FROM THE RECTOR: TRANSFIGURATION & ASHES
The big news for the coming week is the beginning of Lent on Wednesday, March 1. That said, I want to begin by looking at Sunday, now called, "The Last Sunday after the Epiphany." In earlier Prayer Books it was, "The Sunday called Quinquagesima, or the Sunday next before Lent." Quinquagesima-from the Latin for fiftieth-is exactly fifty days from Easter Day.
In 1970, the Standing Liturgical Commission proposed that the church observe the Feast of the Transfiguration of Our Lord, not only on August 6, its traditional date in the Christian East and West, but also, following the scheme of the Service Book and Hymnal of the Lutheran Church in America (1958), to observe it annually on the Sunday before Ash Wednesday. Though the Transfiguration was celebrated in the East in the fifth century, it would not become a part of the calendar of the Western Church until 1457. At the Protestant Reformation in England, it was dropped from the Prayer Book. It returned to the American book in 1892, largely through the efforts of the Reverend Dr. William Reed Huntington, rector of Grace Church, Broadway, here in New York. Massey Shepherd suggested that the Reformers dropped the Transfiguration "because it was of recent (and papal) institution" (The Oxford American Prayer Book Commentary , 247).
The Transfiguration is an important event in the gospels of Mark (9:2-10), Matthew (17:1-9), and Luke (9:28-36). Each of the evangelists uses the event to carry forward his understanding of the Christ in his own way. In Matthew, Jesus' Transfiguration on a mountain in the presence of Peter, James, and John follows Jesus' first prediction of his passion to his disciples-and Jesus' sharp rebuke when Peter balks at the idea of Jesus' suffering. Jesus says, "Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me; for you are not on the side of God, but of men" (Matthew 16:23). But he then takes Peter to the mountain top.
In Mark, Matthew, and Luke, Jesus comes down the mountain of the Transfiguration to find that his other disciples have not been able to heal a child with epilepsy. Mark's Jesus explains, "This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer' " (Mark 9:29). Jesus heals the boy after telling the father, " 'All things are possible to him who believes.' Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, 'I believe; help my unbelief!' " (Mark 9:23-24).
The Book of Common Prayer (1549) of the Church of England provided a service for "The Firste Daie of Lente commonly called Ashe-Wednisdaye" (The First and Second Prayer Books of King Edward VI [1910, 1964], 280-85). But no ashes were part of the rite. Three prayers from the 1549 service were included in the 1789 American book. They were appointed to be said on Ash Wednesday following the Litany. But still no ashes. The ashes start to come back among Anglicans in the nineteenth century in the wake of the Oxford Movement. They didn't make it into the 1928 Prayer Book, but in 1979 provision was made for them to be imposed if desired.
One can't explain how Western Christianity has embraced a rite of imposing ashes on the First Dayof Lent in light of the gospel that is always heard at the Masses celebrated on this day. Jesus said, "And when you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by men. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward" (Matthew 6:16). But the ritual is meaningful for many, many people. More people will come into Saint Mary's on Ash Wednesday than on any other day of the year. There will be people ready to come in when our doors open at 7:00 AM; there will be people coming in as the doors close at 8:00 PM.
I usually am not the celebrant for the 6:00 PM Solemn Mass. I take up the "Ash Station" in the Chapel of Our Lady of Mercy. Father Park Bodie has volunteered to help me in that two-hour shift. I like taking the shift during the Solemn Mass. It's moving to watch how people respond to the music and the Mass. Many stay much longer than they planned. You can read on in this newsletter about how you can help on Ash Wednesday-we need ushers all day. But this week begins on Sunday. Fifty days before Easter Day. One hundred days until Pentecost. May God bless us all in new ways this year. -Stephen Gerth
OUR PRAYERS ARE ASKED FOR Robert, Gloria, Carol, Linda, Jerry, Matthew, Kevin, Dennis, Geneva, Jimmy, Elsa, Paula, Christopher, John, Alexander, Shawna, Rocco, Krystal, May, Robert, Nicole, Heidi, Barbara, Jean, Sam, Sharon, Donald, Takeem, Abraham; Horace, Hamilton, Peter, Gaylord, Harry, Louis, and Edgar, priests; Catherine, bishop, all victims of war, poverty, famine, and disaster; the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Mark; and the repose of the soul of Philip Roskam . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . February 26:1902 Ada Maria Chauncey; 1921 Emily Patten Peters; 1942 Mary Louise Denver Lindley; 1994 Milledge Polo Mosley.
IN THIS TRANSITORY LIFE . . . Dr. Philip K. Roskam, the husband of the Right Reverend Catherine Roskam, retired bishop suffragan, died on Friday, February 17, after a long illness. His funeral will take place in Los Angeles on Saturday, February 25. There will be a memorial service for Dr. Roskam at the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine on Saturday, March 25, at which time his ashes will be interred in the Cathedral columbarium.
