FROM DEACON REBECCA WEINER TOMPKINS: ON HOME
During my most recent time at Saint Mary's when someone suggested perhaps New York City is no longer my home and Nashville is, I explained I've figured out a way to be in both cities as my complicated circumstances--health, finances, family--have made that desirable, though it's a work in progress. The idea of home itself is complicated, as is its supposed opposite, homelessness. I'm fortunate to be on one side of the line between those two modes; more people all the time aren't, as we see wherever we live.
The day before that conversation, I helped out at the two-hour Drop-in Day in the Mission House. It was a dark afternoon that turned colder and rainy, while men and women of all ages and ethnicities came in to look through the neatly piled clothes, shoes, and personal items, setting down their backpacks or oversized totes and purses. They loaded up trash bags, a few packed chest-high. Everything from warm coats to underwear to toiletries was stuffed in, with much humility and gratitude and some tears. There were lots of serious conversation about hardships, past and present, but also about the joyous moments, and God was mentioned more than once as a way to get through the tough times.
The volunteers knew many of the visitors by name, and there were newcomers, a little shy at first, but all were made to feel welcome with words and hugs and handshakes and smiles. No one took more than they could carry, because who knew where they might end up. Four women helped each other lug their enormous, tightly tied black plastic sacks across town to where they apparently share a living space that most of us wouldn't call home. The room was filled with people we're used to seeing outside, inside in the bright warmth, trying things on, having some coffee or juice, and cake, gathering the essentials that might make days and nights a little easier as winter settles in. At 4:00 PM, it was time to close up. I helped an older, short-statured woman carry way too many bags up the steep stairs, worrying how after she crammed it all onto her cart, completely covering the seat, she'd be able to rest on the way to wherever she was heading.
When in Nashville, I attend the Church of the Holy Trinity, and I sometimes participate in their Church in the Yard, a Sunday Eucharist and meal for the innumerable homeless men and women from the Rescue Mission and the streets. As at Saint Mary's, those who drop by have different struggles, from former imprisonment to eviction to addiction to a change in luck to mental illness to being completely destitute and alone. Calling them "homeless" does not define the exact situation of each individual very well, but it's the easiest category our society allows for those who are without what most of us have: somewhere easily recognizable as home. With Advent here and the coming of Christ approaching, I've been pondering the convergence of the liturgical season with the winter months, when living in makeshift situations becomes more challenging. A few scriptural passages have been on my mind.
On the Last Sunday after Pentecost, we heard Jesus assert that what we do or don't do for the least of others, is the same as what we do or don't do for him. Of course one can theologically discuss the idea of faith vs. works and who deserves a place in the kingdom and what it means to be "righteous," especially in Matthew. However, as modern-day Christians who don't give up our entire lives as the apostles did to follow Jesus and who look for other ways to be Jesus' disciples, a simple and crucial thing that we can do to acknowledge Jesus as Word is to provide for those who need food or shelter--things that signify home. In the Bible, the poor and the disenfranchised are called the most blessed, again and again, which suggests how we might live out our faith and focus our outreach.
Back to the meaning of home: it is consistent and comfortable, unlike a shelter or church steps or a highway underpass encampment. It is where and to what we return at the end of the day, where the heart is, the longed-for thing, like home plate, home cooking, hometown. When we are away from it, we are welcomed back. It's what I feel every time I walk through Saint Mary's doors, and I'm not the only one. I treasure a letter from a parishioner who wrote: "Your presence is part of the home to which I respond whenever I am there." Those details encourage me to keep on as I am doing, to continue to be away as necessary, but always to return, rather than lose my sense of what feels right, of home, and I don't take my advantage compared to others for granted.
During these last weeks of Advent may we make room in our hearts for a true and lasting home for Christ, the Son of Man, who had "nowhere to lay his head," and for his coming, and also make our own permanent home in him, while at the same time, maybe most significant of all, not forget that, for so many, finding any home, not just one in Christ, is an unaffordable luxury, without our help materially and spiritually. As we open ourselves to Christ, let us do the same for, and be as open to, those who have lost their way, who have literally and figuratively, lost not only their homes, but home.
