FROM THE RECTOR: HOW WE LISTEN
One summer in the 1990s I had the privilege of taking a two-week class at Notre Dame given by Jewish liturgical scholar Lawrence Hoffman. A book assigned in that class was especially helpful for someone like me who knew little about prayer in Judaism. The cover of the paperback edition showed an Orthodox Jewish man facing the temple wall in Jerusalem. When I started looking among my books for it recently, I couldn’t remember the name of the author. I thought I remembered the title; but I really didn’t. Thanks to the Internet, I eventually found the reference: The Gate Behind the Wall: A Pilgrimage to Jerusalem (1984) by Samuel Heilman. I finally located my copy.
Heilman is a sociologist and an Orthodox Jew. He teaches at Queens College of the City University of New York. He went to Israel during a sabbatical to enter the tradition of studying the Torah (the first books of the Hebrew Bible), the Mishna (a record of oral Jewish law from the early third century of the Christian Era), and the Talmud (a continuing commentary on the law through the centuries). It was about lernen—“The eternal review and ritualized study of sacred Jewish texts” (page 198). The tradition also taught, “Great is the study of Torah, for it gives to those who do it life in this world and in the world to come” (page 25).
The afternoon Heilman begins his participation in a group for lernen, he also begins a new experience of evening prayer. The service goes quickly until the group reaches the recitation of the creedal text Kryat Shma that “is known by its electrifying opening line: ‘Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One’ ” (Page 50). He is aware that the men (only men in this tradition) are praying for the “transformative experience of prayer itself”—and not to get something from God (page 53). As he begins to lern, immersed in the details of the rituals of the Jewish temple, he finds himself “gone from the present but not yet arrived at the past” (page 62).
For many reasons, including his unfamiliarity with the Yiddish vocabulary attached to lernen, he receives permission to record the study. When he hears the recording he realizes everyone has been speaking in the present tense. They have gone to the past. It is a holy perspective, but different from Christian prayer.
Christian prayer is about the present presence and work of the Holy Spirit among us, now and in the future. This is not always remembered when Christians write about the Last Supper or Christmas. One famous example of the latter is Eric Milner-White’s (1884–1963) bidding prayer for the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols at King’s College, Cambridge, “Beloved in Christ . . . let it be our care and delight to hear again the message of the Angels, and in heart and mind to go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, and the Babe lying in a manger.” Liturgical Christian prayer remembers what God has done and proclaims his working among us now.
Christians and Jews both pray the Psalter. Psalm 95 has an important place in the liturgical prayer of both traditions. And I’m glad we do. For us, Psalm 95 is prayed daily at Morning Prayer. It begins, “Come, let us sing to the Lord; let us shout for joy to the Rock of our salvation.” It concludes, “For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture and the sheep of his hand. Oh, that today you would hearken to his voice!” As a Christian, I hear these words calling me to embrace the grace, the forgiveness, and the joy of his presence in my day today and to prepare me to receive it in all of my tomorrows, in this life and in the life of the world to come. —Stephen Gerth
YOUR PRAYERS ARE ASKED FOR Henrietta, Lisa, Peggy, Dianne, Vicki, Maxine, Veronica, Jean, Priscilla, JoAnn, Quinn, Mala, Mark, Gerry, Kenneth, Yves, Heidi, Nancy, Rasheed, Toussaint, Linda, Sam, Catherine, Babak, Mazdak, Trevor, David, Abalda, Takeem, Arpene, Pamela, RELIGIOUS, Mary Christobel, RELIGIOUS, Sidney, DEACON, Paulette, PRIEST, and Harry, PRIEST; and for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Matthew, and for the repose of the souls of Henrietta Treiman, David Willcocks, and Linda Earle Nunley Hale . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . September 27: 1910 Emily Miller Noyes; 1926 Mary Nowlen Wilmerding; 1931 Charles Edward Smith; 1940 John Scripture Peabody; 1965 Rhoda O’Connor; 1992 Howard R. Patch.
IN THIS TRANSITORY LIFE . . . As we go to press, we have received word that Grace Bruni’s grandmother, Henrietta Treiman, died on Friday morning, September 25. Please pray for Henrietta, for Grace, and for all who mourn . . . Sir David Willcocks died on September 17, 2015. He was ninety-five. Sir David served as director of music at King’s College, Cambridge; director of the Royal College of Music; and director of the Bach Choir. Many Saint Marians will associate David Willcocks with Christmas. According to one British newspaper, “To the lay musician Willcocks will probably be best remembered for editing, with Reginald Jacques, Carols for Choirs, in which the bulk of Christmas music in popular use today can be found, and its successor, Carols for Choirs 2, with John Rutter.” His life was much more than music. His obituary in the Daily Telegraph from England may surprise.
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 . . . Tuesday, September 29, Saint Michael and All Angels, Mass 12:10 PM and Sung Mass 6:00 PM . . . On Saturday, September 26, confessions will be heard by Father Jay Smith, and on Saturday, October 3, they will be heard by Father Stephen Gerth.
OKTOBERFEST RETURNS . . . On Saturday, October 24, 6:00–9:00 PM, we will welcome the arrival of autumn with a potluck supper in Saint Joseph’s Hall. Supper will be followed by a hymn sing in the organ loft. Please bring a dish to share; and please contact Grace Bruni or Father Jay Smith if you are planning to attend and if you are able to bring a dish with you. Beverages will be provided.
