION . . . Father Pete Powell will conclude his series on the Gospel According to Matthew on Sunday, November 26, at 10:00 AM, in Saint Benedict's Study . . . On Sunday, December 3, and Sunday, December 10, at 1:00 PM, in Saint Joseph's Hall (note location and later start time), parishioner Dr. Mark Risinger will lead the Adult Forum in a discussion of the Passion of Saint Matthew and the Passion of Saint John by Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750).
ABOUT THE MUSIC . . . The musical setting of the Mass on Sunday morning is the Missa Simile est regnum caelorum of Tomás Luís de Victoria (1548-1611). Victoria is considered the most important Spanish composer of Renaissance polyphony. Born in Ávila, the seventh of eleven children, he began his musical education as a choirboy at Ávila Cathedral, and began his classical education at San Gil, a Jesuit school for boys founded in 1554. By 1565 Victoria had entered the Jesuit Collegio Germanico in Rome, where he was later engaged to teach music and eventually named maestro di cappella. Victoria knew and may have been instructed by Palestrina (1525-1594) who was maestro di cappella of the nearby Seminario Romano at that time. During his years in Rome, Victoria held several positions as singer, organist, and choral master, and published many of his compositions. He was ordained priest in 1575 after a three-day diaconate. There are twenty authenticated Mass settings of Victoria in addition to two Requiem Masses. The Missa Simile est regnum is one of Victoria's twelve parody Masses in which he quotes musical ideas from a pre-existing musical composition. In this case, Victoria's musical quotes are from a motet by his friend and contemporary, Franciso Guerrero (1528-1599). Guerrero's motet on Matthew 20:1-4 likens the Kingdom of God to a landowner justly hiring laborers for his vineyard. Victoria's Mass skillfully reutilizes distinctive melodic features of Guerrero's motet, such as the rising perfect fifth which begins most of its movements. With the exception of the Benedictus in three voices, Victoria's Mass, like Guerrero's motet, is voiced in four parts. However, the final Agnus Dei spectacularly employs two choirs of four voices each of which sing in strict canon.
Giuseppe Ottavio Pitoni (1657-1743) represents a Roman musical culture of more than a century later than Victoria. Pitoni was born in Rieti, but as an infant he was brought to Rome where he studied music and sang in church choirs. He served at various times as maestro di cappella-or in a similar capacity-at Monterotondo, Rieti Cathedral and many churches in and around Rome. While at Assisi Cathedral, Pitoni devoted himself to studying the works of Palestrina whose influence is apparent in his own compositions. However, Pitoni's large musical output also reflected the stylistic fashions of his own day, and included elements of concertato and polychoral writing.
The text of Pitoni's motet, sung during Communion on Sunday morning, is Christus factus est, Philippians 2:8-9, which finds its traditional liturgical usage as the Gradual for Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, and Good Friday. The power of this scriptural passage, however, is not confined to those occasions, and it has been set chorally by many prominent composers over the centuries. Pitoni's setting begins in strict four-voice canon. The word mortem ("death") is extended and painted with characteristic chromaticism. This is balanced later by the bright coloration of the word exaltavit ("exalted").
The organ voluntaries on Sunday are from a five-section work by the Danish-born composer Dieterich Buxtehude (1637-1707). It is based upon the Solemn Tone plainchant for the hymn Te Deum. The first two sections, played for the prelude, will begin with a free Praeludium. The second section, Primus versus, is based upon the chant cantus firmus for the opening phrase, translated "We praise thee, O God; we acknowledge thee to be the Lord." The Te Deum plainsong melody is heard in long notes alternately below and above more rapid figuration. The final movement, played as the postlude, is a fugue and coda. It is based upon the verse "When thou hadst overcome the sharpness of death, thou didst open the kingdom of heaven to all believers." -David Hurd
HOMELESS MINISTRY . . . Donations and volunteers are needed for December 6, our next Drop-in Day. As always, the number of those who are homeless who seek refuge in the church and who ask for assistance increases when the weather grows colder. In order to meet some of those requests, we are hoping to receive donations of the following items: blankets, razors, shaving cream; packs of new underwear for both women and men, in all sizes; cold-weather clothing such as coats, sweaters, thermal underwear, gloves, boots, and sweatshirts. Such basic items will prove to be useful to our neighbors living without shelter . . . Attorneys from the New York Legal Assistance Group have volunteered to host a Legal Aid Day for our Homeless Ministry on Wednesday, December 6, from 2:00 to 4:00 PM in the Mission House. The attorney volunteers will dispense legal advice, along with clothing and toiletry articles . . . Please contact Sister Monica Clare, if you would like to volunteer for this important ministry or if you would like to make a donation . . . We also continue to receive nonperishable food items for our outreach partner, Saint Clement's Food Pantry. Please place those items in the basket near the ushers' table at the Forty-sixth Street entrance to the church.