—Rebecca Weiner Tompkins
YOUR PRAYERS ARE ASKED FOR John, Carlos, Jeffrey, Grace, Dorothy, Lionel, Bill, Mickie, Jon, Linda, Jerry, Preston, Barbara, Jean, Mike, Dick, Nicholas, Bobby, Eleanor, Wendell, Karen, Eugenia, May, Heidi, Takeem, David, Sandy, Dennis, and George; 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 souls of Pauline Aylward and Max Steel, BSG, religious . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . December 17: 1878 Francis Nesbitt Lundy, L. Chauncey Cooke; 1884 Stephania Paulina Holzheidt; 1902 Catherine Jackson; 1904 M. W. Booth; 1914 Harriet Maria Perry; 1953 Charles Halsey Vanover.
IN THIS TRANSITORY LIFE . . . We have received word that Pauline Aylward, the cousin of parishioner Bill Poston, died in October at her home in Florida. She was 103. Max Steel, a member of the Brotherhood of Saint Gregory, died on Tuesday, December 12. Please pray for Pauline and Max, for their family and friends, for the members of the Brotherhood of Saint Gregory, and for all who mourn.
STEWARDSHIP CAMPAIGN . . . Two months ago we kicked off our 2018 Stewardship Campaign, sending stewardship packets to the members and friends of the parish. The Campaign is doing fairly well, but we still have a ways to go. Some statistics: as of Wednesday, December 13, we have received 90 pledges and $324,658.00 has been pledged. This is 76.4% of our pledge goal of $425,000.00. Nearly 68% of those who pledged for 2017 made pledges for 2018 during these first weeks of the Campaign. We are very grateful to all those who made pledges for 2017 and to those who have already made a pledge for 2018.
THIS WEEK AT SAINT MARY'S . . . Sunday, December 17, The Adult Forum has begun its Christmas break. Classes resume on January, when Father Jay Smith will begin a series on the English Reformation and the Oxford Movement's response in the nineteenth century to Reformation thought and practice . . . The Wednesday Night Bible Study Class will not meet on December 20. The class will resume on Wednesday, January 10 . . . Thursday, December 21, Saint Thomas the Apostle, Mass and Healing Service 12:10 & 6:00 PM . . . Friday, December 22, 6:30 PM, Centering Prayer Group, Atrium, Parish Hall, Second Floor.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . At the meeting of the Board of Trustees on Monday, December 11, Grace Mudd was thanked for her service as her term as trustee came to an end. Clark Mitchell was elected to the Board for a four-year term. The following were elected as officers of the board: Marie Rosseels, vice president; Steven Heffner, treasurer; and Mary Robison, secretary . . . The new Saint Mary's 2018 Calendar of the Church Year will be on sale on Sunday, December 17, in Saint Joseph's Hall. The cost is $10.00, plus tax. The calendar is illustrated with color photographs of the High Altar, decorated with floral arrangements that were designed by the members of the Flower Guild. The commemorations found in the calendar reflect current practice here at the parish . . . Homeless Ministry: Volunteers are needed for January 27, the next Drop-in Day. Donations-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-are also needed. Please contact Sister Monica Clare, if you would like to volunteer for this ministry or if you would like to make a donation. Monetary donations are also gratefully accepted . . . Volunteers needed: If you would like to help decorate the church for Christmas, please contact Marie Rosseels . . . Ushers: We are now finalizing the usher schedule for Christmas. We urgently need a few more ushers to cover the 5:00 PM service on Christmas Eve and the Solemn Mass at 11:00 AM on Christmas Day. If you are able to help, please contact Eloise Hoffman . . . Attendance: Last Sunday: 201.
ON THE LORD'S PRAYER . . . Assisting priest Father Peter Powell will resume his series on the Gospel of Matthew on Sunday mornings during Lent. During one of the sessions, he will lead the Adult Forum in a discussion of the Lord's Prayer. Father Pete shares some reflections on this most familiar of Christian prayers: "As many of you may know, Pope Francis would like to change the verse in the Lord's Prayer that mentions 'temptation,' to make it clear that God never leads us into temptation. He says that the phrase 'lead us not into temptation' is not a good translation, because God does not cause humans to sin. During a recent interview on Italian TV, the Pope suggested that the phrase might be changed to read 'do not let us fall into temptation.' The Pontiff also pointed out that in France's Roman Catholic Church this is the translation now in use. He would like to see something similar used in Roman Catholic churches around the world."
