FROM THE RECTOR: CHRISTMAS & EPIPHANY
This year there is one Sunday after Christmas Day before the Epiphany, January 6-some years there are two. Last year, when Christmas Day fell on a Sunday, the next Sunday was January 1, 2017, the Feast of the Holy Name of Our Lord—so no First Sunday after Christmas Day. With the Epiphany falling on Friday, January 6, 2017, the next Sunday after January 1, 2017, was the first Sunday after the Epiphany.
This year the calendar works differently. We have one more Sunday, December 31, 2017, to hear the Good News of Jesus' birth. And on Friday evening, January 5, the Eve of the Epiphany, the Right Reverend Mary D. Glasspool, assistant bishop of the diocese of New York, will be with us to be celebrant and preacher for our principal celebration of the Epiphany. It's her first visit here to preside since coming to New York from the diocese of Los Angeles in April 2016. In the meantime, the Twelve Days of Christmas continue.
This year our gospel for the Sunday after Christmas Day will be the historic gospel found in all earlier Prayer Books for this day: Matthew's account of Jesus' birth (1:18–25). Maddeningly, the 1979 Prayer Book followed the lead of the Roman Catholic Church to make one of our two gospel accounts of Jesus' birth an annunciation story. Following them, this story of Jesus' birth is only heard on the Fourth Sunday of Advent, once every three years. But the Roman Catholics don't let their members hear the conclusion of the story-ever: "But [Joseph] knew her not until [Mary] had borne a son; and he called his name Jesus" (Matthew 1:25). Well, it's a birth story. One may well ask why the revision of the Prayer Book lectionary didn't fix this (and a many other things), but it didn't.
The Prayer Book tradition really does have it right. Matthew has a birth story to proclaim. It is entirely appropriate on the Sunday before the Epiphany. After Matthew's words about Jesus' birth and naming, he continues: "Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, 'Where is he who has been born king of the Jews?' For we have seen his star in the East, and have come to worship him" (Matthew 2:1–2). The good news of Jesus' birth in Matthew shouldn't be ignored during Christmas.
YOUR PRAYERS ARE ASKED FOR Bob, Greta, Terri, Brian, Aiden, John, Carlos, Paul, Bill, Mickie, Jon, Jerry, Barbara, Jean, Mike, Dick, Eleanor, Wendell, Karen, Eugenia, May, Heidi, Takeem, David, Sandy, Dennis, and George; for Matthew, Horace, Anne, David, Gaylord, Harry, Louis, Edgar, and Vern, priests; for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Mark and James. . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . December 31: 1937 Evelyn Maud Mills; 1961 Everett Phillips Irwin; 1985 Anna Marie Schuman, Frances Bulkley Hirsch.
A SPECIAL SCHEDULE FOR NEW YEAR'S EVE SUNDAY . . . The church always closes at 2:00 PM on New Year's Eve because of the celebrations of the New Year in Times Square. We never know when our block will be closed—it depends on how early the Square fills. Last year, West 46th was closing just as I returned to Saint Mary's a few minutes before 2:00 PM. There will be no Evensong Sunday night! I've also decided that instead of a full Solemn Mass at 11:00 AM, there will be a Sung Choral Mass. A quartet from the choir will sing William Byrd's Mass for four voices, but there will be less chanting and less incense than a Solemn Mass. Last Sunday put great demands not only on our clergy and staff, but also on servers, ushers, flower guild members, and other volunteers who make Saint Mary's a welcoming place. I hope you will join us for one of the four services of the morning: Sung Matins 8:30 AM, Said Mass & Sermon 9:00 AM, Said Mass & Sermon 10:00 AM, and Sung Choral Mass 11:00AM. Merry Christmas. —S.G.
CHRISTMAS THANKS . . . The celebrations on Sunday morning, December 24, and the services of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day were marked by much beauty, great warmth, and real joy. One of the great privileges of my work is to be so aware of how much so many are doing to prepare our celebrations, and I know that I am only aware of part of what they are doing. Truly there is a lot of love for Jesus Christ, for this parish church, and for those in need in this place. Bitterly cold weather arrived on December 24-and seems likely to continue through the Twelve Days of Christmas. I know it kept some from being able to attend services. Our open doors continued daily to welcome and shelter those in need. Many people make this possible. I thank all of you for your work, your generosity, and your love. —S.G.
THIS WEEK AT SAINT MARY'S . . . 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, The Holy Name of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Sung Mass 11:00 AM. The church opens today at 10:00 AM and closes at 2:00 PM . . . The Wednesday Night Bible Study Class will not meet on January 3. The class will resume on Wednesday, January 10, when Father Peter Powell will lead the class . . . 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 . . . The Centering Prayer Group will not meet on Friday, January 5, the Eve of the Epiphany.
