FROM THE RECTOR: A BIBLICAL FAMILY
Abram, later Abraham, makes his first appearance in Genesis in a list of the descendants of Noah's oldest son, Shem (Genesis 11:26). We've been hearing Abraham's story at Evening Prayer since the second Friday after the Epiphany, this year, January 20. A few years ago I discovered that the Daily Office Lectionary omitted the passage where Abraham's two sons, half-brothers Ishmael and Isaac, come together to bury him (Genesis 25:9). I also discovered that the only other time they are found together is after Isaac is born. Isaac's mother Sarah sees them playing together. She reacts by insisting that Abraham send Ishmael and his enslaved mother Hagar away. Neither Sarah nor Abraham come off very well in this story. Yet sending Hagar and Ishmael away opens the door for God to rescue them when they are near death in the wilderness.
Last week I did something I have never done before. While officiating at Morning Prayer, I felt moved to make a comment after the second lesson. I said something like, "That's so wrong. Paul totally misuses the story from Genesis." The passage we had heard is known as "The Allegory of Hagar and Sarah" (Galatians 4:21-31). I'll get to the allegory in a moment, but first, let me deal with the most annoying verse in the story, "But as at that time he [Ishmael] who was born according to the flesh persecuted him [Isaac] who was born according to the Spirit, so it is now" (Galatians 4:29). There is no passage in the Hebrew Scriptures where Ishmael is said to have persecuted Isaac. Again, they played together as boys; they came together to bury their father.
Allegory is a story in which the characters or objects stand for something else. I think the first time I heard the word was when we were asked to read George Orwell's Animal Farm. (Was I in the eighth grade?) The farm stood for Tsarist Russia. The animals who were more equal than others were the Communist victors of the revolution.
In Galatians Paul writes, "Now this is an allegory: these women are two covenants. One is from Mount Sinai, bearing children for slavery; she is Hagar. Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia; she corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother" (Galatians 4:24-26). Circumcision was a significant issue for Gentile converts, and for Paul. The apostle was clear about how he understood the work of the Spirit, "For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is of any avail, but faith working through love" (Galatians 5:6). Paul reduces Hagar and Sarah to two-dimensional symbols in order to make an important argument about circumcision and the admission of Gentiles into the Christian community. However, in doing that he pays a hefty price. He drains the original story of its drama, and he asks his readers to ignore the story's sad and tragic elements, and its moral impact. I'm not sure Hagar and Sarah would have approved.
Our readings this week have continued with the story of Isaac and Rebekah and their twin sons, Esau and Jacob. On Monday, we learned that Isaac loved Esau more than Jacob and that Rebekah loved Jacob more than Esau. That lesson ended with Esau begging his brother Jacob for food-and Jacob refusing to feed his starving brother unless he is compensated (Genesis 25:29-34). On Wednesday we heard Rebekah helping her favored son to deceive Isaac so that Jacob could receive the blessing that by right belonged to Esau, her first born (Genesis 27:1-29). On Thursday we heard the painful account of the moment in which Isaac and Esau realize that Rebekah and Jacob have stolen Esau's blessing (Genesis 27:30-45).
Genesis is a record of God's covenant and promise to humankind. It moves in the direction God intends, not the ones we humans might prefer. A spiritual director once suggested to me that I should trust that my life was unfolding according to God's purposes. I accept that as a foundation, but not as the whole story. There are too many free radicals, as it were, in our human lives, sickness and evil, to name two. I understand that God's ways are mysterious and that sometimes God uses flawed human beings to achieve his purposes. But, still, I cannot help but ask, When does humankind break through to right relationships among sisters and brothers, between spouses, between parents and children, between friends and strangers, between God and humankind? Paul didn't have to bring up Hagar and Sarah. He already knew what the Spirit was doing in the lives of those who turned to Christ. He wrote, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:28). -Stephen Gerth
OUR PRAYERS ARE ASKED FOR Kevin, Eloise, Dennis, Matthew, Geneva, Jimmy, Elsa, Paula, Christopher, John, Alexander, Shawna, Rocco, Krystal, May, Robert, Nicole, Heidi, Barbara, Jean, Sam, Sharon, Donald, Takeem, Linda, Abraham; Horace, Hamilton, Peter, Gaylord, Harry, Louis, Edgar, and Carl, priests; all victims of war, poverty, famine, and disaster; the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Mark; and the repose of the souls of Photios Lyras and Eileen Doring . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . February 12: 1894 Sarah J. McEvans; 1898 Anna R. Middlemis; 1911 Frank Brooks Blanchard; 1940 John Metzger; 1993 Winston Davis.
THE ORDINARY FRIDAYS OF THE YEAR are observed by special acts of discipline and self-denial in commemoration of the crucifixion of the Lord.