STEWARDSHIP CAMPAIGN . . . Stewardship packets will be mailed October 12–13. We invite you prayerfully to consider your commitment, including your financial commitment, to the parish for 2016. If you have questions about pledging, please contact a member of the Stewardship Committee, MaryJane Boland, Steven Heffner, or Marie Rosseels.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . As friends and member of the parish know well we have been trying to raise money for some time in order to repair and repaint the damaged walls around the confessional and the Sacred Heart shrine. This week, skilled workers from the firm of See-Gold/See-Painting arrived to begin their repair work. They have made very good progress. Things are looking better already. We are grateful to all those who contributed to this effort . . . The Church Pension Group (CPG) held a meeting of diocesan administrators here in New York this week. Several of the administrators were in church on Sunday. On Wednesday, Saint Mary’s welcomed the group for Evening Prayer, a tour of the church, and a short recital by organist Matthew Lewis. CPG then served a light supper in Saint Joseph’s Hall. Our visitors were impressed by the beauty of the church building and the grandeur of the organ . . . Sunday, October 4, Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Summer worship schedule ends: Sung Matins 8:30 AM, Mass 9:00 AM & 10:00 AM, Solemn Mass with full choir, 11:00 AM, Solemn Evensong and Benediction 5:00 PM . . . The Rector will be away from the parish for vacation beginning on Friday morning, September 25. He will return to the rectory on Sunday evening, September 27. He will be away on behalf of the parish on Wednesday, September 30, returning Friday, October 2 . . . Attendance: Last Sunday 207.
52ND ANNUAL FALL CONFERENCE of the Episcopal Church Women will be held Friday, October 23, 3:00 PM–Saturday, October 24, 4:00 PM, at Stony Point Center, 17 Cricketown Road, Stony Point, New York: “Stir Up the Spirit—Rise Up My Dearest & Fairest, And Go!” Keynote Speaker: The Reverend Canon K. Jeanne Person, canon for Pastoral Care, diocese of New York. For more information or to register, please visit the diocesan web site.
FROM THE ORGANIST & MUSIC DIRECTOR . . . Last Sunday’s organ music featured works of the Low Countries from the late Renaissance. The prelude at this Sunday’s Solemn Mass is from the same era but with music composed by a north German, the Hamburg-born Hieronymus Praetorius (1560–1629). His work takes a plainchant Kyrie melody and reveals it in different voices and with different embellishments. The plainchant will be played on the Trompette stop between the movements. The postlude is a work by another German, Samuel Scheidt (1587–1654), who had studied in Amsterdam under Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck (1562–1621). His piece displays an echo effect that was a hugely popular compositional device with organ composers of this time. On a typical three-manual instrument, a plain sound—a simple background to the other sounds—is used as the starting point with musical conversations between two contrasting sounds on the other manuals. For our postcommunion anthem on Sunday, bass Mark Risinger will sing “Lord God of Abraham,” from Elijah, the great oratorio composed by Felix Mendelssohn (1809–1847). This aria appears in the work as Elijah is refuting the cries of the worshippers of Baal, who have turned against their true God and toward the worship of idols. In this aria Mendelssohn creates some fine word-painting to heighten the meaning of the text. Most melodies tend to start toward the lower end of the range of a singer or instrumentalist and rise up to a climax about three quarters of the way through. Mendelssohn, though, puts “Lord God” as the highest note at the very start of the phrase, descending to “Abraham” to give a musical hint of Elijah’s perspective when addressing his God. —Simon Whalley
ADULT EDUCATION . . . October 4 & 11, 10:00 AM, Adult Forum: “The Michelangelos”—Dr. Dennis Raverty discusses the idealistic vision in the religious art of Michaelangelo Buonarroti, the great Renaissance painter and sculptor, in the first of a four-part series. On October 18 & 25, Father Jay Smith will discuss the religious art of Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio . . . The Wednesday Night Bible Study Class resumes on October 14 (not October 7), at 6:30 PM, in Saint Joseph’s Hall. The class will continue its reading of the Book of Isaiah, beginning at chapter 40.
OUTREACH AT SAINT MARY’S . . . We continue to collect nonperishable food items for our outreach partner, the Food Pantry at Saint Clement’s Church, 423 West Forty-sixth Street . . . The Saint Mary’s Book Sale continues on Sunday mornings. All proceeds are used to serve those in need, at Saint Mary’s, in our neighborhood, and beyond . . . Need help finding food or know someone who does? Call 1-800-5-HUNGRY (Why Hunger Hotline, Monday–Friday 9:00 AM–6:00 PM EST) or 1-866-3-HUNGRY (USDA National Hunger Hotline, 8:00 AM–8:00 PM EST).
AWAY FROM THE PARISH . . . Sunday, September 27, 3:00 PM, Trinity Church, Allendale, New Jersey, Evensong and Dedication of Church Renovation and Building Project. The rector of the church is the Reverend Michael Allen. Saint Mary’s parishioner Penny Allen, among other things, teaches the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd at Trinity. She is married to Father Allen. Please keep Trinity Church in your prayers as they celebrate this milestone in the life of their parish.
MARK YOUR CALENDAR . . . Monday, October 19, Saint Luke the Evangelist (transferred), Mass 12:10 PM & 6:20 PM; Friday, October 23, Saint James of Jerusalem, Mass 12:10 PM & 6:20 PM; Wednesday, October 28, Saint Simon & Saint Jude, Apostles, Mass 12:10 PM & 6:20 PM; Sunday, November 1, All Saint’s Day, Matins 8:30 AM, Mass 9:00 & 10:00 AM, Solemn Mass 11:00 AM, Evensong & Benediction 5:00 PM; Sunday, November 1, Daylight Saving Time ends.