AROUND THE PARISH. . . The new Saint Mary's 2018 Calendar of the Church Year will be on sale on Sunday, December 24, 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 . . . Attendance: Fourth Sunday of Advent 140; Christmas Eve 566; Christmas Day 132.
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
STEWARDSHIP CAMPAIGN . . . In early October, we kicked off our 2018 Stewardship Campaign, sending stewardship packets to nearly 1,000 members and friends of Saint Mary's. The Campaign has done well, but we still have a ways to go. Some statistics: as of Monday, December 27, we have received 100 pledges and $330,458.00 has been pledged. This is 78% of our pledge goal of $425,000.00. Nearly 70.9% of those who pledged for 2017 have made pledges for 2018 thus far during the Campaign.
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).
ABOUT THE MUSIC. . . The Mass at 11:00 AM on Sunday morning, the First Sunday after Christmas Day, will be a Sung Mass. Four members of the parish choir will sing the service. The setting of the Mass on Sunday morning is the Mass for Four Voices of William Byrd (c. 1540–1623). Byrd composed settings of the Latin Mass for three, four, and five voices. The Mass for Four Voices dates from about 1592, and was probably the first of the three to be composed. The whole business of Latin Masses in post-Reformation England needed to be a somewhat clandestine matter to protect those involved from the possibility of arrest. This being the case, Byrd's part books were undated and without title page or preface, nor was the printer (Thomas East) identified. Fortunately Byrd's settings survived the period in which their performance-if not their very existence-was illegal, and are now rightly regarded as great treasures of Western music. Although composed with the Continental Tridentine liturgy in mind, Byrd's Mass for Four Voices was also influenced by the pre-Reformation Mean Mass of John Taverner (c. 1490–1545), particularly in the opening of the Sanctus. The older Taverner setting had already served as a model for settings by English masters Christopher Tye (c. 1505–c. 1573), John Sheppard (c. 1515–1558) and Thomas Tallis (c. 1505–1585). Byrd's four-voice Agnus Dei ends with a particularly expressive Dona nobis pacem.
Michael Praetorius (1571–1621) was the leading German composer and writer on music theory and practice in his day. His Syntagma Musicum, though unfinished, provides a detailed picture of instrumental and vocal musical performance in sixteenth-century Germany. His massive compositional output included the nine-volume Musae Sioniae, a collection of approximately twelve hundred chorale and song arrangements. A composer of giant poly-choral works, he is also known for works of relative simplicity such as the harmonization of Es ist ein Ros, which is a staple of music in the Christmas season. Likewise, Praetorius's dance-like adaptation of the thirteenth-century processional Puer natus has become a Christmas standard. —David Hurd
A DAY FOR PRAYER, MEDITATION & ART . . . Seeing God in Epiphanytide—Do you have questions about God? Why did Jesus come as a child? Why did the Wise Men visit him? What difference does all of this make for you and for me? Why not try to use art to find some of the answers! Join us on Saturday, January 27, 2018, 1:00-4:00 PM here at Saint Mary's for meditation and art making. No experience required! All materials (and light snacks!) provided. Cost: $50.00. (Scholarships are available). Parishioner Ingrid Sletten will be leading this event. Ingrid has studied art and spirituality for nearly twenty years and is a practicing artist. If interested, or if you have questions, please contact Ingrid via e-mail or speak to her on Sunday morning.
HOMELESS MINISTRY. . . 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, 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.
AT THE GALLERIES . . . At the Morgan Library, 225 Madison Avenue at 36th Street, Magnificent Gems: Medieval Treasure Bindings, through January 7, 2018. From the museum website, "Treasure bindings-book covers encrusted with gold, silver, and gemstones-were a luxury in the Middle Ages. Few survive, and some of the finest examples are in the Morgan's distinguished collection. Magnificent Gems: Medieval Treasure Bindings presents these masterpieces in context for the first time. The treasure bindings on view include star sapphires, diamonds, emeralds, pearls, and garnets, alongside illuminated manuscripts and printed books that depict two-dimensional representations of these precious materials.
Among the exhibition highlights will be the ninth-century Lindau Gospels, one of the two finest Carolingian jeweled bindings in the world, and the thirteenth-century Berthold Sacramentary, the most luxurious German manuscript of its time. In these and other examples, we learn that the application of gemstones and precious metals served to venerate the texts inside and embellish church services, as well as reflect the status and wealth of the patrons who commissioned them.
Images of "imagined" gems are also featured on the pages of manuscripts and printed books presented, including three examples of Venetian books, hand-painted by Girolamo da Cremona. The artist's frontispieces to Augustine's City of God (1475), Plutarch's Parallel Lives (1478), and Aristotle's Opera (1483) are masterpieces of trompe-l'oeil. The last has been called the 'most magnificent printed book in the world.' "
CLICK HERE for this week's schedule.