ASH WEDNESDAY VOLUNTEERS. . . Our roster of greeters and ushers for Ash Wednesday is shaping up very nicely. However, we still need two or three ushers who are able to serve at the evening Solemn Mass, which begins at 6:00 PM. We could also use some help when we open (7:00 AM to 9:30 AM), from 11:00 AM till 1:00 PM, and between 2:00 PM and 6:00 PM. Ashes are distributed at all of the Masses (7:00 AM, 8:00 AM, 12:10 PM, and 6:00 PM) and in the church and Mercy Chapel throughout what can be a very busy day. This is one of our ministries to the people of our neighborhood. If you are able to help serve as an usher or greeter, please contact Father Jay Smith.
THE ORDINARY WEEKDAYS OF LENT are observed by special acts of discipline and self-denial in commemoration of the crucifixion of the Lord. The Fridays of Lent are traditionally observed also by abstaining from flesh meats. In addition to the five Sundays in Lent, Monday, March 20, is the Feast of Saint Joseph (transferred) and Saturday, March 25, is the Feast of the Annunciation. Abstinence is not observed on these days.
FRIDAYS IN LENT . . . Stations of the Cross are prayed on Fridays in Lent beginning March 3 at 6:30 PM. Stations will not be prayed on Friday, March 24, when we will be celebrating the Annunciation on its eve at 6:00 PM.
THIS WEEK AT SAINT MARY'S . . . Sunday, February 26, the Last Sunday after the Epiphany, Sung Matins 8:30 AM, Mass 9:00 & 10:00 AM, Solemn Mass 11:00 AM, Solemn Evensong and Benediction 5:00 PM . . . March 1, Ash Wednesday . . . The Wednesday Night Bible Study Class will not meet on Ash Wednesday, March 1. The class will resume on Wednesday, March 8 . . . Thursday, March 2, 7:00-9:00 PM, in the Gallery in Saint Joseph's Hall, NYC Inspires: Paintings by Lola de Miguel. Opening Reception. For more information, please contact José Vidal, curator of the gallery . . . Friday, March 3, 6:30 PM, Stations of the Cross.
STEWARDSHIP CAMPAIGN . . . Our pledge campaign continues. We have been making decent progress. However, there is one statistic that we are very eager to change: only 70% of those who made pledges for 2016 have made a pledge for 2017. We continue to hope that all those who made a commitment to Saint Mary's in the past will be able to renew that commitment for the coming year. If you are new to the parish and have not pledged before, we hope that you will do so this year. We need your help! Here are some additional statistics: as of January 15, $379,706.00 has been pledged during the Campaign. This is 89% of our pledge goal for 2017. In order to make a pledge for 2017, please fill out a pledge card and mail it to 145 West Forty-sixth Street, New York, NY 10036; or place your pledge card in the collection basket at Mass. You can also make a pledge online.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . Linda Bridges is now at Calvary Hospital in the Bronx. She is able to receive visitors. Bob Picken had outpatient surgery this week and is now at home. Dennis Smith is still at the Hudsonview Care Facility in North Bergen, New Jersey, where he is receiving treatment and doing physical therapy. Please keep our fellow parishioners in your prayers . . . Congratulations and best wishes to Grace Bruni and Jason Mudd, who were married at Saint Clement's Church, Philadelphia, on Saturday, February 18 . . . 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 . . . Many thanks to Steve Potanovic for the photographs of the Adult Forum and Ministraion of Communion . . . Attendance: Last Sunday 218.
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 (this helps us plan for lunch). A freewill offering of $10.00 is suggested.
MUSIC NOTES . . . The setting of the Mass on Sunday morning is Missa Aeterna Christi Munera by Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (1525-1594). Palestrina, like J. S. Bach at a later time, is a composer who is regarded today more as source and inspiration for what came later than as the product of already established musical practice. However, it may be said that Palestrina stood on foundations largely laid by the Netherlandish composers Guillaume Dufay (c. 1397-1474) and Josquin des Prez (c. 1450-1521). Palestrina is responsible for setting the canons for Renaissance polyphony and the standard for Catholic liturgical music that pertains to this day. Among his hundreds of compositions are 105 Masses, most of which were published in thirteen volumes between 1554 and 1601. The Missa Aeterna Christi Munera is based upon the plainsong melody for the hymn for the commemoration of apostles and martyrs attributed to Saint Ambrose (340-397). A translation of this Ambrosian hymn appears at 233 and 234 in The Hymnal 1982, but with different music. At 132 in The Hymnal 1940 one finds both the translated Ambrosian hymn and the plainsong melody on which Palestrina based his four-voice mass. As one often finds in Renaissance polyphonic masses, an additional voice is added for the final Agnus Dei.