RECITALS AT SAINT MARY'S . . . Friday, December 8, 2017, 5:30 PM, Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Dr. Keith Reas, director of music, Saint Paul's Church, Chattanooga, Tennessee . . . Friday, January 5, 2018, 5:30 PM, Eve of the Epiphany, Stephen Rumpf, New York City . . . Friday, February 2, 2018, 5:30, The Presentation: Candlemas, Dr. Claudia Dumschat, Church of the Transfiguration, New York City.
CONCERTS AT SAINT MARY'S . . . Wednesday, December 6, 2017, 8:00 PM, The Miller Theatre presents The Tallis Scholars: Heinrich Isaac at 500. Visit the Miller Theatre website for more information and to purchase tickets . . . Saturday, December 9, 8:00 PM, New York Repertory Orchestra, Program: Rosenhaus: Overture from "The Inspector General"; Kabalevsky: Cello Concerto No. 1 in G minor; Schumann: Symphony No. 3 ("Rhenish"). Visit the NYRO website for information and to buy tickets.
LOOKING AHEAD. . . Thursday, December 7, Eve of the Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Solemn Evensong 6:00 PM. The canticles will be sung by members of the Choir of Saint Mary's . . . Friday, December 8, Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Sung Matins 8:30 AM, Sung Mass 12:10 PM, Organ Recital 5:30 PM, Solemn Pontifical Mass 6:00 PM (the Most Reverend Frank T. Griswold, celebrant and preacher) . . . Thursday, December 21, Saint Thomas the Apostle, Mass and Healing Service 12 . . . Sunday, December 24, Fourth Sunday of Advent, Mass 9:00 & 10:00 AM, Solemn Mass 11:00 AM . . . Sunday, December 24, Christmas Eve, Music for Congregation & Choir 4:30 PM, Sung Mass 5:00 PM; Music for Congregation & Choir 10:30 PM, Procession and Solemn Mass 11:00 PM . . . Monday, December 25, Christmas Day, Solemn Mass & Procession to the Crèche 11:00 AM.
AT THE GALLERIES . . . At the Met Fifth Avenue, November 13, 2017-February 12, 2018, Michelangelo: Divine Draftsman & Designer. This exhibition is proving to be very popular. It is suggested that visitors should try to view it during off-peak hours. From the museum's website, "Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475-1564), a towering genius in the history of Western art, is the subject of this once-in-a-lifetime exhibition. During his long life, Michelangelo was celebrated for the excellence of his disegno, the power of drawing and invention that provided the foundation for all the arts. For his mastery of drawing, design, sculpture, painting, and architecture, he was called Il Divino ("the divine one") by his contemporaries. His powerful imagery and dazzling technical virtuosity transported viewers and imbued all of his works with a staggering force that continues to enthrall us today.
"This exhibition presents a stunning range and number of works by the artist: 133 of his drawings, three of his marble sculptures, his earliest painting, his wood architectural model for a chapel vault, as well as a substantial body of complementary works by other artists for comparison and context. Among the extraordinary international loans are the complete series of masterpiece drawings he created for his friend Tommaso de' Cavalieri and a monumental cartoon for his last fresco in the Vatican Palace. Selected from 50 public and private collections in the United States and Europe, the exhibition examines Michelangelo's rich legacy as a supreme draftsman and designer."