THIS WEEK AT SAINT MARY'S . . . Saturday, February 11, 8:00 PM, New York Repertory Orchestra. Program includes music by Pfitzner, Ravel, and Bruch. Admission is free. A donation at the door is encouraged. More information is available online . . . Sunday, February 12, Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany, Sung Matins 8:30 AM, Mass 9:00 & 10:00 AM, Adult Education 10:00 AM, Solemn Mass 11:00 AM, Solemn Evensong and Benediction 5:00 PM . . . Adult Forum: Seminarian Matthew Jacobson will begin his three-part series on the lives of the saints ("hagiography") on Sunday, February 12, at 10:00 AM, in the Mission House . . . The Wednesday Night Bible Study Class will not meet on Wednesday, February 15.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . Parishioner Dennis Smith was admitted this week to the Hudsonview Care Facility, 9020 Wall Street, North Bergen, New Jersey, for treatment and physical therapy. Hudsonview is near Dennis's home in West New York and can be reached via a New Jersey Transit bus. Parishioner Linda Bridges continues to receive treatment at the Sarah Neuman Campus of the New Jewish Home, 845 Palmer Avenue, Mamaroneck, New York. Please keep Dennis and Linda in your prayers . . . A Word of Thanks: Thank you to all those who worked so hard last Sunday to make our annual Super Bowl party a great success. We are grateful to all those who provided leadership and oversight, and to those who arrived early to set up tables, chairs, sound and video equipment, as well as stations for food and beverages. The sexton on duty was assisted by a number of willing volunteers. Those attending the party were a wonderful mix of parishioners, friends, neighbors, visitors, and our homeless guests. The game itself provided a good deal of excitement, even for those who know little about football. Super Bowl 52 will take place on Sunday, February 4, 2018, in Minneapolis . . . Altar Flowers are needed for the following Sundays: February 19, 26, and March 26 (Rose Sunday). Donations for Easter flowers and decorations are also gratefully accepted. If you would like to make a donation, please contact the parish office . . . Father Jay Smith will be away from the parish on vacation from Monday, February 13, until Monday, February 20. He returns to the office on Tuesday, February 21 . . . Attendance: Last Sunday 168.
LENTEN QUIET DAY . . . On Saturday, March 18, from 9:30 AM to 3:00 PM, Sister Monica Clare, C.S.J.B., will lead a Quiet Day here at the parish. The day's theme is "Keeping our faith and hope in the midst of fear and despair." Sister Monica will deliver her meditations in the Wedding Chapel. Saint Joseph's Hall, the chapels, and the church will be available for quiet, prayer, reading, and meditation. A light breakfast will be provided at 9:30 AM. The first meditation will begin at 10:00 AM. Noonday Prayer is at 12:00 PM and Mass will be celebrated at 12:10 PM. Lunch follows in Saint Joseph's Hall. Please RSVP to Father Jay Smith if you plan to attend. A freewill offering of $10.00 is suggested.
A GUEST CHOIR . . . At Evensong on Sunday, February 12, at 5:00 PM, we will be joined by the Choir of Christ's Church, Rye, New York. The choir is directed by Ruaraidh Sutherland. Mr. Sutherland and his choir have been with us several times in recent years, and we are looking forward to welcoming them back to Saint Mary's. The choir and Mr. Sutherland will be accompanied by the Reverend Deacon Dorothée Caulfield. A reception follows the service. All are welcome.
OUR SEMINARIAN . . . Dr. Matthew Daniel Jacobson is to be ordained deacon on Saturday, March 4, at 10:30 AM, at the Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine. The members of the parish community are invited to attend. Please keep Matt in your prayers.
MUSIC NOTES. . . The setting at the Solemn Mass on Sunday is the Missa Ave Maris Stella of Tomás Luís de Victoria (1548-1611). Victoria is considered the most important Spanish composer of Renaissance polyphony. Born in Avila, the seventh of eleven children, he began his musical education as a choirboy at Avila 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 Requiems. The four-voice Missa Ave Maris Stella, dating from 1576, is one of Victoria's many parody Masses, systematically incorporating melodic material drawn from pre-existing sources. In this case, Victoria's theme is the Marian hymn Ave Maris Stella. Elements of the chant melody are used imitatively throughout the polyphonic texture as well as in long notes in the manner of a cantus firmus.
The motet sung during the administration of Communion on Sunday is a setting of a prayer for God's guidance first noted in a Sarum Primer published in London in 1514. This prayer has been reprinted in countless devotional collections. It was found in The Hymnal 1940 (466) and at 694 in The Hymnal 1982. Many choral settings of this prayer exist as well. The present setting was composed by David Hurd in 1992 in honor of the Reverend William Dearnaley (1946-1999), and first sung at All Saints Church, East Sixtieth Street, Manhattan. At the time, Father Dearnaley was interim priest-in-charge and Dr. Hurd was music director at that parish. This choral setting is a dialogue between a tenor soloist (Christopher Howatt) and choir in eight voices.