"The traditional English phrase, 'lead us not into temptation' is a translation of the phrase as it is found in the fourth-century Latin version of the Bible known as the Vulgate. The Vulgate is itself a translation of biblical texts that were originally written either in Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek. Pope Francis claims that the phrase 'do not let me fall into temptation' is to be preferred, 'Because it is I who fall; it is not God who throws me into temptation. A father does not do that. What induces into temptation is Satan. A father helps you to get up immediately.'
"The Pope is paraphrasing the offending verse in order to reflect his own theology. Many of us do this all the time. In fact, the Lord's Prayer is a Jewish prayer put together in its present form either by Matthew, by the editor of the Sermon on the Mount, or by Jesus himself. We can't be sure. The Prayer reflects a first-century understanding of temptation. In fact, the texts of the New Testament provide a number of different understandings of all this. For example, in the Sermon on the Mount in general and in the Lord's Prayer in particular, we're talking about small 's' sins. The word 'trespasses' is better translated 'debts' and is speaking of our failure to live up to life's obligations. If we see temptation in this light, we're not talking about God leading us into crime, or into such sins as adultery, but about God testing our faith. The prose section of the Book of Job sees God in exactly this way. However, the Letter of James denies the possibility of God doing such a thing, and, in First Corinthians, Paul specifically says that God never tests us beyond our capabilities. I myself believe that in the traditional translation of the verse in the Lord's Prayer we are acknowledging that life is always characterized by temptation and we are seeking God's help to overcome it. In short, I wouldn't adopt the Pope's paraphrase, but I understand it and don't disagree with it. The existing translation is literally correct. We will be discussing this in Lent when we work on the Lord's Prayer. I invite you to join us." —Peter Ross Powell
ABOUT THE MUSIC . . . The setting of the Mass on Sunday morning is the Missa in contrapuncto a 4 vocibus by Johann Caspar Ferdinand Fischer (c. 1656-1746). Fischer was recognized in his day as one of the finest German composers of keyboard music. He was strongly influenced by the French composer Jean Baptiste Lully, with whom he may have studied, and he conveyed French influences to the Italian-influenced German music of his time. J. S. Bach and G. F. Handel were two most notable musicians who knew and were influenced by Fischer's work. Unfortunately, the record of Fischer's life and career seems best documented in writings devoted to others which mention him in passing. Of Fischer's works which were published in his lifetime are collections of sacred music from 1701 and 1711. His Mass for Four Voices begins with a fugal Kyrie which references the opening phrase of the chorale "Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland" and is therefore particularly appropriate for Advent. While evidencing aspects of the stile antico, this Mass also clearly embraces German Baroque style.
The Communion motet on Sunday morning is a setting of Philippians 4:4-7, which has been attributed to John Redford (c. 1500-1547), Tudor musician and dramatist, who was organist, and then choirmaster, at Saint Paul's Cathedral from the mid-1520s until his death. While the only known source of this motet is the British Library's Mulliner Book, which contains many of Redford's compositions, the attribution of this piece to Redford is questionable. The setting, nonetheless, is a classic setting of the Philippians text, as it expressively alternates between polyphonic and choral textures.
Sunday's organ voluntaries are again based upon Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland ("Come now, Savior of the Gentiles"), which has been referenced for the past two Sundays. The chorale (54 in The Hymnal 1982) is Martin Luther's sixteenth-century adaptation of the fourth-century Latin hymn Veni Redemptor gentium attributed to Ambrose of Milan (55 in The Hymnal 1982). The Prelude is the third of four sections from the organ Partita on this chorale by Hugo Distler (1908-1942). This third section is a chaconne consisting of eighteen variations over the chorale's first (also last) phrase played in the bass. Distler's fine linear writing, tight imitative figures, and spare harmony all contribute to a crisp, wintry mood appropriate to the chorale. The Postlude is the third of three settings of Nun komm from the Great Eighteen Leipzig Chorales of J. S. Bach (BWV 661). This setting is a vigorous fugue for the hands under which each of the four phrases of the chorale in turn is stated boldly on the pedals.