FROM THE RECTOR: CHRISTMAS WITH CHRIST
I am writing this on the morning of December 21, 2017, the Feast of Saint Thomas the Apostle, the first day of winter. A number of people have been at work all week to prepare flowers and greens for Christmas-and I know that many hours were spent planning what needed to be ordered. Yesterday afternoon, Father Jay Smith, Dr. David Hurd, and I reviewed the bulletins and service details. Saturday I will be meeting with sacristy team leaders to prepare for rehearsals. New York is alive with the signs and sounds of the season. But in the church-and in the rectory-it's still Advent, as it will be on Sunday morning, December 24. Do come on Sunday morning for the last celebration of the Advent season. Late Sunday afternoon we begin to celebrate Christmas with Christ as the Body of Christ.
Musical preludes are a big part of Christmas worship in New York City. So, thirty minutes before the Eucharists on Christmas Eve, there will be choral works, organ, and congregational song. The music at 4:30 PM will include a brass quartet. The 5:00 PM Eucharist is a Sung Mass. The parish choir sings the Mass ordinary, but there is less congregational chant. The service itself lasts just about an hour. Families with young children usually find this a good Mass for them.
The 11:00 PM Eucharist is another special service. At the entrance of the ministers, the choir sings the appointed chant: "The Lord said to me: 'You are my Son, today have I begotten you.' " Then a minister sings the "Proclamation of the Birth of Christ," a traditional account of the birth of Jesus in the course of history. A procession is formed, and an image of the Christ child is carried to the crèche as the congregation sings, "O come, all ye faithful." After prayer is offered at the crèche, the procession moves to the front of the nave as "Once in royal David's city" is sung. Prayer is offered. Then the opening acclamation of the Solemn Mass is sung. As the choir continues with "Gloria in excelsis Deo," the ministers process to the chancel and altar. It may sound like a lot, but it always seems to me that the late service is over too soon.
On Christmas Day, one wonderful service is offered at 11:00 AM: "Solemn Mass and Procession to the Crèche." The parish choir sings. The gospel of the day is the prologue to the Gospel of John that begins, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God." The church opens on Christmas Day at 9:30 AM and closes at 2:00 PM.
Whether you are a life-long Christian or new to the faith, the worship of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day has a place prepared for itself in the hearts, minds, and souls of us all. It lodges in our memories and can carry us into our future as we walk with God's Spirit in this life. Christmas worship can be transformative. It is able to heal painful wounds in our bodies and in our minds. On Christmas Eve, I am always very aware that I am worshiping along with the whole communion of saints. Christmas Masses are all liturgies of the resurrection and of the life of the world to come. Merry Christmas to you all. - Stephen Gerth
YOUR PRAYERS ARE ASKED FOR Peter, John, Paul, Maria, Joseph, Felipe, Carlos, Grace, Bill, Mickie, Jon, Jerry, 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 Paul Glover and Yvette Gabrielle Beaulieu Arsenault . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . December 24: 1887 Charleverous Lowery; 1926 Frederick Endora Anderson; 1962 Charles Moran; 1983 Melissa McFall.
IN THIS TRANSITORY LIFE . . . Church musician Dr. Paul Glover died on December 15 in Alexandria, Virginia. He was eighty-nine years old. Dr. Glover served parishes and taught in schools in Buffalo, New York, his hometown; Hartford, Connecticut; and Richmond, Virginia. He helped found the Association of Anglican Musicians. He also taught music at the Yale Divinity School and the Virginia Theological Seminary. He was a member of the Episcopal Church's Standing Commission on Church Music and served as general editor of The Hymnal 1982. His wife of many years, Joyce McDonald Glover, who served the church as a director of Christian Education, died in 2013. Dr. Glover is survived by two daughters and four grandchildren. Please pray for Paul and Joyce, for their family and friends, and for all who mourn . . . Yvette Gabrielle Beaulieu Arsenault, the mother of former parishioner Joseph Arsenault, died in early December at her home in Quebec. She was eighty-nine years old. Please pray for Paul and Joyce, for Yvette, for Joseph, for their family and friends, and for all who mourn.