The organ voluntaries today are the opening and closing Allegro sections of the F Major Concerto by Tomaso Albinoni (1671-1751) transcribed for the organ by Johann Gottfried Walther (1684-1748). Walther was born in Erfurt, Germany, where his early studies were with Johann Bernhard Bach. A cousin and friend of J. S. Bach, Walther was town organist in Weimar when J. S. Bach was court organist there. He is credited with introducing the slightly younger Bach to the newer and fashionable Italian instrumental music. Both men made several transcriptions of Italian instrumental pieces for organ and harpsichord. -David Hurd
ADULT EDUCATION . . . Thank you to Dr. Charles Morgan for leading the Adult Forum in the series on anger. We are grateful to him for sharing his knowledge and expertise with the parish community . . . On February 12, 19, and 26, seminarian Matthew Jacobson will lead the series Hagiography in the Early Church. Matt writes, "In some ways, hagiographies are similar to biographies, but in many ways they are very different. Hagios is a Greek word used often in the Bible that can be translated as 'holy' or 'set apart,' and it is also used to describe the saints. Christian hagiographies therefore are writings that tell the stories of the lives of the saints. This three-part series will explore the genre of hagiography, focusing on texts from the first five centuries, both as a means to learn more about some early saints as well as the genre itself, in order to better understand the early Church." On Sundays in Lent, March 5, 12, 19, 26, and April 2 and 9, Father Pete Powell will continue his class on the Acts of the Apostles; and, during Eastertide, Deacon Rebecca Weiner Tompkins will present a series of classes entitled "Rising / Rose / Risen: Readings on Resurrection from Scripture into Poetry" . . . Wednesday Night Bible Study Class:. The class will not meet on February 15, when Father Smith is away from the parish. The class will meet on February 22 at 6:30 PM.
HOSPITALITY MINISTRY. . . The response to our recent call for donations to support the parish's ministry of hospitality has been very gratifying. The Budget Committee and the Board of Trustees had predicted that we would need to raise around $4,000.00 in 2017 in order to supplement the funds allotted in the budget for hospitality. We have received several donations, including two larger gifts from members of the parish, about $3,200.00 in all, that are intended to reduce the predicted deficit in this area of the budget. These generous gifts have brought us closer to erasing our predicted deficit, and we are very grateful to all those who continue to support this important ministry. Our hospitality efforts include Sunday Coffee Hours and Evensong receptions, holy-day receptions, and special events such as Quiet Days, Oktoberfest, the Super Bowl Party, and birthday and anniversary celebrations. Since we welcome so many visitors to the parish, the hospitality ministry is crucial to what we do and who we are. If all our members and friends were to make a regular donation to this ministry, we would easily cover our shortfall each year. No donation is too small! If you make a donation by check, please include the words "Hospitality Ministry" in the memo line.
ORGAN RECITALS AT SAINT MARY'S . . . Friday, March 24, 5:30 PM, Richard Robertson, Church of the Holy Ghost, Denver, Colorado; Sunday, April 16, 4:30 PM, Timothy Pyper, Williamstown, Massachusetts; Thursday, May 25, 5:30 PM, David Hurd, organist and music director.
LOOKING AHEAD . . . March 1, Ash Wednesday . . . Sunday, March 12, Daylight Saving Time begins . . . Fridays in Lent, Stations of the Cross 6:30 PM (except on March 24) . . . Monday, March 20, Saint Joseph (transferred), Mass 12:10 PM and 6:20 PM . . . Friday, March 24, Eve of the Annunciation, Organ Recital 5:30 PM, Solemn Mass 6:00 PM . . . Saturday, March 25, The Annunciation, Noonday Prayer 12:00 PM and Mass 12:10 PM.
AWAY FROM THE PARISH . . . From the website of the Wall Street Journal, "Back in 1517, when it was founded, Oxford's Corpus Christi College was the hot new thing on campus. Unlike the university's other colleges, where the religious concerns of the medieval world usually reigned, the new college fancied itself a Renaissance institution-humanist and enlightened. Its library lay at the heart of that mission." The Corpus Christi library will be sending some of its treasures to the United States this spring, first to the Folger Library in Washington, DC, beginning on February 4, and then to the Yeshiva University Museum at the Center for Jewish History on Sixteenth Street here in New York, beginning on May 14. It looks like the exhibition will help trace the beginnings of modern critical Biblical scholarship in England, an important subject for all Anglicans. We will keep you posted.
Click here for this week's schedule.