Calvin Hampton (1938-1984) was a vibrant member of the New York music scene his entire adult life. A brilliant organist and imaginative composer, Hampton was music director at Calvary Church, Gramercy Park, from the early 1960s until shortly before his death. His distinctive art song-styled hymn tunes and service music are sung widely, particularly in the Episcopal Church. This morning's motet is one of Hampton's yet unpublished choral pieces that was shared with the Mississippi Liturgy and Music conference in 1985. The bookend events of the Epiphany season are the Baptism of Christ and the Transfiguration. In both events, according to the synoptic Gospels, a voice from heaven affirms Jesus as the Son of God (cf. Matthew 3:17 and 17:5 and parallels). Hampton musically illuminates a small segment of scripture that is common to these two occasions.
The organ voluntaries on Sunday morning are the opening and closing sections of the Toccata in C of Bach, commonly referred to as Toccata, Adagio and Fugue. Baroque keyboard toccatas were typically multisectional pieces. With Bach's Toccata in C, the form is so enlarged that the principal sections effectively become stand-alone movements. The opening sections, which comprise today's Prelude, include a single-voice flourish on the keyboard, a pedal solo, and a fully developed concerto-style movement. The final section, played for the Postlude, is a spirited fugue with an extended and playful theme in gigue rhythm. -David Hurd
VISUAL ARTS PROJECT . . . On Thursday, March 2, 7:00-9:00 PM, there will be a reception in the Gallery in Saint Joseph's Hall to mark the opening of a new exhibition, "NYC Inspires: Paintings by Lola de Miguel." Lola showed her work here last year and the show was very well received. We are happy to be able to welcome her back to Saint Mary's. Her paintings will be on view in the Gallery until March 30. - José Vidal
ADULT EDUCATION . . . On February 26, seminarian Matthew Jacobson will conclude his three-part series, Hagiography in the Early Church. The class will meet in the Arch Room, on the second floor of the Mission House at 10:00 AM . . . On Sundays in Lent, March 5, 12, 19, 26, and April 2 and 9, at 10:00 AM, Father Pete Powell will continue his class on the Acts of the Apostles. Father Powell writes, "The Adult Forum in Lent will study volume 2 of Luke, more commonly known as the Acts of the Apostles. Here we find the story of the beginning of the church. Much of what we think we know about Paul we read in Acts. Much of what we think we know about the struggles in the church as it became majority Gentile, we learn from Acts. In other words Acts contains the formative stories about how the church came to be. I have been persuaded that Acts was not written because the end of the world didn't come, but instead was written to provide a unifying story/myth for the early church. We see it used this way in the late second century by Irenaeus. One can argue, successfully, that Jesus never intended to found a church. Acts shows how early Christians survived and ultimately thrived. We will examine the context of Acts and what it has to say about the church today. The church is more directly the child of Acts and the Letters of Paul than the child of the Gospels. However, Paul and Acts have different and sometimes irreconcilable differences on what it means to be the church. Acts was written after the Epistles and in many ways tries to tame Paul. While we read Acts during the Sundays of Eastertide, the content of it is usually overlooked. In these series of Sunday mornings, we'll look closely at texts which undergird Christianity as we know it. We will begin with Acts 3 on the First Sunday of Lent, March 5. This will be an interesting Lenten discipline for you as together we study the founding documents of Christianity and the Church" . . . The Wednesday Night Bible Study Class will not meet on March 1, Ash Wednesday. The class will meet on Wednesday, March 8, 15, and 22, at 6:30 PM. Newcomers are especially welcome; no prior study or attendance is needed
HOSPITALITY MINISTRY. . . We have received several donations, including two larger gifts from members of the parish, about $3,500.00 in all, that are intended to reduce the predicted deficit in this area of the budget. These gifts have brought us closer to our goal of a special offering of $4,000.00 for this ministry. Our hospitality efforts include Sunday Coffee Hours and Evensong receptions, holy-day receptions, and special events. Since we welcome so many visitors to the parish, the hospitality ministry is crucial to what we do and who we are. No donation is too small! If you make a donation by check, please include the words "Hospitality Ministry" in the memo line.
LOOKING AHEAD . . . 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 . . . Saturday, April 8, Eve of Palm Sunday, Liturgy of the Palms and Sung Mass 5:00 PM . . . Sunday, April 9, Palm Sunday, Liturgy of the Palms and Sung Mass 9:00 AM; Liturgy of the Palms, Procession to Times Square and Solemn Mass 11:00 AM
Click here for this week's schedule.