THE COMPANIONS OF CHRIST . . . Three Major Feasts are celebrated on the second, third, and fourth days of Christmas. Saint Stephen, Saint John, and the Holy Innocents are known as the "Companions of Christ" . . . On Tuesday, December 26, Saint Stephen, Deacon and Martyr, the church is open from 7:00 AM until 7:00 PM, and only the noonday services are offered: Noonday Prayer 12:00 PM, Mass 12:10 PM . . . On Wednesday, December 27, Saint John, Apostle and Evangelist, and on Thursday, December 28, The Holy Innocents, these services are offered: Morning Prayer 8:30 AM, Noonday Prayer 12:00 PM, Sung Mass 12:10 PM, Evening Prayer, Mass 6:20 PM. At the Masses on Thursday, the Anointing of the Sick is also offered.
THIS WEEK AT SAINT MARY'S . . . The Wednesday Night Bible Study Class will not meet on December 27. The class will resume on Wednesday, January 10, when Father Peter Powell will lead the class . . . Friday, December 29, 6:30 PM, Centering Prayer Group, Atrium, Parish Hall, Second Floor.
SAINT MARY'S 2018 CALENDAR OF THE CHURCH YEAR is available online through The cost is $10.00, plus tax. The calendar is illustrated with color photographs of the High Altar and the floral arrangements that were designed by the members of the Flower Guild. The calendar includes the complete list of feasts, fasts, and commemorations used in our worship. The calendar is also available in the parish all after Solemn Mass on Sundays.
AROUND THE PARISH. . . There will be an opportunity for fellowship at Coffee Hour following the Solemn Mass on Christmas Day which begins at 11:00 AM . . . The 11:00 AM Mass on Sunday, December 31, the First Sunday after Christmas Day, will be a Sung Choral Mass. The church will close at 2:00 PM that day, since the neighborhood will be preparing for the New Year's celebrations . . . Parishioner and former member of the Board of Trustees Adam Morrow is studying for an advanced degree at Cambridge University. He tells us that he is enjoying his time in the United Kingdom. He is rowing for his college, Sidney Sussex, and is also serving as a chapel warden at the college. He frequently attends debates at the Cambridge Union. He says that he has made good friends and finds the quality of the teaching to be superb. He misses Saint Mary's very much and prays for his fellow parishioners frequently "in Anglican chant at King's College." Please keep Adam in your prayers . . . . . . Attendance: Last Sunday: 208.
FROM THE PARISH TREASURER . . .We are all aware that there are major changes in the U.S. tax code ahead. Some of those changes may make you want to consider some actions here at the end of 2017 regarding your giving schedule. For many people, the 2017 tax year may be the last one in which itemizing deductions makes sense, which means deductions for charitable giving may not be a part of your tax filings in 2018 and beyond. To make the most of what is still available as a direct deduction, charitable giving before the end of the year may be the smartest move. Two recent articles in Forbes and the New York Times suggest several tax and charitable planning strategies to consider acting on now and in the future:
If this situation sounds familiar to you, I suggest you consider how making an extra contribution or fulfilling all or part of your Capital or Operating pledge before the end of December this year may be your smartest move in the long run. -Steven Heffner
FROM THE DEACON . . . Whenever I've taught the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd at Saint Mary's, the children age three to six were always excited by candles, whether on our prayer table, or in the Advent wreath. Give us light, they might as well have said as they gathered around the flame made by a match rather than from an LED bulb powered by battery. That for-real light was thrilling for them in the darkened Sunday school classroom. A favorite song for them, especially in Advent, was "The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light." The line repeated three times, ending with "let it shine let it shine let it shine." The kids understood that this was not the light of Christmas decorations or flashing inflatable Santas, because before we sang it we looked at a large card on which I'd written in violet marker those same words, the prophecy from Isaiah, chapter 9, verse 2. Light is the most obvious difference between Mark's Gospel from two Sundays ago and John's Gospel from this past one, both about John the Baptist. As Isaiah had prophesied, John appears as a voice crying in the wilderness, preparing the way, and both Gospels describe that. In John's Gospel, we also hear that John is "a witness" who "testifies"-and we note that use of witness as doing something active, not being passive-he's testifying to the light to come, the light of the good news of Jesus, the light that is Jesus, who is the light of the world. We realize that we too can be witnesses, as John is, and we can help prepare the way, straighten the path, to paraphrase scripture. The light that will shine on that path emanates from Jesus Christ the Lord. Just as John is not the light, we are not the light, but as John announces and baptizes and reveals that the light is forthcoming, and will shine, we discover we can act similarly, in response to that light in the wilderness that brings us in. Since I may not be able to return to Saint Mary's for Christmas as planned, and may return for a while in February instead, I would like to share the following poem from Madeline L'Engle (1918-2007), who wrote A Wrinkle in Time and was also, for a time, the librarian at the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine:
"Into the Darkest Hour"
It was a time like this,/ War & tumult of war,/a horror in the air./ Hungry yawned the abyss-/ and yet there came the star/and the child most wonderfully there./ It was time like this/ of fear & lust for power,/ license & greed and blight-/ and yet the Prince of bliss/ came into the darkest hour/in quiet & silent light./ And in a time like this/ how celebrate his birth/when all things fall apart?/ Ah! Wonderful it is/ with no room on the earth/ the stable is our heart.
ABOUT THE MUSIC . . . The setting of the Mass on Sunday morning, the Fourth Sunday of Advent, is Missa Dixit Maria by Hans Leo Hassler (1564-1612). Hassler was a student of Andrea Gabrieli (c. 1510-1586) in Venice, and one of the first of a succession of German composers to experience in Italy the musical innovations that were shaping what would later be identified as Baroque style. Although Hassler was a Protestant, his early compositions were for the Roman church. His Missa Dixit Maria, published in 1599, is a parody Mass with themes borrowed from his own motet Dixit Maria ad Angelum. The text of the source motet-which will be sung during the ministration of Communion-recounts Mary's words to the angel of the Annunciation, "Behold I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be done to me, according to your word."
The organ prelude on Sunday morning is the more extended of two Buxtehude organ works for Magnificat on the first psalm-tone. It divides clearly into two principal sections, each with four sub-sections and a coda. While bits of the fantasy style are in evidence, most of the sub-sections are clearly imitative if not strictly fugal. Some researchers have taken occasion to identify the shape of the first psalm-tone as it lay concealed in Buxtehude's counterpoint. A debate centers on whether the sub-sections of this work were intended to be performed in alternatim with sung verses of Magnificat, or if the entire piece should be played continuously without the insertion of chant verses. As is often the case, historic music of distinction lends itself to a variety of reasonable interpretations, and what remains is for musicians to find performance solutions appropriate to the occasion, and let the hearer delight.
The postlude is by the celebrated African-American composer Adolphus Hailstork, currently professor of composition at Old Dominion University, Norfolk, Virginia. In Hailstork's Toccata one can hear fragments of the fifteenth-century Advent hymn O come, O come Emmanuel, although the entire chant melody is never stated as such. The unusual meter of five beats to the bar gives the Toccata a curious off-balanced rhythmic energy, and the harmonic dissonances may reflect a world in chaos awaiting the birth of the Savior. -David Hurd
. . . Donations and volunteers are needed for January 27, our next Drop-in Day and for the many requests for assistance between Drop-in Days. 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 . . . 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, 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 . . . Monday, April 9, 2018, 5:30 PM, The Annunciation, Mr. Bálint Karosi, Saint Peter's Lutheran Church, New York City . . . Thursday, May 10, 5:30 PM Ascension Day, Dr. Jennifer Pascual, Saint Patrick's Cathedral, New York City.
LOOKING AHEAD . . . Sunday, December 31, The First Sunday after Christmas Day, Sung Matins 8:30 AM, Mass 9:00 & 10:00 AM, Sung Choral Mass 11:00 AM. The church closes at 2:00 PM . . . Monday, January 1, Holy Name of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Sung Mass 11:00 AM . . . Friday, January 5, The Eve of the Epiphany, Organ Recital 5:30 PM, Solemn Pontifical Mass 6:00 PM, The Right Reverend Mary Glasspool, assistant bishop, celebrant and preacher.